In my youth, tattoos were a badge of working class pride. You saw them on military guys and field workers–anchors, hula girls, mermaids–imprinted on beefy limbs shaped like Popeye’s grotesque forearms. In the last couple of decades, though, they’ve become fashionable. I wasn’t watching, but I believe the trend started among the youth, as most of these trends do. You began to see a blossom or two on an ankle, a pretty sunset or sunrise on the back of hand. Then there were images of loved ones, past or present. And before long, skin art appeared on the bodies of all sexes and all classes. Which brings us to yours truly.
For a period of time a few years back, we had as a boarder a wonderful young lady, in her late twenties at the time. For some reason I asked her once if an abundance of tattoos would be off-putting for a romantic relationship. She looked at me incredulously and shook her head. Then art began to appear on various grandchildren and their friends and what had once been a mark of class or lifestyle had become commonplace. And I’d become intrigued.
I wondered vaguely, but not intensely, If I were going to get a tattoo, what would it be? No images appeared in my mind. It was a matter of no more than tangential concern, then suddenly the idea of a quail popped into my mind. I’d always liked them, their call, their cute topknots, the way, they skittered through the underbrush to evade pursuers, then erupted into short flights that ended in another screen of foliage. All that, and the fact that I have spent the last few years deeply engrossed in writing historical novels set in my native state, and that the Quail is the official bird of that state–California. So, suddenly, the only decision left was where to place the image. The underside of my right forearm now proudly sports the image below with a proud history. An image with a proud and ancient history:
The word “quail” referring to this bird first appeared in English in the 14th century, derived from the Anglo -Norman “quaille,” which was almost certainly formed in imitation of the bird’s cry.