Paws and Claws, Hands and Fingers

By: H. Anne Thurston, Columnist
“Beautiful Boyne”
anne@boynegazette.com

H. Anne Thurston, Columnist

Mammals all share certain likenesses and at the same time differences which cause each species to be granted its own name.  So it is we have the cat family and other categories and even our very own which has been designated the human.

 Although all mammals have been created with four appendages called ‘legs’ and usually rely on them all for walking there are a few who do stand and even move about on just two, the back ones which are the closest to the ground when the animal is upright.  We humans are the exception however as the second pair, or front ‘legs’ have a major difference.

 No paws complete with claws are found at their ends.  Instead man has what are known as hands with fingers which in turn feature ‘nails’, not claws.  Even the back legs terminate in feet with nails rather than the paws of other mammals.  As a rule the foot is not used in the manner of a hand although when visiting an architectural firm in Bellaire some years ago I was privileged to see a young man seated before a drawing board busily and beautifully working on architectural drawings for a building.  In the absence of arms and hands he had successfully taught his feet to perform a hand’s work.  The opportunity to meet this man forever proved to me that the seemingly tragic and impossible need not be viewed as such.

 I am reminded of this every day as I observe Ray perform those things we all do without thought with our hands with his which are severely disfigured from arthritis.  It is very rare to hear him ask, “Anne, could you help me with this?” Somehow he manages to grasp a hammer, screw driver or pliers and do what he sets out to.  He can do a much better job of removing a cork from a wine bottle than I.

 The use of our hands in our daily lives is such an automatic procedure that we have coined phrases in our American ‘English’ that probably do not make a bit of sense to a person of another language.  ‘Hands down’ is one such familiar saying and means something that has little to do with putting ones hands down in your lap or on a table.  Rather it refers to the ease in which someone can accomplish a task or operation.

 A ‘hand shake’ has nothing to do with any medical condition in which the hands shake as in Parkinson’s but rather the firm clasping of hands by two humans to express agreement or greeting.  There was a time in history when such a shake was a binding legal agreement.  No written word, governmental intervention or lawyer’s assistance was required. 

A ‘hand signal’ involves no light.  It is merely the use of the hand to designate an intended action.  This used to be employed by a driver to indicate which direction he was about to turn.  Today we witness it between pitchers and catchers as the type of pitch is discussed silently.  A certain use of the hand and fingers is also used to ‘swear’ at another when differences of opinions exist.

 ‘Hands up’ carries its own message that seemingly has nothing to do with the need of the moment.  Usually used in describing a robbery by an author or script writer the action of holding ones hand high above the head actually is demanded so the perpetrator can see that the victim has no weapon.

 To ‘hand over’ something is used as a request when asking another if they will give you something they have.  The something may be an object they have obtained on the sly or it may simply be something you want to take from the other person.  It is a demand, not a polite please and thank you procedure.

‘Light handed’ refers to the ability of a person to take something from another without being seen.  In doing something in a light handed manner it is as if the perpetrator says to himself, “Oh, what the heck.  I might as well do it (whatever ‘it’ might be) –no one will ever know. 

We hold ‘hands’ of cards, raise hands in praise, clasp hands in prayer, hold hands in love and softly touch a new born baby in awe.   Those of us who possess two healthy ones, no matter our age are very blessed.

Anne Thurston is a weekly columnist for The Boyne City Gazette.  Thurston lives in Boyne City, and her published works include “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.”  More information on her work can be found at http://www.hathurston.com

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