Patriots Celebrate America, They Don’t Denigrate America!

The always readable Dr. Lloyd Stebbins with some anecdotes appropriate for Independence Day. J.

Dr. Lloyd Stebbins

Parade

Once upon a time, when our politicians did not tend to apologize for our country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our great country.  These are good:

JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when DeGaulle decided to pull out of NATO.

DeGaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”

DeGaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop.

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When in England , at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.

He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great…

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Seven at One Blow

I vividly remember a story I read several times when I was young. It was called “The Brave Little Tailor,” or sometimes “Seven at One Blow.” The story is in the collection of folk tales gathered by the Grimm Brothers, and it also is in the Blue Fairy Book collected by Andrew Lang.

The story begins with a tailor fixing himself a sandwich. His jelly draws a swarm of flies, which he swats, crushing seven of them with one blow. To celebrate the achievement, the tailor makes himself a sash adorned with the words, “Seven at One Blow.” He then sets out upon a series of adventures, during which people frequently assume that the sash refers to seven people rather than seven flies. With a combination of fast thinking and deception, the tailor is able to increase his reputation for strength and daring. Finally, completing a series of seemingly impossible tasks results in his marriage to a princess. When the tailor talks in his sleep about sewing, the princess realizes that she has married a commoner and plots with her father to have him killed. Word of the plot reaches the tailor, and the next night he pretends to be asleep and talking; he lists his exploits and announces that he is not afraid of the men hiding behind the door. By this final deception, his life is spared.

I remember the story vividly because the opening premise always seemed improbable to me. In my experience, houseflies are rapid and elusive. Generally, when trying to kill flies with a swatter, my experience has been one in seven blows rather than seven at one blow. Sometimes I get lucky and squash a fly with a single blow, but that success is rare.

Sometimes a fly gets into the house during the day and becomes annoying while I am reading at night. In response, I create a trail of lights to the nearest bathroom, turning them off one by one to draw the fly into the bathroom. Then I close the door and the match commences. Sometimes I manage to knock the fly out of the air with the swatter, then crush it on the floor or in the bathtub. Other times I deliver the killing blow after the fly has landed on a wall or on the mirror. I don’t give up until I have won, but seven blows or more are not uncommon in these battles.

This spring a bag of potatoes spoiled in the kitchen. Before we realized what had happened, a family of small flies had bred in the bag and were scattering throughout the house. I don’t know how momma fly and poppa fly arrived; perhaps they had already visited the potatoes before they were bought and taken into the house. It took several days for us to locate the source of the flies inside the house, and meanwhile we were taking several measures to try to reduce their population without threatening our health or that of our cats.

One of our precautions was to try to keep the kitchen as clean as possible. We wiped down counters, rinsed dishes if we were not immediately ready to wash them, and tried to keep food packages sealed. Where they found moisture, though, the flies gathered, and if the liquid was sweet they were especially interested. Sometimes I would walk into the kitchen, see a group of flies gathered on the counter, and give them a swift swat with my open hand. Soon I was matching that fabled tailor, and then even exceeding him. My proudest moment was when I eliminated twelve at one blow. “Bring on that wimpy tailor,” I said to my daughters.

After we removed the potatoes, the fly population diminished, although it took some weeks before the house was finally fly-free. Since I am not a tailor, I did not make a sash to boast of my accomplishment. But at least you know now that I am capable of twelve at one blow. And I am not afraid of those men hiding behind the door. J.

Bigfoot–fact or fiction?

This week Rob Lowe announced that he feared for his life while camping in the Ozark Mountains as he heard the sound of a Bigfoot approaching his campsite. Lowe was in the Ozarks, oddly enough, filming a television show about Bigfoot. While Lowe’s announcement is probably nothing more than promotion for his show, this news tidbit sent me wandering far and wide across the internet, gathering information on Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) in the United States.

My family and I live in a developed suburban community—not an environment where Bigfoot is likely to be seen. Yet open wilderness areas exist quite close to our home. Many nights we have heard the call of coyotes, and some evenings the hoots of a great horned owl. To my surprise, I discovered credible reports of Bigfoot sightings within a few miles of my home. They took place in densely wooded areas and included both deer hunters and off-road vehicle drivers as witnesses.

I am convinced that the vast majority of Bigfoot sightings are spurious. Some of them, I am sure, are pranks, and others are the result of wishful thinking. Many reported sightings of Bigfoot probably were actually bears, and others were tricks of the light reflecting off foliage, tree trunks, and rocks. Reclusive people—some of them escaped criminals—probably hide in wilderness areas and are mistaken at times for Bigfoot. Taken together, these false sightings most likely account for the vast majority of alleged Bigfoot sightings. Yet some descriptions of Bigfoot sightings are not so easily dismissed. Enough credible reports can be found that I am willing, for the time being, to maintain an open mind.

The ivory-billed woodpecker—a large and unique bird—was assumed extinct for decades. A few years ago, evidence emerged that a small number of these birds still exists in remote wilderness areas of the southern states. If they have survived without being detected for several generations, why couldn’t a reasonably intelligent species of mammal also remain hidden in scattered wilderness areas around the continent?

No dead Bigfoot has ever been found in the wilderness. But how many bear carcasses are reported each year? Aside from those deliberately killed and preserved by hunters, the rest of the dead bears disintegrate through natural causes. No one has ever captured a live Bigfoot. But how many people have tried to do so? If it exists, Bigfoot is much more intelligent than a deer or a bear. Being also much rarer than those animals, it is unremarkable that none has yet been captured.

Three years ago a scientist called for collections of hair thought to be left from a Bigfoot so he could conduct DNA tests. He received thirty samples. When tested, half of them proved to be from bear, and the rest from smaller mammals. One, from China, came from a polar bear species that was thought to be extinct for thousands of years. If a rare polar bear colony can still exist in the mountains of China, why not the Yeti as well?

Every time a convincing argument is proposed against the existence of Bigfoot, further reasoning or evidence appears to swing the opposite direction. The Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967 remains controversial. Too many people have confessed to taking part in a hoax involving the film for all of them to be believed. Too many experts have analyzed the film, only to reach conflicting conclusions, for me to be convinced one way or the other.

I have no personal experience connecting me to Bigfoot. Nor do I care enough to hunting for Bigfoot. I probably would have spent much less time considering the possibility that Bigfoot exists if I hadn’t read accounts of possible sightings near where I live. The world is too big and too complex for me to insist that Bigfoot is impossible, yet the evidence is too vague and too suspect for me to insist that Bigfoot exists. For the time being, I intend to keep an open mind. J.