Growing up, I lived a block away from The Creek, where I played with “the neighborhood kids,” a motley group, ranging in age from four to fourteen, under the dubious supervision of distracted single parents. We played our fair share of Atari and wasted time making fake bids on “The Price Is Right,” but usually we were outside playing a game like Sentry, Capture the Flag, SPUD, Swinging Statues, Truth or Dare, or Spy vs. Spy (which was a big excuse for roaming the neighborhood in two gangs, climbing fences, trampling gardens, and basically being delinquents). I was one of the youngest and more of a gullible, devoted follower than an instigator, but I always felt included and necessary, despite (or maybe because of?) the occasional teasing and my designated role as the “goody two shoes” of the group. (On a side note: damn you, Adam Ant, for your catchy lyrics!) It occurs to me that this is starting to sound like the foundation of an 80’s Spielberg flick, but, I’m sad to say, we grew up before any miraculous thing happened to save us from ourselves.
The Creek where we played was not an idyllic brook of clean, babbling water winding its way through a peaceful meadow or pristine forest. It was a dirty, shallow stream, funneled under a busy road through massive concrete drain tunnels and hemmed in by apartment buildings that we, with all the smugness of youth, called “the old people apartments.” Besides building dams, getting in water fights, and just generally splashing around, we spent most of our time there catching crayfish. Once or twice we sold them as food to one of the more adventurous parents, but usually we examined and threw them back into the creek or raced them down the hot, gritty slopes of the concrete tunnels.
The Creek, like most small waterways in Frederick, eventually empties into the Monocacy River, where I still catch crayfish with my boys. A few days ago, one of them found a nice young specimen that he eagerly posed for the camera. There are several native species of crayfish in Maryland, and I can’t claim to be able to identify which we have here, but it doesn’t seem to be a Rusty Crayfish, an invasive species that is threatening the survival of the natives. (A very common historical theme. Sigh.) Since we only caught one, we didn’t get to do any racing. But we have a long summer ahead of us.