Call me squeamish and behind the times. Call me chicken hearted and anti business, but in a world in which death and disfigurement are commonplace topics on the evening news, I’ve been having a hard time getting used to Cape Cod’s love affair with the Great White Shark, a fast swimming, meat eating apex predator that averages sixteen feet long, weighs up to twenty four hundred pounds, and grows razor sharp, serrated teeth as needed.
But have you been to Chatham lately? The little town that’s proudly branding itself the Home of the Great White? Have you visited the Sharks in the Park public art display, dotted with humorous and colorful cutouts of animals that snatch baby seals in their jaws, drag them underwater to drown and drain their blood, then let them float to the surface so others sharks can swim up and take turns feeding?
I certainly don’t blame Chatham. The executive director of their Chamber of Commerce seemed to be as surprised as anyone. “We became shark city the first year they started tagging sharks,” she said. “Every time there was a sighting or a tagging there would be news trucks. We had traffic jams. There’d be buses of tourists.”
At first I wondered why. Sharks love to eat seals because they’re bodies are fifty percent fat, but so is mine, and nothing would draw me to a place where simply taking a swim on a hot summers day could potentially risk laceration and dismemberment. But then until I realized that’s its not about me at all. It’s about the sublime luck of being there at the exact right moment when I might get to see someone else get maimed…which certainly speaks to the character of a country whose favorite sport is noted for giving its athletes concussions and whose national legislative body steadfastly defends the right of angry mental patients to buy automatic rifles.
Face it, people love dangerous mascots. The recent tragedy at Disney World notwithstanding, I do not see the University of Florida changing its Gator logo any time soon. We have the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions, and right down the road in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, whose mascot is the Wolverine, a savage predatory weasel that can crack the bones of an animal ten times its size and mark its territory with a foul smelling yellow fluid from its anal glands. Hey, right about now the Great White Shark is starting to sound pretty civilized, you think?
The trouble, of course, is that every town on the Cape needs business, but we can’t all use the Great White. So I want to suggest a few others.
What about the Fisher Cat, a ferocious little mammal that’s making its comeback on the Cape? It’s actually related to the wolverine and sometimes likened to an angry ferret. They’re tough enough to take on a porcupine, dangerous enough to threaten small children, and they scream like wild birds having their throats cut. Try it on for size. Your Town, Home of the Fisher Cat.
If that doesn’t turn you on, what about Coyotes, which every native Cape Codder knows by now are properly called Coy Wolves, because they’re a hybrid of the eastern wolf, the western wolf, the western coyote and get this, dog, as well. I think we’re missing a real marketing opportunity, here, people.
Let the people in the cities and suburbs complain about them in garbage cans and parks. We should embrace them. After all, how many animals can turn a quiet off-season evening into a scene out of The Hound of the Baskervilles? And imagine if you will, the great logo: a coy wolf winking at you coquettishly on a tee-shirt? Once again: Try it on for size. Your Town, Home of the Coy Wolf.
But, of course, I’ve been saving the best for last because really, the most dangerous animal we have is the tick. Think about the damage they cause. Think about the numbers of lives affected. Think about the fact that they feast on blood. Frankly they scare me more than Great Whites, Fisher Cats, and Coy Wolves, put together. And maybe the best part is that elusive take-home factor that Cape businesses crave, because while you know it when you’re bitten by any of the others, a tick bite received while on vacation might not be evident until long after you’re back home…a chilling reminder of dangerous Cape Cod. I think this one’s a winner, don’t you: Your Town, Home of the Tick.
I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.