My cousin, Kirk, is an expert in the fine art of scrimshaw. At first "scrimshaw" sounded like some kind of horrible 16th century disease one got at sea while standing out on the deck of a ship naked during a storm. After a quick flip through a dictionary I found out that scrimshaw was the art of carving images into pieces of ivory, or bone. This explanation made more sense than the idea of my cousin being an expert at some debilitating ailment only gotten at sea.
Scrimshaw was something Kirk learned with patience and practice. He probably spent countless hours hunched over a "practice bone" (or what ever it is they use)carving until the image looked just right. A thin blade was his brush, and a piece of ivory his canvas. My expert skill did not develop quite this way. As far as I can tell it was inherited, stemming from a remote village in Northern Italy.
It seems that sometime during the mid-1400s, in the small village of Cochenza, there lived a man named Guido Vanderlucci. He would be my grandfather to some exponentially-great degree. Guido, like myself, was known for his uncanny ability to avoid injury from falling objects. He was known throughout the mountains of Northern Italy as "Guido, the guy that never gets hit by falling objects."
His amazing gift has let the Vanderlucci name live on to this day. Not once did an offspring get hit by a falling rock, a dead bird, or an arrow. It's like some sort of Darwinian principle is at work: Nature will find a way. The Vanderlucci genes had developed an ability to protect themselves, to continue existence unscathed (well, at least from falling objects...)
Never has a Vanderlucci been hit by falling satellites, bridge jumpers, meteors, bird do-do, or even lightning. Our line has excelled in construction (by avoiding falling materials), mining (avoiding cave-ins), and strangely enough, aviation (where Vanderluccis avoid becoming a dangerous falling object.)
This natural expertise has been with me all of my life, and on occasion, saved me from great, messy harm. Sometimes I've even used the gift to my advantage. Back when I was 14 I used to be an assistant to a tree surgeon. What this basically entailed was standing at the foot of a massive redwood tree while my employer would be overhead, with chainsaw in hand, severing off bad tree limbs. My job was to continually remove the fallen debris from around the base of the tree so it could be chopped. The second facet to my job went hand-in-hand with the first: in order to be able to remove the fallen branches I had to make sure I wasn't hit, crushed and killed as they plummeted earthwards.
Needless to say, the second part of the job was no problem. I had no trouble stepping aside as 12 foot long, 4 inch think branches fell 50 feet and cracked against the ground (and not my head.) Anyone else would have been instant "tree pizza." As my boss dropped branches he would yell, "Timber!" only to be drowned out by the scream and crunch of his sputtering chainsaw. Had I been a Smith, a Johnson, or even a Vanderlini I would have met my exit by looking up into the receiving end of a future bag of wood chips. (Somehow that gives the term "pushing up daisies" a new meaning.)
Mozart had hands that could weave notes together into amazing music. Einstein postulated the Theory of Relativity. My cousin Kirk is the Michaelangelo of the scrimshaw world. But out of all of us, only I can walk safely through a group of pigeons wearing a dark coat.