My family camped a lot when I was a kid.
Everyone knows it’s not really camping unless someone tells scary stories around the campfire, and storytelling duties always fell to my dad.
His version of scary stories always came with a humorous twist. A terrifying tale about a zombielike voice snarling, “I need eyes” turned out to be a camper with a burnt hand demanding “ice.” When we camped near Oregon’s Green Peter Dam, Dad’s story featured a punchline about a Martian and his “Damn Green Peter.”
(If you’ve been wondering where I got my juvenile sense of humor and fondness for risqué jokes…um, yeah. Hi, Dad).
My brother and I grew accustomed to the groan-worthy comedic twist at the end of each story. On a trip to the Oregon Coast, Dad began weaving an elaborate tale about a family being chased by something they feared was a giant, man-eating crab. I snuggled into my sleeping bag, preparing myself for the inevitable giggle at the end.
The tale culminated with the terrified family barring themselves at the top of the Astor Column while something flung itself against the door.
We waited for the punchline. A venereal disease joke about crabs, perhaps? Some pun involving butter and lemon?
“In the morning, the family eased open the door,” my father whispered. “And there on the stairs was a giant crab claw.”
My brother and I sat in stunned silence. We waited, thinking maybe Dad was taking his time with the joke.
Later, my brother and I huddled in the tent and discussed this unexpected turn of events.
“I’m not scared,” he scoffed. “Giant man eating crabs don’t exist.”
“Duh,” I agreed. “Of course not.”
My brother was quiet for a moment. “I don’t think I want to go up the Astor Column tomorrow.”
“Do you think it’s OK to wear my hiking boots in the ocean?”
Don’t worry – after years of shock treatments and hypnotherapy, I’m over my fear of giant, man-eating crabs. My brother though – well, it’s a shame about the padded room.
Do you have a storyteller in your family? Can you remember any memorable tales from your childhood? Please share.
My local seafood restaurant is running a crab leg special. I’ve scheduled an appointment with my shrink.