Wednesday 20 July 2005
Now, It's Shell Hunting Time!
What a day! But it's not over yet. I have a date with low tide!
And what a special low tide it was. I started off straight away haunting my favorite pylon again - well, wouldn't you? I found a few good things there, including another alphabet cone, pretty beat up. The sun and salt had bleached it that bluish grey color, but it still had the "alphabet" inscribed on it. I think it's ok to pick up and keep a not-perfect shell. Maybe, even though it is chipped and cracked, there is something about the way it faded that attracts you. Maybe it is all smooth, and you like the feel of it. Maybe it is very worn, but it is the biggest one you have ever found of that type. Yes, there are lots of reasons to keep a less-than-perfect shell, lots of reasons to view it as a jewel in it's own right.
Not seeing the treasure trove of the previous evening at the pylon, I began my zig-zag patrol of the beach, and came upon a really big, live king's crown in a flat area of the beach that was rapidly becomming a shallow tidal pool, just prior to the place where all the big driftwood is collected. I squatted down to watch him for a while, and as I was getting up, a woman was coming along and asked me what I was looking at. I showed him to her, and we chatted awhile, both heading down the beach. At some point, I realized she was no longer walking with me, and looked up just in time to see her run up the dunes and disappear into the parking lot. I had an awful suspicion, and backtracked to where the king's crown had been.
Some people are just bad.
It was raining lightly through the sunshine, and I pressed onward to the area just in front of all that driftwood. There were some interesting things to be had poking around the wood itself, and there was a veritable carpet of shells in shallow water before it. I I met a NICE woman who had a passel of children with her, maybe a half-dozen of them, all tweens and teens. Everywhere you looked, there were fighting conchs in excellent condition. You just didn't know where to lay your hands first, and eventually had to stop picking them up. In knee-deep water, a collection of about 10 people were spread out, doin' the Sanibel Stoop. There were a lot of pen shell halves, too, and I kept turning them over with my toe, occasionally finding something nice underneath. There was a 50-ish couple, whom I'll call The Hippies - long hair, tattoos, etc. - who were very jolly, nice, and excited to be shelling. At one point, she whooped as she brought up a huge whelk. It must have been 10 inches long, at least. One of the teens, just sitting at the tide line playing with the piles, found a very nice-sized alphabet cone. Then, one of the other teens brought up an even bigger whelk than the one Mrs. Hippie found, only it was live, and everyone crowded around to see. Mrs. Nice reminded her to put it back where she found it. See? Nice!
Mrs. Nice and I agreed that we should start throwing the "duds" far out into the bay, or else high onto the beach for someone else to find - we both had a suspicion that we were repeatedly picking up and discarding the same shells, over and over again. There was so much in that area, we could afford to be very choosy. There came to be a rhythm about it, and the only sounds were the sloshing of shins through the water, and the sound of shells hitting the sand above the tide line, with the occasional grunt or two thrown in, when a discovery was made. I was methodically turning over all the pen shells in my vicinity, when one of them would not budge, and I did not know why. Poking around with my foot, I realized that it went a lot deeper into the sand than the flatish pen shell halves did, and I started to get excited. I squatted down in the shallows and slowly worked it out of the sand. As I pulled it out of the water, I could scarcely believe my eyes - it was a whole, BIG horse conch - bigger than I ever found, even in my wildest shelling daydreams!
I was quite excited with my find, and let out a squeal. Now it was my turn for everyone to crowd around, ooooing and ahhhhing. As I put it into my mesh bag, I realized that the bag now weighed a ton, and I was going to have to purge.
At this point, Mrs. Nice's friend, Mrs. Nicer, came along to join the party. Apparently, she was mother to half of the tweens and teens milling around the area, and she was "sick, just sick" that everyone had found fabulous things except her. She joined the search, but soon it was getting rather dark to see. I sat on the beach and purged out more than half of the fighting conchs that I'd picked up during the evening, and left them in a pile high above the tide line, for someone else to find in the morning. There were lots of live things in the tidal pool at this point, and I saw the loveliest macaroni-and-cheese shell (an orangey juvenile horse conch), maybe close to two inches long. It was just a brilliant color, but when I picked it up, I found that it was occupied by a crab. I was sorta mad. Am I a big dummy to pass up wonderful shells simply because they have life in them? I mean, I know it is illegal to pick them up, and I totally agree with the reason WHY it is illegal - this is a sanctuary, it's their home, we are only guests here, after all. I kept thinking about the woman who'd run off with the live king's crown earlier in the evening. I've only ever found ONE king's crown, ever - not even pieces, just this one - and it is barely two inches long. Why should Mrs. Bad have a lovely, huger-than-my-fist king's crown, and I can't even have this little macaroni and cheese shell? No fair, no fair, no fair! I put him back into the tidal pool, and walked up to the rest rooms to wash out my shells before heading back to the hotel.
Back to Sanibel 2005