On crayfish and “snakeholes”

As a Michigan-bred kid with ready access to lake, pond, and crick (aka “creek”), I knew crayfish well.  Never having experience with seashore life, however, my buddies (the OAK Boys: Ohlman, Andrews, and Kenfield) simply called them crabs.  I even experimented by offering a tender finger to a little crab just to see if its “pinchers” were really strong enough to cause discomfort.  Dang, they were!  If I remember correctly, it lost one of its arms in the ensuing struggle and I created a vivid memory.

That was just one of many childhood episodes that proved to me that learning by experience is usually much more effective than learning from instruction.  It also made me realize that if you determine to learn only by experience, you hurt a lot and you won’t live long!  I think that’s what God was trying to get across with Adam and Eve in the Garden.  At first experiential learning seems to be extremely quick and efficient (attributes we Americans love).  But when you calculate how many experiences you must have to equal the knowledge gleaned from the combined experience of millions, you realize that instructional learning really does have the advantage.  Hence my long journey from Kindergarten through graduate school.

But . . . . it was not until years later that I learned (from instruction) that all those curious snakeholes we never saw snakes in when I was a kid were not snakeholes; they were crayfish burrows.  Because the OAK Boys slept at night, we never actually saw crabs out of the creek stalking across the grass, which they will do at night.  And to tell the truth, because of the fact I’d never seen a crab in a hole, I was incredulous about the whole thing.  “You gotta be kidding!” was my first reaction (that was years before the expression “no way!”).
[crayfish photo source: by stormahawk ]

Yes way.  They really are, and there are lots of photos now available on the Internet to prove it to me. At night they perch near the top of their mud castles and wait for prey: insects, small frogs, worms, and little boys.  I’m sure glad I didn’t have that fact to add to my childhood fears—especially our fear about a bobcat that had been seen in the neighborhood by some older kids who said it was likely hiding in the treetops ready to pounce on us and grab us by the throat with its fangs until we suffocated and our bodies be fed to bobkittens.

So the other day when I was walking to work, I came across a crawdad hole in the lawn here at RBC.  And I was incredulous all over again.  The hole was forty paces from the nearest open water, which was an algae filled drainage ditch, which in turn did not become running water until it was a football field and a half away from the mucky puddle and in turn ambled into a cattail marsh in the I-96 roadside ditch, which was at least a half mile from a large open pond.

You know, you don’t have to get too far outdoors before you’re hit smack in the senses by endless wonders of creation.

See you outdoors!