Four hours of sleep. That's all I had when the family I was staying with woke me up at 2:30 a.m. to get ready for a morning of crabbing on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. 

The Igham's — Brett, Patricia, Patrick, Christian and six-year-old Julie — have been commercial crabbing for a little over two years. The boys enjoy the business (Curbside Crabbing) more than the girls. 

Crabbing began as a way for Patrick and Christian to earn money, a summer job that worked into the boys' rigorus baseball schedule. Patrick and Christian live baseball. When they aren't crabbing, they are playing baseball and when they aren't playing baseball, they are crabbing. Sometime in between all of this they are sleeping, though I don't know how. 

Through their commercial crabbing license, Brett and boys can begin crabbing an hour before sunrise. If they arrive on the bay at just the right time they are guaranteed the perfect crabbing spot. Needless to say, waking up early and getting ready to leave was a race against the clock.

Myself, Brent Miller and Marc-Kevin Schewenk, an E.F. Foundation for Foreign Study student piled into the van, our eyes still full of sleep. We finally pulled out of the street following the Ingham's re-fridgerated truck that held all our supplies. I dozed on and off, Marc and I making use of Julie's car seat as a pillow. She had  insisted on coming with us. But Marc and myself couldn't stay asleep. Marc wanted to know why on Earth anyone would get up that early to fish. I was afraid of missing something.

The world looks oddly familiar around 3 a.m., even 4 a.m., but when the sun begins to rise and the colors of the sky light everything up, the worlds looks strange, different, another world, it seems, all together. Though the tree line of the Chesapeake reminded me of the layout of the Tennessee Rivier, the salty smell of the bay and the breeze reminded me I was anywhere but Scottsboro. 

Marc and I sat on the bow of the boat as it skimmed the water. When the boat arrived at it's destination, the boys got right to work. First came the process of dropping the over 3,000 foot line baited with raw, salted bull lips, a yummy delicacy for the Chesapeake  Bay Blue Crab. Patrick drove us along the bay and Christian and father Brett dropped the line, fixing the orange and blue buoy and setting the anchor. Once the bait dropped and the line was good to go we turned the boat around ready for the first of many catches that morning. 

The old way, according to Patrick, of reeling in the crabs was by hand. The boat would move along the dropped line and the boys would use a net to scoop out the crabs. The addition of an automatic net has since made the job a bit easier and quicker, though Patrick reminded everyone he preferred the old way.

"Don't keep any females," Christian said, showing me how to differentiate between male and female crabs.

"Look under the crabs, if you see the Washingtion Monument then it's a male. Females look like the Capitol Building."

Our hands gloved for protection, Marc and I began the process of sorting the crabs. 

I handed the crabs to Marc as he measured them with an orange measuring stick designed specifially for crabs, sizes ones, twos and jumbos. 

An orange basket with white handles held the crabs. On top sat a round cutout of black rubber designed to keep the crabs from abandoning ship. A few crabs were lucky, jumping out of the basket near the feet of Julie who simply picked them up and threw them back in the water.

Marc and I tag teamed the process. I picked up the crabs and handed them to Marc, who would measure them and sort them in the proper basket. The process worked great until the crabs started clamping on my gloved fingers, sometimes both mine and Marc's gloved fingers. 

"Just pull them off," Marc said to me, tugging, slinging and pulling the crab off my hand. Off came the crab's pinchers and Marc was satisfied, until we learned the crabs were no good without pinchers. Marc is originally from Berlin. People in his country may crab, but not around him. "The only water I see regularly is that in my house," he told me. "It's all city."

It was a new experience for both of us. 

By 8 a.m. I was wishing I had applied more sunscreen and wondering how life was back in Scottsboro. But it was 7 a.m. in Alabama. Only Ken would be at work. Everyone else from work would be asleep. 

I looked toward the back of the boat and so was Julie. Using a sweatshirt for a pillow, she had laid down, out like a light despite the crabbing going on around her. Thirty minutes later she was awake picking up crabs, throwing all the good ones back into the water as the boys tried to stop her. Big crab, little crab, male or female, it didn't matter to Julie. Every crab for her was worth saving.

Life is full of moments when you can find true peace. This vacation has been more of a journey of peace for me. It's been an interesting year full of many changes and even a little heartache. I was looking for this chance to get away from work and heal up old wounds of the heart without the help of friends or family. To live life you must first make a choice. Everyone else helping you will come along, don't worry about that. But first you must heal. 

The process began on the boat that morning. We drove into darkness on a mission and came out in the light victorious with a full catch. 

"What a great day for crabbing" Brett said many times. Before we left the bay he was already using the designated Crab Hotline cell phone to call anyone that might want a fresh catch. 

A fresh catch. A fresh start. Isn't that what we all need sometimes? 

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