My mother called a family reunion this summer, and like many families, we needed something equitable, meaning free, to do. So we ventured down to a flat place along the river, all 22 of us, plus a dog, in search of arrowheads and other treasures. We had young children and princesses with us, along with kids who don’t unplug for long.
There was some trepidation at the river’s edge, and then, in one glorious moment, everyone spontaneously entered the river, skipping rocks, flipping shells, happily exploring the river and it’s many wonders. Nature is the great equalizer and the great individualizer: everyone found something unique, and completely compelling to do, to the point of ignoring the first pouring rain in a 90-day drought.
Knowing there would be crawdads to be found, I brought along some highly specialized equipment, including paperclips, to make “crawdad catchers." To make a “crawdad catcher” simply unfold a paperclip into the shape of a fishhook, tie a piece string to it, and fix a bit of meat to it. Teenagers and toddlers alike can safely “fish” for crawdads, who pinch the meat with their claws and won’t let go, even when you lift them out of the water to watch their spiny legs claw frantically at thin air.
The proper name for crawdad is crayfish, and surprisingly, Missouri is a biodiversity hotspot for them, largely due to our rivers, which are among the biggest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the world. Sadly, our rivers are under siege, from many point sources, including monster vehicles that wheel through the riverbeds, crushing delicate creatures in their wake.
Our children, our rivers and our crayfish are three of our greatest treasures in Missouri, and the simple act of crawdad fishing integrates three important actions: it helps nurture and protect the nation’s most endangered species, the “last child in the woods,” while promoting beautiful rivers and affirming the biodiversity of life.
Won’t you join me in crawdad fishing, posting pictures to your social media pages, joining advocacy groups and helping to protect and promote our true treasures, treasures that can be enjoyed and shared by everyone everywhere?
Author Richard Louv recommends that we start family nature clubs, much like the “family adventure school” called Green Spiral Tours I started a year ago. Join Green Spiral Tours, and come crawdad fishing with us in August (it’s free!); or find champions of the natural world through the Green Spiral Facebook page and help support their work.
Better yet, start your own family nature club and help others connect with the natural world. It takes effort to get kids out into nature, and it’s important to do so with friends, for to paraphrase our very own and very great Mark Twain, “to have the full measure of joy, you must have someone to divide it with!”