Galveston Crabs

A tourist was walking down the beach in Galveston and saw hunched over figure up ahead of him on the shoreline. The early morning sun glinted off the water, so he couldn’t make out what he saw until he got closer. Finally, he was able to tell that it was an old weather-beaten man who was shuffling from the shore line to what looked like a hole in the sand. He was wearing the Galveston uniform of shorts, flip flops, a faded t-shirt, and a floppy hat.

The tourist, thinking this would be a great chance to mix with some local color and have a story to tell his friends up in the Rice Village, asked him what he was doing. The old man, looked at him in amusement, looked down at a crab he was holding, and back at him without saying anything. The tourist, feeling a little silly, said, “I see you’re crabbing. “Yep”, the old man said while dropping the crab into the hole and shuffling back out to his crab lines. The tourist watched him, taking in the beauty of the morning. The man picked another crab off the line and, holding it from the back so as not to get bit, shuffled back over to the hole, dropped it in, and headed back out to the water.

The tourist thought for a minute and realized that something wasn’t quite right. He looked in the hole and saw there were a whole bunch of crabs in there crawling all over each other. “Sir”, he said, “I notice that you’re dropping those crabs in a hole dug in the sand. Does that hold them?” “Yep” said the old man. The tourist thought some more and finally said, “That can’t work! The crabs could just climb out. What’s the deal?”

The old man turned his weather-beaten face to the tourist. His eyes twinkled and he cracked a very slight grin. So slight that you wouldn’t notice, except that the tourist was studying him at this point with rapt attention.

“Son”, he said chuckling, “These here are Galveston crabs. If one of them starts to climb out of the hole, all the other ones will grab its legs and pull it back down to the bottom of the hole”

Some version of this story, or one like it, has been told to every long-term Galvestonian from a young age. So many times, it does seem to hold truth as we see great ideas shot down and people or organizations who try to excel brought back down to status quo.

But I have to say that there is change in the air. Bold, progressive ideas are being put forward.

There was once a time we dared to build large scale beach pavilions, or build the seawall, Bishop’s Palace, Ashton Villa, the Opera House, and Moody Gardens.

We see and visit other communities because people followed big dreams: Vegas, Paris, New York, Santa Monica, New Orleans, South Beach.

Why not here? Why not now?