Crawdads, the Midwest Version of Lobster

When I was growing up in 1948 Nebraska, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning was to go "crawdadding" with my dad, two brothers, Bob and Junior and Dad's friends.

Hmmm, you don't know what "crawdads" are....well, lets see, in the south they are called crawfish, the eastern United States folks call them crayfish and some parts of this great nation refer to them as mudbugs or yabbies. But in the central and western areas, they are just plain ole crawdads….miniature lobsters.

I loved to go with them. We’d hop into Dad’s old Model T Ford and the guys would discuss where the best spots would be. Dad had his favorite places, depending on how much rain we’d had. Since he was the driver, we’d usually go there.

Crawdaddin’ wasn’t involved, took absolutely no talent and was a great way for us kids to get wet and muddy without being yelled at for doing it. Mom would scold Dad for letting me come home covered with mud and smelly pond water but all she’d say to me was “don’t come into the house with those muddy clothes on”.

I can still remember the feel of the squishy mud between my toes and the prickly thrill that maybe we’d get our toes pinched by a wandering crawdad or some fish would "get" us. Occasionally a small water snake would be sunning itself on the shore and would slither into the pond… took a whole lot of persuading to get me back into the water after seeing one.

Once we arrived at the right pond, Dad would hang a piece of beef liver on a string tied to a piece of wood....then he'd toss it out into a pond or slough (a muddy body of water). They'd throw out 10 or more floating tidbits and wait for a few minutes for the smell to attract the crawdads. They hung out fairly close to shore, under debris hiding from fish, raccoons and other creatures that lived in the area. They were the favorite food of whatever fish happened to live in the pond and had learned the art of self-preservation.

The crawdads would swim up and grab the liver with their big claws. We (the kids) would wade out, pick up the wood and slip a homemade net under the crawdads and occasionally would find some 5 or 6 inchers....we'd really get excited if we happened to get those big ones! Then we would come back to shore and dump the net into a gunny sack.

Once we got enough, a whole sack full, we'd head for home and empty the sack into our old claw bathtub filled with salty water. (on Saturday nights, I also was dumped into that tub…after Mom had scrubbed it out)

I was between 8-10 years old and loved to play with the crawdads before they turned into snacks!  

I’d look for the biggest ones and tease them to get them to open their claws. Had my fingers pinched many, many times. 

Once they were cleaned out by the salty water and rinsed, Mom would cook batches of them in her big soup pot….she’d add spices and whatever else was necessary to give them a spicy flavor. They turned bright red and the smell wafted through the open windows and sooner or later the whole neighborhood would smell the spicy crawdads cooking, bring their beer and we'd have a party! (the kids didn't get beer...don't remember what we had - probably kool-aid since it was cheap and easy to make.

Thanks for letting me share my memories…..

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