There’s more than one one way to skin a cat, so I recently hunted for sharks’ teeth in piles of silt and shells as opposed to combing the beach for them.
The piles, which lay a hundred yards or so south of the Grande Dunes marina near Highway 17 Bypass, were dredged from the Intracoastal Waterway as a means of keeping the channel deep enough for bigger boats or yachts to navigate the inland passage.
After hunting there for nearly two hours, my booty included 13 small sharks, teeth and two nice pieces of fossilized coral. I’d hoped to find a bigger tooth. Perhaps a megalodon. But I don’t regret the effort. It was clear and sunny and I had a full view of the waterway and of some gnarly gondolas. Only a fool would need more.
Getting back to skinning cats for a moment. Did you ever wonder where and when that strange saying was first uttered? What sicko goes around carving pelts from our feline friends? (Insert your own oriental food joke here.)
Nobody knows for sure, but some believe that “skin the cat” is derived from Charles Kingsley’s 1855 book “Westward Ho!”: “There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream.” I’ll take your word on that, Sir Kingsley.
Another of my favorite dead writers, Mark Twain, used the phrase in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” in 1889: “…she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat…” We all know of Twain’s love of the Mississippi; I think he first heard one of his friends yell it as the associate was skinning a catfish. “Hey, y’all. Hand me that mallet. I’m fixin’ to drive a nail through this catty’s haid so as I can skin it from its neck to its tail. Reckon you can he’p me?”
Of course, Twain, also known for his humor and eccentricities, and battling the onset of senility, would have misunderstood and mumbled, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
There’s also a gymnastics maneuver called skin the cat, but the next summer Olympics is in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, so I won’t go there — unless, hint hint, someone wants to send me a round-trip plane ticket to South America. Hey, my buddy Mark “Marco Polo” Sanford has connections down that way. Maybe he can…Nah. That’d be blood money.
I’ve meandered away from the crick again. Where was I?
Oh, yeah. The silt piles at the marina. Loved every minute of it and I managed to do it without any involvement of the property owners or the city police. Thank Ra for small miracles. The local flora was in full bloom and the scents of spring were everywhere. The colors of my surroundings were magnified as if I were under the influence of some mild hallucinogenic. I wasn’t; couldn’t find any stray cannibis plants or any dried magic mushrooms.
Communing with nature is my favorite pastime, especially when I’m near an ocean or a river. Heck, I was so close to the waterway that I almost could’ve cast in a fishing line and landed a catty.