Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Wrong Man

Railroad Fever: Songs, Jokes & Train Lore, a highly entertaining 1998 compendium by Wayne Erbsen of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., includes this short-short horror story worthy of Jorge Luis Borges or Philip K. Dick:
The train stopped at a small depot and down stepped a man carrying two heavy suitcases. He finally found his way to the only hotel in town but was disappointed to hear that all the rooms were full. Having no place to stay, he pleaded with the clerk, who found a good-natured retired colonel who let him sleep in the extra bed in his room. Before he went to sleep, he asked the clerk to wake him at 6:30 a.m., as he had an early train to catch.

The next morning the bellhop greeted him with, "Good morning, Colonel." To his surprise, the doorman said the very same thing.

When he finally got on his train, he made his way to the washroom and looked in the mirror. "My God," he said, "they woke up the wrong man!"


After more than a thousand Northern snakeheads were discovered in a Crofton, Md., pond in May 2002, the state Department of Natural Resources alerted everyone to be watchful for this invasive alien species of carnivorous fish that eats other fish, amphibians, birds and small mammals and can breathe air for days while walking from pond to pond.

So successfully did the state spread the alarm that man-eating snakeheads enjoyed a brief vogue in straight-to-video monster movies: Night of the Snakehead Fish, Snakehead Terror (starring Bruce Boxleitner and Carol Alt), Swarm of the Snakehead, Frankenfish.

While they don't eat people, the real-life snakeheads are still a problem -- hence an upcoming Trout Unlimited symposium on the topic, July 20 at Big Run State Park.

All in the Madison family?

DNA testing confirmed the centuries-old rumors about Thomas Jefferson fathering slave children with Sally Hemings. Now The Dallas Morning News reports that Jimmy Madison, a prominent African-American business leader in Fort Worth, Texas, wants to use DNA testing to confirm the claim passed down in his family for generations: that his line of Madisons is descended from a slave fathered by James Madison, another plantation-owning president from Virginia.

The first hurdle will be to find an official Madison family member willing to contribute DNA to the cause. It will have to be a descendant of President Madison's brother, because the president himself had no children -- that history has recorded, anyway.

Betting on thirst

USA Today reports that the first "water fund," created for investors betting that water will become an increasingly scarce and lucrative commodity, debuted in December 2005. By the end of July 2007, there will be seven such funds.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What my brother saw

My brother got mentioned in The Twin-City News, published weekly in our hometown of Batesburg-Leesville, S.C. Harriet Householder's column of news from the towns of Ridge Spring and Monetta (where my brother now lives) included this:
Allen Duncan was riding down Highway 23 last week, and down near Watsonia Farms he saw something he never saw before -- a large coyote ran across the road at full speed in front of him, and a mockingbird was flying just above his head, striking at the coyote every few seconds. That bird was really mad at him.