Thursday, August 25, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (25au05)

Stephen Foster, author of such popular American folk songs as “Camptown Races” and “Old Folks at Home,” died in: a) 1834, b) 1864, c) 1894, d) 1924.

Weekly History Quiz (25au05)

Angola won independence in 1975 after decades of control by: a) France, b) Belgium, c) Portugal, d) Spain.

Weekly Amusement (25au05)

A history class was studying events of the early 20th Century. The focus of the day was the year 1912.

"What great disaster occurred that year?" asked the teacher.

"Titanic!" instantly shouted Nolan, the class whiz. "Struck an iceberg and sank."

"Where did it happen?" the teacher followed up.

Nolan again, before anyone else had time to answer: "North Atlantic!"

"What season of the year?" pressed the teacher.

"Spring!" hollered Nolan. "April the 12th!"

The bright boy was grating on the teacher's nerves. She threw down the gauntlet. "How many people died?"

Nolan, without a split second's hesitation: "1,517."

He beamed haughtily to his classmates, but his proud smile vanished when she blithely rejoined, "And their names?"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Animal Kingdom in Conflict

Killed a snake -- a copperhead -- in my backyard earlier this month. Before I get slammed, allow me to make a few comments.

First, I did not want to kill the snake. But it lay in the path of Sam, one of our four pet dogs, when I took him out for one of his periodic calls to nature. Sam had been hit in the foot by a copperhead last summer and suffered "only" for three or four days, thanks to quick treatment at the vet's. Our neighbor's large German shepherd almost died after being bitten on the shoulder; she spent three nights on the brink at the equivalent of "veterinary intensive care." Our neighborhood is plagued by copperheads. Last year, a lady out for a morning walk got it on the ankle from a snake lying, unnoticed, near the sidewalk; she, too, was hospitalized.

Second, a week after our copperhead encounter, Caramel, one of our other dogs, and I sauntered up on a black snack farther back in the yard. I respectfully let that one go, knowing black snakes pose no threat to our dogs.

Naturalists urge us to leave snakes alone, even the poisonous ones. I generally agree. But what about the poisonous ones inhabiting our yards, where our pets like to roam -- animals not necessarily aware of the danger? It poses a delicate question, does it not? How, in the minds of nature's thought police, should we deal with threats to our pets from another animals? The idea of phoning animal control is ridiculous, since a) the snake will be long gone before the officer arrives, b) neither the official nor I can be expected to devote hours, days, potentially weeks stalking one viper in one of hundreds of residential yards, hoping to capture and "relocate" it, and c) there are dozens if not hundreds (if not thousands) of copperheads at large within a few blocks of our house. (I've seen enough dead ones on the streets to get a general idea.)

My solution was to kill the copperhead and say "How do you do?" to the black snake. What's your solution?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (18au05)

Folk/blues legend Huddie Ledbetter (1885-1949) acquired his nickname “Leadbelly” while: a) serving on a prison farm, b) working as a short-order cook, c) boxing world champion Jack Johnson to a technical draw, d) waging a four-year battle against stomach cancer.

Weekly History Quiz (18au05)

Gen. George S. Patton (1885-1945), America’s flamboyant tank strategist and commander during World War II, was from: a) California, b) Iowa, c) North Carolina, d) Vermont.

Weekly Amusement (18au05)

Focusing on the Positives: Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. Any ship can function as a minesweeper at least once.

Martha Bratton, Heroine With a Heart

One of the favorite Revolutionary War tales in my home state, South Carolina, is of Martha Bratton’s heroics—and forgiveness. The wife of rebel Col. William Bratton, she was at her log cabin home with her small son when a force of Tories and British regulars rode up one evening, asking for her husband. He was off with the American army of Gen. Thomas Sumter, she replied. She didn’t know just where they were.

The antagonists pressed, and Mrs. Bratton’s final response as to the colonel’s whereabouts is classic in the annals of South Carolina history: “I have told the simple truth and could not tell if I would, but now I add, that I would not if I could.”

An infuriated soldier fetched a reaping hook from the wall and pressed it to her neck. She refused to answer further. Happily, a Tory officer rushed to her defense, knocking down the brute with the reaping hook. The soldiers withdrew.

