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Rational thought goes to pot
  |  First Published: May 2013



Who’d have believed it?

Unlike the other 99,994 people in Maroochydore on Easter Sunday, I’d gone to bed at a reasonable hour. Yes, call me a zero, like Blossom did, but I did have to go to work the next morning.

Not traditional work. Crabbing.

“Great,” I thought when I woke up at 5am, “no one else will be there at this time of the day and I’ll get a park close to the boat ramp.”

I hitched up the trailer and sneaked out to check the pots.

I turned the corner to see lines of cars and trailers taking every parking spot for the equivalent of 12 city blocks.

What is it about fishing people?

Why the hell can’t they stay in bed on a day like this?

Lucky, after I’d parked somewhere near Gympie, I had my running gear in the car to get back to the tinny.

I’m sure anthropologists could spend years writing theories about ‘running the pots’, and why it’s the subject of endless debates in circles of men all over Queensland. Those experts might be able to tie all sorts of primitive yearnings and compulsions into the endless discussions carried on around barbecues and bars.

Arguments, deaths, family break-ups and even spilt beer can eventuate over this seemingly simple and mundane topic.

And that’s just over the type of pot, before you get into the real hard stuff. Like what’s the best bait? Beef bones, dead mullet, live mullet, the mother-in-law, all of the above?

When do you ‘set the pots’?

When do you ‘run the pots’?

And, most importantly, where do you set them?

This tribal knowledge is passed down from father to son, and they have to be special sons, not just common, run-of-the-mill sons.

And this vital information is not to be passed to anyone outside a limited circle. Like about three people – if there are triplets involved.

I think the mafia learnt their omerta, or code of silence, from crab potters.

“Where’d you get that buck?” I’ll ask Skipper.

“Oh,” he’ll reply, “down there a bit, past that old mud bank up against the mangroves.”

His beady little eyes will dart around like a prawn with rabies. Giving nothing away. Tighter than Watto’s hammy.

The good wife will gaze blankly into the distance, refusing to meet my eyes. Not that that is unusual; that comes with living with Skipper for any length of time.

Frenzy, the eight-year-old, has been warned of the penalties tied to gabbing. He’s closed up tighter than a Government office on Easter Friday. Even Bear, the German shepherd, covers his eyes with his front paws and whines.

But that could be Skipper. He does get a little bit whiny when I have his nipple in a pair of multigrips.

But, to his credit, nothing is said. Not even when his better half takes over from me – not to get information about pots, just to remind him what role he has in the household. She’s a bit funny about that.

So I just have to head out and choose my own pot spot. And bait. And time.

But it’s hugely important I get a legal buck. The end result is a sign of your masculinity, you see, and your partner views a successful crabber with suggestive glances across the crab cooker and the hint of slinky clothing. More bucks, more… masculinity.

Unfortunately, the result of my Easter journey is I could just as easily have put them in the storm drain outside home for all the muddies I get. Which may say something about my masculinity.

But, unlike Skipper, at least I have my masculinity. His is under threat. Skipper’s better half is deadly once she gets near you with those multigrips and he apparently took some convincing about his place relative to hers in the pecking order inside their humble abode.

Oh well, at least swimming on cold mornings won’t be an issue for him. Or going in to retrieve his pots. Wherever they are.

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