Another View: Why a crab feed can get violent — and other musings

By: Robin Enos & John Downs
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Those of you who follow our column are probably aware that the Pirate’s wayward parrot has returned to the fold. Those who don’t aren’t reading it now anyway, so it doesn’t matter. A quick update, as you recall Bloody Parrot returned but with a cute little cockatiel and two little parrotiels in tow. The Pirate enthusiastically welcomed them back to live in the house. The Pirate’s wife Janice, with equal enthusiasm kicked them all the hell out and they have been living down in the barn. Yesterday I went over to see if the Pirate had anything for this week’s column. I knocked and was met at the barn door by the Pirate wearing a ruffled apron and carrying a diaper pail. Apparently the parrot has conned him into being the housekeeper –nanny. The whole scene was so profoundly disturbing I just gently shut the door and walked home with heavy heart. Our column was originally intended to be about and for the town of Newcastle but there is only so much juice you can squeeze out of one small town. We could always do an exposé on the mayor’s wife having a fling with the milkman but we don’t have a mayor or a milkman or a mayor’s wife for that matter, so we oft-times branch out of town or just make stuff up. This week I’m going to Auburn.

Last Saturday I attended the memorial for Jerry Burns at the Gomez Center on Lincoln Way, a perfect setting for the occasion. Jerry was old Auburn going back to the Burns Pharmacy and way before. Everybody who is somebody or ever was somebody going back 60 years was there. Jerry would have had a ball and maybe he did. The occasion was well-catered—sorry I didn’t get the name. The American Greetings String Quartet provided music. There were so many pictures of Jerry if felt like he was there. Larry Alberts was around somewhere. I know because I heard him. You can always hear Larry even if you can’t see him. Glenda Gonzales was there nagging me to do a story about the State Theatre. Kevin Hanley was present pretending to not know me. The Holmes brothers were there but as I was walking away from the event I saw Mike standing by his car with the hood up, his hands in his pockets. Jim had his head under the hood fiddling with the carburetor of something ... . Ah, what are brothers for? And no, I didn’t make that up.

Anyway, when Jerry came back up from Southern California I worked with him several years maintaining his property in Auburn. Notice I said with and not for. He usually had his finger on most of the things we did and I hardly ever overcharged him. For me he was a joy to be around. Someone at the memorial asked me what Jerry was like and I said “look at the pictures on the wall; Jerry fishing, Jerry hiking, Jerry jeeping. Jerry loved to play. He was the eternal youth.”

After the memorial I went down to the crab feed at the fairgrounds sponsored by the Gold Country Fair Heritage Foundation. I’ve always thought the term “crab feed” was interesting. Not crab dinner, crab mixer or crab soirée, but Crab Feed. Sounds like something you would do at a stockyard. What I’ve also noticed is how much these feeds change people. They arrive well-dressed, sophisticated, mannerly, delicately sipping their wine or beer out of plastic cups with their pinky finger extended, chatting away and then the pans of crab legs are thrown on the table. In an instant tens of thousands of years of social evolution go right out the window. These same people are up to their elbows in crabs, ripping and tearing the critters apart with their bare hands, teeth or anything else they can get their hands on. With bits and pieces of crab shell in their hair and butter dripping down their chins they look like a cave full of Neanderthals sucking marrow out of mammoth bones. The most frightening thing to me is the behavior. When our pan was empty I reached over to Bruce Cosgrove’s side and Bruce, who is usually very polite and mild-mannered, snarled and snapped at me ... tried to bite my hand. Jim Holmes and Mike Carson from Gold Hill Gardens were across the room rolling around on the floor fighting over the last drip of the butter bowl. You want to see what we were like 20,000 years ago? Go to a crab feed. At least that’s how I see it. Maybe others see it differently.

Anyway, aside from all the violence it was a good event for a good cause. Hats off to Casey Conway whose finely honed skill at nagging people comes in handy when it comes to selling tickets. Also kudos to FFA, 4-H and the local Boy Scouts for waiting the tables and all the other folks involved. Special thanks to Don Ales for working to improve our Gold Country Fairgrounds.