A journal of art and literature published by the University of West Florida
Sacred Lands, Anderson/Narvaez Mound, Pinellas County, FL 2010
The lightning whelk, native to Florida coasts, is a huge snail. Its shell, up to a foot long, opens to the left, a rarity.
When the Tocobaga and Manasota of Tampa Bay ran a stick handle through it, the wide end of this tapered cone became a powerful hammer. The pointed end was a pick, used to dig canoes out of charred trees. Just a quarter-inch thick, the once-living matter gave but didn’t shatter. Whelks were traded as far away as Michigan and Oklahoma, exchanged for copper.
Hefting a replica hammer and chopping in a short arc, I feel a surging centrifugal pull, and a gorgeous menace.