Crawdad Purging

Today’s guest post was written by Stephen Taylor.

My life in appalachia crawdads

Tales from Kathy Campbell

There were lots of wild things where we lived. Daddy had built our home on what used to be a swamp. With the help of an extension agent, he had figured a way to drain the swamp. Trouble is, even though the water was gone, some of the creatures that had lived in the swamp were still around. The yard around our home was full of little holes because the crawdads had not moved out with the water. Well, the crawdads sometimes made the most of our being barefoot and would sometimes clamp their claws on one of our toes, or our curious dog’s nose.

Fortunately for us, Daddy would bring home the little pieces of carbide that had not been used up in his miner’s lamp during his shift. He would give them to Freddy and me.

An interesting thing about crawdads is that they always build an escape route, so if one opening of their underground home is blocked, there is another opening to get out. An interesting thing about calcium carbide is that when it gets wet, it produces a very flammable gas that when lit, produces a great bright light, or sometimes, a great big explosion.

Freddy and I were tired of the crawdads snapping at our toes so one day, we collected all the carbide pieces Daddy had given us. We went around the yard dropping a piece of carbide in a hole, waited a few seconds then dropped a match in right after only to see a crawdad blow out its other hole. That’s the way we cleared our yard of crawdads.

If you’ve ever been pinched by a crawdad you’ll understand why Kathy and her brother wanted them gone. An old piece of folklores says if a crawdad gets a hold of you it won’t let go till it thunders. When those little boogers grab hold of you it certainly feels like they’ll never let go.

The girls have an underwater camera. Almost every time Chitter uses it she gets amazing footage of the crawdads that inhabit Stamey Creek.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    January 24, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    I don’t like em at all. My grandson’s live yo catch em when we take em to Brown’s Mt. Creek. They get a bucket and catch as many as they can. They like to see who can catch thet.most. sorry Tipper, I been sick. I’ve miss being on here.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2022 at 9:57 am

    Ha! THIS IS A PRICELESS STORY. The visuals of flame and little explosions around their property … Wow. Awesome.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 7:41 pm

    I tried crawdads before. They were okay, just not my favorite thing to eat and not much meat for all the work one puts in it to getting it out. Interesting memory story. I enjoyed reading it.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    I used catch crawfish in the creek I played in as a boy. I did it just for fun and mostly released them. Years later, I was surprised to find them crawling around in my back yard which was several hundred yards and a couple of city streets away from the nearest creek. Never did figure out how or why they were there. I just let them be.

  • Reply
    Ruth B
    January 18, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    As Margie suggested, I too would love to see some of the Stamey Creek critters! I love anything to do with rivers, streams, swamps etc.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    January 18, 2022 at 1:02 pm

    An old piece of folklores says if a crawdad gets a hold of you, it won’t let go till it thunders.
    The folklore where I grew up in Northeast TN was if a turtle bit you, the turtle would not turn loose until it thunders.
    Since I was never bitten by a turtle, I can’t attest to the accuracy of the folklore.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    January 18, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    How interesting! I grew up fishing for crawdads in Texas with a raw chicken neck on a string, but I never knew about how they lived or built their “houses.” Later, living in Houston, I always liked to see the enormous mountain of red crawdads
    from Louisiana in one of the Houston restaurants during crawdad season. But I liked catching them better than eating them!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 18, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    I enjoyed this post on various fronts.
    *I learned from it because the carbide trick was new to me.
    *It brought back grand memories of catching them, more often incidentally when seining for minnows than not; although I’ve caught many a one by hand. Get them right behind the pincers and you are safe.
    *I’ve enjoyed a feast of “mud bugs” many a time and consider them delicious. knowing how to break the crayfish to get the tail then sucking all the scrumptious juice, fat, and goodness out of the head is an art form as well as mighty fine eating.

  • Reply
    Ray C. Presley
    January 18, 2022 at 11:05 am

    There’s another very effective way to get crawdads to scramble. Put a firecracker in a hole and strike a match to it. It’s an old and very illegal way to get crawdads and other things to surface.
    On another topic. Ola Belle Reed has a raw and uncut flavor to her voice when she sings “High on a Mountain, Bonaparte’s Retreat “and other of my favorite country and folk songs. Her voice and banjo blend perfectly. I can see how anyone could get lost in listening to it.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 10:32 am

    The time i lived in Louisiana I learned to crayfish and catch crabs. We had special small umbrella shaped nets we could pull up from the water at the shore, and depending on what we were fishing for we used chicken necks tied in the middle or melt. One crayfish was enough for me, as even after purging them with salt water they still tasted of mud. Everybody else loved them. I love West Virginia, but I will ever be grateful for the life experiences spent with the Cajun people in New Orleans. Interesting post! I remember my dad had carbide light for the mines when we were young. I will always remember that strong smell and would recognize it if I ever smelled it again.

    • Reply
      Patricia Wilson
      January 18, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      This is what I thought this post would be about when I saw the tag line. 🙂 When I read the post I was thinking, “Hope the folks in Louisiana don’t have a heart attack when they read this!” Crawdads are one of the basic food groups in Louisiana – along with turtle, alligator, shrimp, crab, and red snapper. My Louisiana friends seem to love nothing better than a crawdad boil. To my way of thinking, it’s a lot of work for a teaspoon of nourishment. A lobster is worth the effort but I’ll pass on the crawdad.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 18, 2022 at 9:20 am

    AW, we did the carbide can shooting trick to. Our Dad taught us that one. We would also occasionally put 10 or so grains of carbide in the river when fishing was slow and light the gas on top of the water. Looked really strange because it seemed like the water was on fire. Never blew crawdads out of their holes though. I never even knew they had a backdoor.