The next day, Col. Bratton and others surprised the Tory/British encampment nearby and killed more than 90 of the enemy. Tory Capt. John Adamson—the man who’d rescued Martha from execution—was among the wounded . . . and Martha Bratton herself helped nurse him back to health.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (11au05)

Hammer dulcimer pioneer and singer/songwriter John McCutcheon hails from: a) Tennessee, b) Kentucky, c) Wisconsin, d) Kansas.

Weekly History Quiz (11au05)

British Columbia became part of the Dominion of Canada in: a) 1771, b) 1821, c) 1871, d) 1921.

Weekly Amusement (11au05)

Emergency room doctors settled onto the examining table a man suffering from unbearable stomach pain. “When did you last eat?” one doctor asked.

“About an hour ago,” the man gasped.

“What did you eat?”


“Dry roasted peanuts?”

“Don’t know. I never opened the shells.”

Signs of Passage

My wife phoned while in transit on a business trip through rural environs. “You won’t believe what I just saw! There was one of those portable, backlit roadside signs, and it had people’s names on it. It was parked in front of a funeral home.”

“Who do you suppose the people were?”

“Well, take a wild guess!”

There was more. Next day, on her return drive, she phoned again from her car. “I just saw a cemetery . . . in the middle of a cornfield.”

Plots for The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling could’ve had a field day. . . .

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Child Criminals

The latest newsletter from Metro Ministries ( includes director Bill Wilson’s commentary on the recent killing of an 11-year-old girl by a 9-year-old friend in New York. The girl who allegedly committed the murder apparently became enraged while bickering over a rubber ball.

Wilson, whose inner-city ministry I heartily support, draws somber parallels between this case and the biblical record of Samuel and Saul in the book of I Samuel. One of the points Wilson makes is that “we have to become responsible for our own actions as individuals and as a nation.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve long held that politics and media -- which seem to have alarmingly indoctrinated Planet Earth citizens of all stripes -- are the least promising avenues along which to pursue a better America and a better world. Not only do politicians and journalists not have all the answers; they don’t have any of them. If you’re pinning your hopes on who might be running for office in 2006 and 2008, and trusting in the news conglomerates and their politically motivated presenters to inform you, I believe you’re hopelessly lost. (I might add that guns had nothing to do with the New York tragedy. At issue isn’t the modus operandi; it’s the heart. God can fix that. Legislators and thought police never will fix it.)

Without preaching further, I would encourage you to visit Bill on the Web. He and I may or may not have political differences (he doesn’t publicize his politics and I’ve never probed), but unquestionably he’s a Christian laboring in the trenches. Join him, please.

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (4au05)

Woody Guthrie in 1944 penned the verses of the famous "This Land Is Your Land," setting them to a melody by: a) Dan Emmett, b) A.P. Carter, c) Pete and Peggy Seeger, d) Woody Guthrie himself.

Weekly History Quiz (4au05)

Around colonial St. Croix, "blackstrap" was: a) a rum-and-molasses drink, b) a primitive crime syndicate, c) a class of witch doctor, d) a now-extinct edible root.

Weekly Amusement (4au05)

A man burst into a psychiatrist’s office and exclaimed to the professional behind the desk, “Help me, please! I feel like everyone ignores me. Is this some form of paranoia?”

Without a word, the psychiatrist pressed the intercom button to his receptionist. “Send in my next patient, please.”

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Modern-Day "Master of the Ocean Sea"

A favorite story in my wife’s family recounts my father-in-law’s promotion to chief of the boat while serving as a career submariner in the Navy. Setting out on a cruise, the skipper needed a new chief. Two sailors -- Dad and a rival candidate -- were identically qualified for the post, which was the highest rank an enlisted seaman could attain. The captain couldn’t reach a decision.

He summoned the two men topside. Surrounded by vast, calm Pacific waters, he explained the situation. “Now, I want you both to walk out to the end of the deck. The first one back is the new chief.”

Rank meant little to Dad, but with a wife and three children -- and a fourth on the way -- he needed the pay increase. A minute later, slightly worse for the wear, he returned to the bridge to receive his first orders as chief of the boat. Fellow crewmen hauled the other sailor out of the brine.