Horton Hobbs’ daddy was ‘Crawdaddy’


Like many scholarly publications, the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (D.C.) refers its readers to illustrations and photos that help to explain its articles.

So on Page 477 of Vol. 3, No. 3, in 1998, Karen Reed and Raymond B. Manning of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution referred those perusing an article listing the 211 papers and abstracts published by Horton H. Hobbs Jr. to Fig. 3, “showing Horton on his boat, the martini barge.”

The reference was needed to back up Reed and Manning’s scholarly claim that the man so “synonymous with (the study of) freshwater crayfishes of North America” that people called him “Crawdaddy” also “thoroughly enjoyed his martini at cocktail hour.”

Fourteen years later, the article gives Springfielders Horton H. Hobbs III and Horton H. Hobbs IV something to smile over on Father’s Day.

“He would only have one or two,” said Hobbs III.

Crawdaddy’s son, he is now finishing a career teaching biology at Wittenberg University and studying life in caves.

It’s a life that largely follows in his father’s footsteps.

To ensure clarity of the scholarly record, Hobbs III offered his father liked martinis “very dry. If he ever put in vermouth, it was a rarity. It was gin on the rocks with lots of ice.”

In addition to listing by organism the scholarly papers Hobbs Jr. had written about, the 1998 article was a loving tribute.

“All of us who knew and worked with Horton have many fond remembrances of him,” the authors say. “He was the quintessential Southern gentleman, always rising when a woman entered his presence. It pained him not to be able to open door for women.”

He was playful, too. Although they stop short of convicting him, the authors allege Hobbs Jr. was part of a prank in which fireworks called “torpedos” were placed on the front legs of a chair used by a man who habitually tipped back in that same chair when he talked.

There’s no question that Hobbs was there to observe and record the results when the front legs of the chair hit the floor and the firecrackers went boom.

Still, Hobbs Jr. was a gentleman.

Even while digging for crawfish, “he always wore a tie,” said his son, Hobbs III. “He’d be out in the field in a white shirt.”

His father also was “very bright, but never would admit that.”

Crawdaddy’s secret was exposed by the number of species he discovered and named.

As a father, “he was one that would let you stumble and not walk you through everything,” the son said, “but he would be there to pick you up.”

For grandson Horton H. Hobbs IV, who recently moved from his position as development director at the Springfield Foundation to vice president of economic development at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, summer weeks with his grandfather were special.

“I got to see behind the scenes at the Smithsonian,” Hobbs IV said. “But he was just such a down-to-earth person, you’d never have known he worked (there).”

And although the grandson found peeks at the Hope Diamond and other Smithsonian treasures as special, his best memories involve “just blue gill fishing” on the martini barge.

While in their grandfather’s presence, he said he and his sister also learned that treating others with respect should be as much of the natural course of things as the smell of boxwoods along the lake.

“Both my father and grandfather are world renowned (biologists),” Hobbs IV said. “But you would never know it.”

Hobbs IV said that came from the two of them doing work “for the pure joy of it,” not for other expected return.

So the scholarly record on the Hobbses can be complete, a bit more is required.

Those who went to school locally with Hobbs IV know his nickname is Beeper.

It was given him by his father, Beep, who had been nicknamed by his father, Crawdaddy.

The reason?

He thought his son had been scooting around the house like Roadrunner, whose cartoon Latin name was beepus beepus, just as Wile E. Coyote’s was carnivorous vulgaris.

Those having trouble following the sequence are advised to clip this column, relocate to the nearest martini barge (Fig. 3) and try again.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Beep-beep!

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0368 or tstafford@coxhio.com.


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