Stump Pass, FL – February 18, 2013
“Well, I found one at least,” I said, holding out a tiny black shark tooth. It was about the size of a dime and black with a bend to it.
Vicky looked at it for a moment then said, “that’s a snaggletooth!”
“Seems about right,” I said.
“I love those,” she said. “I love the name, snaggletooth. It just makes me happy to say it.”
She reached in her pocket and pulled out a plastic bag. Fingering through a pile of black teeth, she found a long, thin one and held it out.
“Sand shark,” she said. “Don’t you just love them? They are my favorite”
It looked more like a sharp cone than the snaggletooth’s triangle and the top pointed up in a deep v shape. Vicky held it in her fingers for a moment then handed it to me.
“Take it,” she said. “I’ve got a bowl of them at home. I’ve been coming here for years.”
I’d stopped her on the beach as she walked past. She had a giant metal scoop and two trays to filter out sand. Her head was constantly bent over to stare at every fleck of black in the white sand.
“You look like you know what you’re doing,” I’d said.
“There’s a gleam to them,” she said. “After you figure it out they almost shimmer.”
A minute later we were both in the water digging in the shelf of sand where the waves break and dumping it through the sand filters which were a actually just metal office mail trays that you would see on a desk.
The water felt cold, even on a sunny day, but she was “from Wisconsin so this is warm” and I was proud.
Every minute or so she’d call me over and hand me some fossilized piece of an ancient animal.
“Stingray plate,” she’d say or “alligator tooth” or “dugung bone.”
“Dugung is an extinct manatee,” she explained.
I pulled up a few more snaggletooths and a fragment of a sand shark. Then she found a big, quarter-sized, snaggletooth and we both stared at it for a moment in awe and then returned to digging with renewed vigor.
The one thing all tooth hunters are looking for is a megalodon, the giant shark teeth that can be seven inches long. She’s looked for years.
“Found fragments,” she told me, “but never a whole one.”
The sun sank lower and we kept digging until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. We sifted through a few more handfuls before I could pull myself away, always sure the next scoop would bring a megalodon out of the depths.
It felt hard to say goodbye. We’d known each other for an hour, but every shark tooth and bone fragment we found helped fasten our friendship.
I packed the boat and she meandered down the beach, stooping low to examine pieces of bone or brush through a pile of shells, always searching, always looking for that megalodon.
“You’ll find it one day!” I shouted after her.
Maybe I will find one too someday, maybe I won’t, but either way, I wouldn’t trade it for finding nice folks like Vicky to search with.