Form a group and traditions will soon follow, however silly they may seem to those outside the group. The members of the Sisters of Ruth Cross-stitch Club, founded in Sycamore Shadows in 1928 to evangelize through cross stitching, eat mostly meatballs. Believing, despite any scriptural authority, that the biblical Ruth cooked meatballs for Boaz, they consume the food in such quantity that most “sisters” resemble meatballs themselves. Their cholesterol levels are legendary.
Members of the now-defunct Little Rindle Explorers Club nailed fish heads to wooden posts erected expressly for the purpose. It began as a simple way to display trophies; it ended as an honored ceremony known as the “mounting of the heads.” For years after the infamous “Fish Fry of 1927,” which led to the dissolution of the club, hundreds of head-bedecked posts remained, a reminder of the power of tradition. Wrens would often nest in the mouths of the larger fish.
Tradition abounds at the Crawdad Club, of which I am a proud member and serve as curator. Affectionately known as “Johnny Craws,” we greet one another by pinching the arms or shoulder, a custom that began soon after inebriated composer “Crapulous Bill” Sanderling founded the club in 1879.
We also walk crayfish style—backward, to those unfamiliar with crayfish ways—when in the confines of the club. A custom initiated by Sanderling himself, non-members find it idiotic, considering the scars and bruises on the backs of our heads as testaments of male stupidity. But consider this—maybe it’s not backward to the crayfish. Who are we, as chordates, to impose our directional definitions on a crustacean? It’s the same with bananas, another misunderstood invertebrate. Like many people, my mother believes that bananas hang upside down. Maybe they do, according to my mother’s view, but has she ever asked a banana? Probably not. Perhaps bananas tell their children that people walk upside down.
As proud Johnny Craws, our tradition is that we eschew tradition, and so we continue, crayfish style, back and buttocks first, chests and faces later, often followed by cigars the size of rolling pins.
Even time-honored customs have their detractors. Several members suggested stopping the practice of walking “backward” after Thaddeus Pembroke’s accident. Watching his aged mother moving up and down the sidewalk during the snow storm was heartbreaking, her numb hands holding a picket sign that read “It’s time to Move Forward,” her wheelchair covered with ice, but you can’t discontinue a respected custom just because someone forgot they weren’t in the club while waiting for a train.
Families, clubs, and congregations cannot exist without tradition. Because they were united in their love of sport, Little Beaver Explorers nailed fish heads to posts. Because they are united in an effort to save souls through needlework, the Sisters of Ruth eat meatballs. Because we are Johnny Craws, brothers of the claw, we will continue to walk backward together, stumbling over furniture, into closets, and against walls, to acknowledge the crustacean we admire, honor, and eat.