Bandon, Oregon

Catching the Dungeness Crab

Bullards Beach State Park

September 17-20, 1998

   Map name   While traveling along the famous highway 101, traveling from Washington through Oregon, we had occasion to stop for a few days at Bullard's Beach State Park, near Bandon, Oregon, where the Coquille river dumps into the Pacific. When attempting to park in our campsite, we found a boat and tow vehicle already there. This is not a common thing but it does happen when other campers use unattended campsites to store their vehicles. On occasion we’ve done it ourselves. I got out and stood around the boat in a obvious manner hoping to attract the attention of the owner. When this failed I asked the nearest campers who without speaking pointed to the campsite across from me. Bill Butters looked up from the stew pot he had been working over and seeing our rig parked beside his boat, jumped up and came towards us on a trot, beginning a sincere apology for using our spot. There are a lot of ways to handle this situation and we have found that a gentle touch is best. We joked that he could move the truck but we would keep the boat. We talked for a moment, he moved the boat and the incident was resolved.    Bandon-11, OR   The next day we walked the beaches around the old lighthouse looking for stones, as Laura had become quite a rock-hound. That night I went star gazing which was particularly good with no moon. The next morning, there came a knocking on the door, Ken Butters stood at the bottom of the stairs with a nervous look on his face. This small framed gentleman of 78 was obviously unhappy about what he was about to tell me as he repeated that he didn’t find any damage. “Damage to what?”, I asked almost smiling at his fretting. “To the front of your truck where I backed into it”, he replied. We wandered out around the trailer to where the truck was parked. He had already pulled his truck back across the way. There it was, right on the big rubber bumper. A dirt mark. He pointed to it in case I missed it, and the apologies started again. I could feel the grin creeping across my face and tried to hold it back to no avail. I thought of all the hit-skip accidents I had investigated (as a former police officer), and the lame excuses for not stopping they usually gave when caught. No one else came from the other site to support him. He had come on his own, more for himself than for me. When satisfied that he had atoned for his actions, his smile returned and he said “Want to go crabbing?” I said “Sure.”, not knowing anything about crabbing or what I had agreed to. Bill (Ken's son-in-law) who by now had joined us, encouraged me on saying there would be enough crabs for everybody. We set a 9:00AM kick off time and returned to our respective activities. As there had been some hassling between Ken and I over would be caught sleeping in and who would have to bang on the other’s trailer to get them up, I set a clock for the hour prior to kick off. I was up with the clock the next morning and sitting in the living room with my first cup of coffee when the banging on the side of the trailer started. I could hear Ken shouting that he had already been out and caught dozens of crabs and wanting to know where I was. I threw open the door and caught a glimpse of his slight body scampering across the road, and back behind the bushes that closed in around his campsite. For 78 years old, this guy moved like a rabbit in a hunt. I filled the coffee cup to the brim and headed across the drive.  Bill was just coming back from the boat with the first of the three crab nets. These ingenious devices are simply constructed and very effective. Unlike traps, they must be tended continuously rather than set and left for the day. They consist of a large and small ring, these were made of hardwood. A net stretches over the bottom of the little ring    Bandon-03, OR   and up and around the big ring. This creates an enclosed area on all sides except through the opening inside the large ring. Fish-heads are strung to the net at the bottom of the little ring. A tether is attached to the big ring    Bandon-02, OR   and extended about 25 feet to a float. When skillfully thrown into the water the net sinks to the bottom of the river, with the big ring resting over the little ring, exposing the fish-heads to any crabs that might pass by. The most unpleasant task of the entire operation was stringing the fish-heads which had already ripened to a putrefaction sure to attract the most discriminating crab. Having attended to all that was necessary for a successful outing, we gathered at the boat for a final farewell photograph joking about who was going to fall out of the boat first, to become a crab treat. I sat in silence riding in the cab of Ken’s truck as the three of us drove to the public landing at Bandon. I marveled at the relationship these two guys had. Although not applicable, it seemed to be the father-son relationship you might read about in an old Saturday Evening Post Magazine. Each of them constantly kept aware of what the other was doing as well as saying. They seemed to act as one, yet would play one- up-man-ship, pitting old experience against young agile talent.

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