Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick: The Movie - and other stuff

A popular legend says that St. Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland. Now M and I aren't scientists, but we do know how to Google up scientific facts. And not to rain on anyone's St. Patrick's Day Parade, but the fact is, there have never been any snakes in Ireland. Well, except for zoo specimens and the occasional pet. (Crikey!) The internet abounds with chapter and verse about how a snakeless Ireland came about. It's interesting--but a bit dry, unless you happen to dig science.

Let's face it, most folks would rather believe the legend, since it's easier than doing research. And many are content to watch the movie, which I think is already on DVD:

In other news, M says today's Celebrity Cipher was pretty clever:

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."
--William Butler Yeats

In keeping with our theme of separating legend from fact, we have to say that this marvelous statement, widely attributed to Yeats, might have been thought up by somebody else. The problem is, it's hard to find exactly where Yeats said it. On the other hand, it's also hard to find it attributed to anyone else. But in any case, M says it describes the Irish mindset pretty well. (He's allowed to say that, since his pedigree includes a lot of Scots-Irish.)

I leave you today with this very Irish-sounding blessing: May the wind at your back always be your own.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybuddy!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Deliverance Days" - Throwback Thursday

Way back in what Mike calls his "Deliverance Days," he would spend a week at the end of each school year in the mountains of northeastern Georgia, camping, hiking, trout fishing, and trying not to drown in the whitewater rivers. Sometimes he'd go by himself, but more often than not he went with his friend Nick. As the years passed, the camping gave way to staying in rustic cabins. But the hillbilly-ing continued pretty much the same.

Mike usually drove up in his 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck. Here are a couple of pictures he took of his truck at the Stovall Mill Covered Bridge on Chickamauga Creek, near Helen, Georgia. He's pretty sure these are from one of his solo trips, which is why he's not in either of them.

By the way, Mike says there's another Chicamauga Creek in northwestern Georgia, where a famous Civil War battle was fought in 1863. That's not this one. This one, however, was featured in a pretty good 1951 movie called I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, starring William Lundigan and Susan Hayward.

Here's a photo Mike took of Nick in 1999, fishing in the West Fork of the Chattooga River:

And here's one Nick took of Mike sitting on his truck's tailgate, enjoying something called a "chilly brewski" after a long day on the river:

Over the years the Chattooga's West Fork became one of their favorite troutstreams. The main part of that river, however, is much better known for its whitewater canoeing, rafting, and kayaking. One summer the boys decided to see what all the shouting was about. Here they are in the front of a raft doing a manuever called "getting flushed down a toilet":

That's Mike at the bottom-left, with his paddle actually in the water--as if that would make a difference. Mike says his term "Deliverance Days" comes from their adventure on the Chattooga, which was one of two Georgia rivers used in the filming of a movie called Deliverance. Here's a still shot that was taken of the main actors on the Chattooga:

Mike also points out that his trip down the Chattooga with Nick turned out a lot nicer than the one for the movie characters. That's because (spoiler alert!) he and Nick weren't chased down the river by these guys:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Some days are diamonds, some days are stone . . .

And some turn out to be both!

Happy birthday, Grandma!
I still miss you, Grandpa!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Inverted Jenny

In 1918 the U.S. Postal Service issued a 24-cent air mail stamp that soon became world famous. It was supposed to be used on letters carried between Washington D.C. and New York City by airplane.  Air mail was a brand new service back then, as airplanes had only been around for a few years.

Soon after the air mail stamps went on sale, a collector named William Robey went to his local post office and bought a whole sheet of 100 of them. (Some people actually collect stamps as a hobby. M says he used to when he was a kid.) Right away Mr. Robey noticed something strange about his stamps. They all looked just like these:

The airplanes in the center were printed upside-down! Robey asked the postal clerk if he had any more sheets of the stamps, and when the clerk saw the misprints, he tried to get them back. But Robey told him tough noogies, finders keepers, and left the post office. He soon sold his "Inverted Jenny" stamps to another collector and used the money (which was way more than the $24 he paid) to buy a house.

No more of the misprinted stamps ever surfaced, and whenever one of them comes up for sale, it always goes for hundred of thousands of dollars. By the way, the reason the stamps were called the Inverted Jenny is that the Curtiss JN-4 biplane in the picture was nicknamed a Jenny. (For JN, get it?) There's a good article on this topic, including a recent reissue of the stamps, in The New York Times. To read it online, follow this link.

It would be nice to have one of those original hundred Inverted Jenny stamps. But you know what? Our family has some that are very similar to the airplane ones, and they're even more valuable, because they feature a real, live Jenny, and we wouldn't trade her for anything!

Among our Inverted Jenny treasures are this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And before I forget, to the upside-down lady in the center of each of those priceless stamps, I'd just like to say:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What you see is not always what you get.

Near the end of our walk this morning, M and I spotted a bear. He was way up in a tree, growling his head off.

Upon further review, it turned out to be a guy with a chainsaw:

If you look closely at the top picture, you can just "bearly" see another growly chainsaw guy in the tree that's farther away behind the fence.

We breathed a sigh of relief and moved on.