Little Ship Lost

NASA recently announced the re-discovery of a spacecraft that disappeared 8 years ago hiding in plain sight in orbit around the moon. Questions abound and they seem like they could lead down some interesting paths. In these conspiracy-theory-rich times, one can even speculate about devious plots to force attention away from dastardly doings on Earth or hide data, objects, or persons in the most unlikely place. Have at it.


Counting On a Crow

My local paper recently published this account of a popular local character who happened to be a crow. Smokey the crow was, by this account, bright and mischievous, as well as friendly and talkative. Among other exploits, he was known for stealing parking tickets from cars and trinkets from stores. One of his human friends taught him to say “Hello.” He was so devoted as a companion that he followed his friend along on his paper route. The crow was so well-known as a beloved scamp that his death rated a front-page obituary in the paper.

Purrfect Love Gone Wrong

You think the Jarndyce lawsuit in Dickens’ Bleak House was long and excruciating?  Maine papers and other papers around the world have chronicled another suit in which one party is a veritable flock of cats. As USA Today noted, “No, this is not the plot of The Aristocats…”

In short, an elderly cat lover left a tidy fortune to the care of a group of rescued cats via her trusted housekeeper. Since the woman’s death several years ago, lawsuits have swirled about attempting to dislodge the money from the housekeeper and turn it over to a squad of volunteers who feed, pet, and clean up after the cats. Snug in their own little trailer, the cats only know that they are safe and warm.  The cat ladies maintain them by turning over a chunk of their social security checks each month. Now the town has lent a hand to their mission with a portion of the budget and fans are stepping up as well through a “Go Fund Me” page.

The Passing of a Prince

The Economist posted a piece about an elderly gentleman in India who died a modest and obscure death but had once been a tiger-hunting prince and a palace-dwelling king. Now the palace is a school and the former sovereign lived in a mud hut at the end of his life. Villagers would come to pay their respects.

It was the independence of the new country that helped turn the tide (along with a flashy lifestyle that could not be sustained). The old king signed papers to merge his realm into the new India and received a payment in return. When well-meaning friends cajoled him to go into politics, he replied that “kings do not beg for votes.”


Paging Dr. Harold Hill

Atlas Obscura posted this story about a colorful rogue from America’s past, Curtis Howe Springer, who called himself “the last of the old-time medicine men.” Mr. Springer sold dozens of untested concoctions and founded a spa-town called Zzyzx out in the California desert (so named so it would be “the last word” in any directory of health institutions). As the post points out, anyone interested in this man’s history is confronted by a snarl of lies and exaggerations, including his various claims to be a Ph.D. or M.D. or N.D., whichever seemed likely to work at the time. The list of places from which he received his advanced degrees is festooned with non-existent institutions, the most brazenly faked being the school that had re-named itself after him.  It was The American Medical Association that crowned him “King of the Quacks.”

I Knew When She Switched Detergents

The Huffington Post has an article about the moment one knows they are in for a divorce. The article quotes a handful of male readers who shared their observations and presents tweets from readers of all persuasions. Some needed a strong hint (such as seeing the lease for the new house the wife was buying in her own name) while others picked up on subtler cues (such as noticing the husband showering before going out with the guys). There is plenty of story material and character insight in the 81 tweets associated with this story.

Fight Like a Girl

My local paper carried a story today about an elderly lady who still hauls a mean load of firewood, thanks to a childhood on the farm and a career as a pro-wrestler. I have seen a few stories about former roller derby queens but this one was a first. Ann Lake is enshrined in the pro wrestling hall of fame for her feats, along with her sister and former tag team partner. Eventually, her sister retired to raise a family but Ann stayed with the sport until a broken ankle sidelined her.

In one passage, she describes squaring off with her sworn enemy, Slave Girl Moolah:

“She thought wrestling was about beating the daylights out of you,” Lake says. “One night I said to her, ‘I’ve had enough of this. You hit me one more time the way you hit me last time and you better make sure the first (punch) counts, because otherwise you won’t get up.’ She never hit me again.”

An historian writing about Ms. Lake reminds us towards the end of the article what a lot of moxie it took to be a “lady wrestler” 60 years ago in the US:

“They stood outside of the boundaries of the image of what a woman should be (back then),” Burke says. “They had to have a lot of gumption.”