    Sometimes crawdads can be caught on a fishing line, but not with the hook. If they want your bait they will hold the line with one claw and get it with the other. They do not want to let go and so can be hauled out, as was mentioned here about using the bacon. Maybe the moral there is, Don’t be stubborn or you will.find yourself high and dry?

    I’ve caught many a crawdad but never to eat, just for fish bait. My brother and I (me) would spend all day getting bait; crawdads, spring lizards, worms, “catawba” worms, etc to go night fishing for catfish. We didn’t want big ones. The best bait was small to medium size. We caught them out of the little spring branch below the house.

    • Reply
      January 18, 2022 at 11:06 am

      Ron, I thought of you when I wrote about carbide and wondered if you had done that.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 9:03 am

    My friend took me to a new Cajun restaurant in town for my birthday a few years ago. They served crawdads called some other fancy name! Apparently eating them requires some disgusting techniques such as breaking them apart to consume the meat from the tail then sucking the fat out of the rest of the body. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy my dinner and never went back.
    This post has got me wondering if carbide will work to remove the moles that have plowed my yard. I’ve spent a small fortune on traps and chemicals and nothing has worked so far.

    • Reply
      Liz Hart
      January 18, 2022 at 3:49 pm

      Shirl, if you ever find a solution for the mole problem I would surely like to know! My yard is a mess too.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    January 18, 2022 at 8:10 am

    I love watching crawdads do their thing. They’re like little miners, aren’t they? I have a 11 and 1/2 year old cat who used to go down to a tiny spring fed stream and catch his own crawdads! I’d find their heads usually with a very content fat boy close by! I love watching the Cajun gator hunters on Swamp People and they eat high on the hog- crawdads, gator, wild boar, catfish, etc. Yum yum y’all!!! BTW, can the girls show us some underwater Stamey creek sights???? Please oh please!!!! Some of the critters under water are spectacular to see and those dive photos are my favorite from the Yucatán when I get them from the girls.

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    January 18, 2022 at 7:52 am

    When I was a kid my brothers and I would tie a piece of bacon to a string and drop it in those mud bug holes in our ditch along the road. Once they got a hold of the piece of bacon, they rarely let go. After we collected enough of them, we went fishing. I’m not sure which one we had the most fun catching. Sometimes it seemed that it was easier to catch the crawdads than it was the fish.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 7:47 am

    On the old farm we have lots of those types of crawdads. They like a damp place where they can dig down to water and the crawdad builds a mud chimney while digging its hole. Sometimes the chimney can be several inches tall. I guess the height of the chimney depends on how deep it has to go to find water. Mom and dad always called a chimney a chimley

    Back in my day boys would take an old baking powder can that had the press in lid and punch a small hole in the bottom. Then place in the can a small amount of carbide and water and seal it with the press in lid. When the gas would escape out the hole you would light it and the lid would blow off with a loud boom. Country fun!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    January 18, 2022 at 7:18 am

    The only thing I know about crawdads is that they are like little lobsters, and that some people hunt for them to use for dinner. I have never ate one, but have seen them as a entree choice in a Chinese Buffet or two in San Diego. I did not know they could live outside of a ditch or creek until I read this post. I really enjoyed reading this! Thank you!!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 6:58 am

    Crawdad Song by Woodie Guthrie
    (Also sung by Andy Griffith on an episode)
    You get a line, I’ll get a pole, honey
    You get a line, I’ll get a pole, babe
    You get a line, I’ll get a pole
    We’ll go down to the crawdad hole
    Honey, babe of mine
    What’re you gonna do when the lake goes dry, honey
    What’re you gonna do when the lake goes dry, babe
    What’re you gonna do when the lake goes dry
    Sit on the bank watch the crawdads die
    Honey, babe of mine

  • Reply
    Denise R
    January 18, 2022 at 6:55 am

    When I was very little, about age 4, I wandered the neighborhood a lot, which is definitely not a good thing even back then. Anyways we had a creek that flowed through our neighborhood and I spent many days crawdad fishing using a butterfly net. I would come home with a bucket full of the creatures. I was pretty good a not getting pinched!
    Later in life we would go to Minnesota for family vacations. Up there you don’t see the crawdads in the water until you have a stringer of fish tied up on the dock or your boat. The next thing we knew the fish we were going to clean were ate up to the bones by the crawdads, hundreds of crawdads! So we learned our lesson the hard way and put the fish we were going to keep in buckets or watched that stringer tied to the boat real close.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 18, 2022 at 6:53 am

    When I was a preschool child, we lived in Pasadena Texas and let me tell you there are crawdads there, lots of them. When we had heavy rains, their holes flooded so they came out everywhere in the yard. I had a young friend wandering around the neighborhood with his wagon, in the rain, picking up crawdads and putting them in his wagon. When he had a bunch, he took them home and his mom cooked them for dinner! True story!

  • Leave a Reply