Thursday, May 01, 2008

Land Crabs Are Delicious ~ Give Me A Philly Cheesesteak


Well, I never actually ate one myself but old time Floridians told me that they were. They live in the mangrove swamps, burrowing down under the roots, but come out and wander around on dry land at night in search of food. As long as they can burrow down far enough to get to water they're happy, and they sometimes they live quite far from what we think of as a watery swamp. Once a year it's mating time, and thosands and thousands of them seemingly appear out of noplace for their annual trek to the edges of the bay.

Nowadays the extensive mangrove swamps bordering Biscayne Bay in North Miami have long ago been dredged and filled to make way for ritzy people houses in tony Keystone Point. Land crabs are now few and far between. I guess they can't afford to live there anymore. Back in the 1950's there were plenty of crabs and Woody's here wasn't painted yellow and famous for the best Philly cheese steak subs in South Florida. It was a painted bright orange, an A&W Root Beer place serving hotdogs and hamburgs. Out back was the mangrove swamp and in front was U.S. 1, a four lane concrete highway built by the WPA (Work Progress Administration) shortly before World Was II. The bridge over Arch Creek just to the north by a few dozen yards said 1938 on it.

When those crabs got the romantic urge many of them had to cross the highway, and a lot of those got run over during their mad dash for the other side. For weeks afterwards you'd hear the sound of splintering crab shells as you drove on certain stretches of the road. People trying to squeeze another few thousand miles out of a set of bald tires would often get a flat as a piece of crab shell penetrated the worn tire. Yup this was a pretty damned exciting place fifty years ago, drinking A&W Root Beer, watching the crabs scurry about, and swatting mosquitos. The mosquitos are mostly gone now but I miss watching the crabs.

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