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Summer on the Eastern Shore by Michael Valliant

I was a chicken-necker first. Not having a boat for crabbing, kids in our neighborhood took to a neighbor’s dock with chicken necks, string, and dipnets. It was how we first learned to catch Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Crabbing was and is one of the great summer activities that has become an Eastern Shore tradition for many. As a kid, summer was a fresh start. It was a clean slate, sunshine, water and possibility. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had the familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” Summer is a state of mind. It is exhaling and feeling the sun. For many people on the Eastern Shore, summer means crabs. Watermen head out for crabs before sunrise and work the water daily to make a living supplying restaurants, seafood wholesalers, and backyard picnics with steamed crabs, crab cakes, and any other way people come up with to enjoy the meat of Chesapeake blue crabs. They provide an industry, a way of

life, and a tradition all their own. If you want to read about life on the water, read William Warner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Beautiful Swimmers. For our purposes, we’ll shine some light on recreational crabbing. The little red hen of the popular folk tale was on to something when she went through the process of making bread before sitting back to eat it. And there is something satisfying about catching and steaming the crabs you put on the