Research/Trouble

Marion looked across the table at his wife and smiled. “I’m picking up some interesting skills, working at the library,” he said.

Marion and Julie didn’t often get to eat lunch together. Their busy schedules did not mesh well for shared meals. Breakfasts were eaten on the go, along with other morning preparations, including packing their lunches. Dinners were often separate because one of them had an evening meeting or the other had to drive the children to a dance class or a soccer game. Only on Saturdays and Sundays did they get to eat together, and Sundays the children were usually there as well. That made Saturday lunches special.

“Special skills?” Julie asked him.

Marion nodded. “So many people come in trying to research their family trees, I feel that I’m becoming a professional genealogist. They always ask for help, although some of them know more about family research than I do. In fact, a few of them have taught me a trick or two. It’s gotten to the point that I’m tracking down people in my spare time—living or dead, it doesn’t matter: I can find them.

“Yesterday, for example, I remembered a woman I knew back when I was in graduate school. I got to wondering how she is today. So I did some research. I found out that she got married about five years after our wedding. On the application for the wedding license, her husband wrote that he was a professional musician.”

Julie grinned at the phrase but said nothing. Marion went on, “So, I looked him up, and you’ll never guess what he plays—kettledrums! He’s with a symphony orchestra.”

“Here I pictured him in blue jeans and playing guitar in some rock band.”

“No, he wears a suit and a bow tie. He also teaches music at a college.

“The two of them have a son who’s in high school. He even made the national news. It seems that one day he stood up in the cafeteria and sang the national anthem. The school administrators gave him a detention for it.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.”

“No—a lot of people don’t think so. That’s why it made the national news. He wasn’t being disrespectful to the anthem, he sang it properly, as a show of patriotism.”

“The schools are getting so liberal these days. People support a football player for kneeling during the anthem, and then they punish a kid for singing it the right way.”

“It turns out that the next day, dozens of students got up during lunch and sang the anthem. They wanted to support him. But the school didn’t care. They started putting extra teachers on lunchroom duty to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

Julie shook her head. But instead of saying more about the high school student, she asked a different question. “Now, should I be nervous that you’re looking up old flames when you’re at work?”

“Old flames?” he queried.

“Someone upon whom you once had a big crush.”

Marion looked across the table at his wife and smiled. He decided not to mention the high school yearbook photographs he had also discovered online.

(There really have been cases of high school students being punished for singing the national anthem in the high school cafeteria. But the rest of this story is fiction. J.)

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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.

It’s a lawn, not a rice paddy!

Mrs. Dim is one of several people in my neighborhood who water their lawns every single day. Since their grass is nice and green and mine tends toward yellow during dry conditions, they of course think that they are right and I am wrong.

They are wrong.

When water is flowing down the street and into the storm drain, they are wasting water. When they water every day, they are training their grass to have shallow roots and to depend upon that daily watering. When they soak their lawns repeatedly, they increase the likelihood of fungus and other diseases in their lawns.

To verify that my opinion is right and theirs is wrong, I did a quick search of lawn watering tips on the internet. Every one of the top hits indicated that Salvageable is right. Among the sites that I read from the first ten hits were Scott, Southern Living, Popular Mechanics, and Green Grass Services. The consensus is that healthy lawns need about an inch of water a week, and that watering twice a week is adequate for a healthy lawn.

Scott recommends one half inch of water twice a week, taking fifteen to thirty minutes, depending upon the watering system. Southern Living says one inch once a week. Popular Mechanics says twice a week, maximum. Green Grass Services says two to three times a week, with a total of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Several of them recommend using rain gauges or empty tuna cans to measure the water to make sure that the lawn is not getting too much water.

Scott, Southern Living, and Popular Mechanics all say that a healthy lawn can be allowed to go dormant during a dry summer. Scott says the lawn can remain dormant for up to two months. When it rains, the lawn revives. Popular Mechanics notes that the choice of a dormant lawn depends upon use-if people or animals walk or run on the lawn a lot, that could harm the dormant grass.

Experience has shown that my lawn can tolerate a lengthy dormant period. After a decent rain, my grass turns just as green as Mrs. Dim’s grass. Meanwhile she has been watering her lawn every day, cutting and trimming it every five days, working hard to maintain her lawn to her personal standards. Of course she gets up early in the morning to trim and mow her lawn, not caring how much noise she makes while other people are still trying to sleep.

Aside from early morning noise, does the watering of lawns in the neighborhood make any difference in my household? It makes a difference when it takes twenty minutes to fill a sink to wash some dishes. It makes a difference when a shower is nearly impossible due to low water pressure. It makes a difference in the big picture of life, when people like Mrs. Dim waste water because they can, while other people in the country face dire water shortages.

Mrs. Dim is an old dog who will never learn new tricks. It must frustrate her no end when, a day or two after it rains, my grass is as green as hers. It might help if she took the time to check her opinion with research as I have done this morning. Friends, that is not going to happen. J.