Herb has always loved water, even if the water is dirty. In the area where Herb grew up, there were concrete irrigation canals. Since the canals needed to be elevated above the surrounding land, soil was dug from the adjacent area, piled, and compacted. The area where the soil had been removed was known as a borrow pit or borrow ditch. In time it was shortened to “bar ditch.”
Herb’s brother, Jimmy, is 5 years older than he is. Jimmy and a couple of cousins got tired of Herb following them around. Herb wanted them to take him fishing, so they took him down to the bar ditch which was far enough from the house so no adults could hear any screaming. Jimmy told Herb to lie down beside a bar ditch and stick his finger in the water and wiggle it very slowly. If he did, a crawdad would come up and hold on to his finger, and he could catch it.
Crawdad is a local name. In later years Herb learned that they are referred to as crayfish. They look like lobsters which are about 5 inches long.
Herb followed instructions. He felt a red ant crawling on his leg, but he ignored the red ant. Then he felt another. He knew he was going to get stung, but he desperately wanted to catch a crawdad. He waited with his finger wiggling very slowly.
The crawdad came up and carefully inspected Herb’s finger. It took hold of the finger; and when the finger continued to move, it clamped down so the finger could not escape. Jimmy had not mentioned this part of catching crawdads.
Herb jerked his hand back, but the crawdad refused to let go. Finally after much screaming, the crawdad abandoned its claw, which remained imbedded in Herb’s finger, and escaped.
Herb’s cousin, Kelly, managed to extract the claw from Herb’s finger.
As anyone can see, Herb failed in his first attempt to catch a crawdad.
Herb learned that brothers and cousins often have objectives which are designed to inflict pain on those they consider beneath themselves. That was a small price to pay for such a valuable lesson.
Herb took everything his siblings and cousins did and pondered them in his heart. Years later he got back at them when he wrote and published the book – Animals I Have Hated.