The sailor’s legend goes that pigs and chickens don’t swim; they would thus be very very anxious to get out of the water if dropped in.
This makes them a powerful charm against drowning, the animals desire to be out of the water helping one avoid a watery grave.
Sailors, the story goes, tattooed these animals on their feet as a charm against drowning. Sailors were and are a superstitious lot, and in an era when most people could not swim, drowning was always a great fear.
I am not particularly superstitious, and I’m not afraid of the water; I swim reasonably well. Yet, given the amount of time I spend in and on the sea, the old sailor superstitions have endless appeal.
Thus – Pig and Chicken, by Uncle Tim at Blue Kauai Tattoo in Hanalei:
Click for bigger views. The images are a bit fuzzy (phone cam). The redness and swelling will be gone in a day or so (those of you who’s been tattooed know the way they feel right now, vaguely like a bad sunburn).
Uncle Tim is wonderful; if you wanted to cast a pirate in a play or movie, you’d cast him. He’s a writer, an artist, an excellent and self-taught tattooist. He collects skulls and loves hot-rodd culture and Big Daddy Roth.
I would get tattooed by him again in a minute.
When I decided I wanted to get a tattoo on this trip, i looked at Tim’s work and thought, what’s his gift, his style, and then I thought about how I’d describe what I wanted in a way he’d get. I started by pointing him to this image in his book, and then said, simply, ‘cartoon fierce, wildly colorful.’ Tim was instantly excited, loving the description, loving the idea. “You couldn’t use better works for me,” he said.
His drawings were perfect, needing only tiny changes to make them work.
It took about three hours; a long three hours. THe feet are pretty sensitive, and there’s a huge amount of detail in these tattoos. But Tim was a great guy to spend three hours with, and Blue Kauai is a good shop, not out on the street so the walk-in-stupid-questions were at a minimum. Tim said the skin on my feet is really thick and tough; he said it was ‘like rhino hide’, and later that tattooing my feet was ‘like trying to tattoo a board with a rock.’
The trip home will be long, but as they say, a moment of pain, a lifetime of pleasure. Thanks, Tim.