We went crabbing with old friends today. It was an interesting experience on a whole new level.
Since we’ve been to Sandy Point National Park before, I didn’t bother reading the new signs they put up along the dock. I figured, you’ve done this before, you know all there is to it, right?
We set up with our friends, a visiting family from another state, and started catching some crabs. The kids were excited, and we were having fun. After about an hour, hubby and our dad-friend took the kids swimming. The rest of us stayed behind to man the lines.
So it was that a Park Ranger truck stopped near the dock. Had we been more observant, we would have noticed people tossing crabs over the side, back into the water. But we were oblivious. And so we got in trouble.
If you live in Maryland, here’s a good bit of information to remember. And it’s worth a $125 fine: it is now illegal to catch female crabs. And that explained the new signs.
So the two rangers, Mr. Younger and Mr. Older, found one lone female crab in our bucket. Mr. Younger, the more serious one, explained to us how we can tell the male from the female. Then he informed me he was writing me a friendly warning. I asked him if he was joking. He wasn’t.
While waiting for my warning, Mr. Younger radioed headquarters to check on my license. It took some time before I was cleared. Mr. Younger, almost jokingly, asked me if I ever broke the law. I shook my head, “If I did, I wouldn’t be here waiting. I’d have run away as soon as I saw you coming.” Guess you couldn’t argue with the truth in that.
After I was cleared, and as we were walking away, I heard Mr. Older say in a gentle voice, “They don’t look like hardened criminals to me.” I paused to respond, but thought the best of it. After all, Mr. Younger could still change his mind and give me a ticket. So while I appreciated Mr. Older’s comment, I let it go without thanking him.
So the rest of the day went on without any other unexpected incidents. After crabbing and swimming, we went and grilled at another friend’s house. Then we went blueberry picking.
But as the day ends, I couldn’t help but think about a few things…
First of all, ignorance of the law really is no excuse. Especially if signs have been put up and you don’t bother reading them. I totally appreciate Mr. Younger’s decision to give me just a warning when I know he could have fined me.
Next, I’m not glad I had to go through this experience, but I know it’ll help me be more careful. I got off lightly, and now I’m going to make sure I pay more attention next time. The other people on the dock obviously knew the rule but have figured out a way to get around it. One of them even put the female and/or smaller crabs in a separate bucket, to make it easier to toss them over the side should a ranger show up. But I wonder if I’m not better off having been caught, as I learned a lesson that will probably serve me well in the future.
Lastly, I was really grateful I had nothing to hide. In life, as in this experience, I have learned that the past really does have a tendency to creep up on us unexpectedly. Many times we are tempted to sweep things under the rug, leaving it to harden and cause a lump that to our relief goes unnoticed for some time. But someone, somewhere, is bound to see it. And then we get our comeuppance. I breathe easy today knowing there were no lumps to worry about.