Wednesday, December 06, 2006


One of the other reasons to vacation in the Conch Republic (Key West) is the beautiful old homes and, of course, the ocean with its spectacular sunsets. You can look down some streets and see from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico or “from sea to shining sea” as one tour guide put it! It became evident as I prepared this that it was just too long, so, I will break this up into two parts, with this one concentrating mostly the polydactyls of the Hemingway house! I will do the sunsets on the next post, and then we will get back to BEER!

The homes are not only beautiful due to their age and architecture, but because of the varied fauna from around the tropical world made possible by the climate of the Keys. If it can grow in a jungle from South America, a tropical island, or Africa, it can grow in the Keys. Many non-indigenous plants have been brought to the keys by homeowners, and some have now been banned. For example, the Banion tree can no longer be planted there – the Banion tree grows where it wants!

One of the most intriguing homes is the Ernest Hemingway Museum and Home, which still feels lived in, to some degree, because his cats still have free range there. The cats lay around the house and the grounds as if they owner will be right back to feed them, and in a way he will. Hemingway provided for the cats in his will and they rule the roost! There are approximately 60 cats living on the property today, half of them polydactyl. A few of these cats are descendents of Hemingway's first cat.

These cats are almost as famous as their ancestor’s owner because they have extra toes (technically known as polydactyl, Latin for "many digits").

The normal cat has 18 toes (five on each front foot and four on the rear) found on most cats, polydacts have six or more toes on the front feet, and sometimes an extra toe on the rear. The cats living here have been given the nickname "Hemingway Cats.”

The black cat pictured has at least 7, and is the same cat shown drinking out of the “unique trough.” It is easy to see why they are sometimes called “Mitten Cats!” And yes, polydactyls are the result of inbreeding, but they no longer reproduce in this kind of atmosphere, but at least some of the cats still carry the original gene. Most of the cats are spayed and/or neutered, but at least a couple are allowed to carry on the gene pool! These are the “real” lucky ones!

The “unique trough” is really a urinal from the original Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which Ernest picked up off the street when Sloppy Joe moved (see last post). Hemingway’s wife had it tastefully tiled, and put in the “jug fountain” in order to “save face” in the neighborhood. Some say he brought it home as joke in response to his wife spending a huge amount on a pool for the backyard!

The cats rarely drink directly from the trough, but rather stand on it and lick up the water as it runs down the side of the jug.

Aren’t you proud of me…I didn’t write about killing cats for once!


Bruno said...

Damned interesting post! I am really glad you interpreted "polydactyl" for me, I ain't got no smarts much on that Latin stuff!(Even if it IS the base of most all common languages...!)

bozette said...

Great post.
I knew about the cats from reading about Hemingway.
Oh I can't waiy for the sunset pics.

Suzi said...

Looks heavenly. I've never been to the Keys, although it's been on my list for a long time. Thanks for giving us a glimpse. Fascinating place.

EC said...

I'm very proud of you! You took a picture of them and wrote about them like you actually cared!!!!!! :-)

I never knew what they were called actually, I call them double paws, and my cat does indeed have double paws. It is only one extra "thumb" on each paw but it does look like she always has a nice cozy pair of white mittens on.

It would be hard for me not to have a cat with them, because they are just so damn cute.

Oops, I got carried away - I must be making you break out in hives now ;)

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I wish I had gone to the Keys when I lived in Miami.

Alex said...

Okay, this is getting a little sad. You've already made two posts about Fla., and so far there has been a glaring dearth of naked and semi-naked women on beaches, in bars, or rollerblading/biking/walking down trails.

What gives?

(I was going to make a horrid pun about being too old, but still finding the keys, but I thought better of it. You can thank me later.)

Mushy said...

It's never too late Pat!

Alex - Strangely, there is little action on the beaches, especially since the beach area is limited there. Anyway, I'm way too old to spend time in the sun or surf...I prefer the shade of a good bar.

Now, if you go down there in mid-November, when all the naked body painting goes on, you'll get your fill! I plan my next trip during that time and I'll have to buy an extra media card for my camera!

Becky said...

I love the pictures -- it looks so...peaceful there.