Mark Twain – Outsmarted By A Lefty

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A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal, published an article on being left-handed. I found it interesting because I am left-handed.

The experts said the study may help shed light on disorders related to brain development, like dyslexia, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which are more common in left-handed people.
These same experts say that about 10% of people are left-handed.
Another study by these experts says one of the determinates for turning out left-handed is that your mother was exposed to unusually high levels of stress during pregnancy so they gave birth to a left-handed child. So, I guess I can blame my affliction on my older brother, or at least part of it?
It’s dangerous being left-handed. I know it is. I live in danger every day when I try to operate tools made for right-handers. Can you believe a butter knife discriminates against lefties? Even fishing poses a problem.  Left-handers have to change the reels around so they can cast with their dominate hand. I would love to see right-handers out there trying to deal with everything being made for your left-handed brethren. After an hour of not being able to screw in a bolt, you would be driving it through your skull.

In pro football, Steve Young, a left-handed quarterback, posed a problem for his receivers because the spiral on the ball he threw was the opposite of what a right-handed quarterback threw.
But this WSJ article said, despite popular misperceptions, lefties aren’t more accident prone than right-handed people and don’t tend to die at a younger age. They also debunk the claim that left-handers are more intelligent than their right-handed counterparts. Folklore says left-handers are smarter, more creative and have an advantage over righties. Being left-handed, I tend to agree with folklore, at least it has history on its side. Obviously, this study was done by a right-handed researcher. Then the article went on to quote Robin Nusslock, a psychology professor at Northwestern University who said; “One reason more is not known about lefties is that many studies of how the brain works prohibit left-handers from participating because their brain wiring is known to be different.”

This article used a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo like brain lateralization and hemisphere dominance along with the term “speculate.” I’m not positive, but I was under the understanding that scientists weren’t supposed to speculate. That they dealt in facts.

The article said that studying the dominance of one hand over the other may provide a window into the way our brains are wired, at least according to what these experts say.
Anyway, I’m left-handed and I’m not sure I want some quack looking in my window. Things up there are sensitive and meant to remain private.

Even Mark Twain, in one of his essays, seems to confirm the superiority of left-handers. He tells of the time he got hustled in a game of billiards in Virginia City.
A stranger in town proposed a game of billiards and Mark Twain agreed. The stranger told Mr. Twain to “knock the balls around a little so I can get your gait.”
After observing him for a while, the stranger said, “I will be perfectly fair with you, I’ll play you left-handed.”
After Mr. Twain lost the match, he said, “If you can play like that with your left-hand, I’d like to see you play with your right.”
“I can’t he said, “I’m left-handed.”
Once again, a sly left-handed bastard put one over on a slow-witted right-hander.
That story proves my point, left-handers are far superior to right-handers in spite of what some speculating researchers might say.

Max Fly, Private Eye and Homicide Detective Harry Marshall At A Crime Scene

 

Beach Cowboy

“What’s happening? We were told shots have been fired.”
“That’s right officer,” an older woman with graying hair answered, “Across the street. I’m pretty sure it’s on the second floor. The back apartment. I was out front getting the mail when a dark figure walked by and ran up the stairs.”
“A negro?”
“No, I mean he was wearing dark clothes.”
“Okay, continue.”
“Later, I was hanging wash in the back and I heard shots. I ran into my apartment and called the cops and then came back outside.”
“How long ago was that?”
“About twenty minutes. It sure takes you coppers a long time to get to a crime scene.”
Harry ignored her.
“Have you seen anyone leaving the building?”
“No, but they could have gone out the back.”
“Okay, stay here. Come on Max, I’ll need your help on this. Are you strapped?”
I nodded and Harry walked toward the building. I followed.
“Stay close to me. It will give them someone else to shoot at.”
“Thanks.”
“Now when we get close and if you are in doubt, empty your clip.”
“I don’t have a clip. I have a revolver.”
Harry looked at me. “Whatever.”
We walked up the stairs. Harry first, his back against the wall, his gun pointed toward the ground at his side. I followed him.
My leather holster dug into my shoulder. I hated it when it did that. After being smacked against a wall by a two thousand pound bull, my shoulder always ached. My doctor said the discomfort would eventually fade, but he never felt a bull’s horn rip through the muscle and sinew of his shoulder. The discomfort never goes away.
When we reached the top, Harry nodded his head toward the door. I knew what he wanted. I put my hand over the peephole while he positioned himself in front of the door with his gun extended.
He nodded once more before kicking the door beneath the lock.
“Aw shit, that hurt,” Harry said, grabbing his knee.
The door didn’t budge
I looked at him. “You want me to do it?”
“Fuck no; stand back.”
He kicked it again. This time, it swung open and banged against the inside wall with a loud crash.
Harry jumped in, sweeping the room with his gun. I did the same.
I ducked.
Harry looked at me. “What ya’ duck for?”
“I thought somebody might be in here. I learned in the Army that incoming fire has the right of way.”
“I’m glad you learned something.”
The stench made us both gag.

 

The Man Who Killed And His Neighbors Never Knew

Dow Hover

A family in upstate New York closely guarded an unusual and bizarre secret. The patriarch of this family was a paid executioner. The neighbors thought he was a normal guy. A good neighbor and family man. The father of two children. He kept up his house and was good to his family. He would wake every morning and put on his uniform and head out for work. He was a deputy sheriff and his days were filled with writing traffic citations and arresting citizens for breaking the law. But at night he would go home and wait for The Letter. It didn’t come every night, but when it did, he would put on a suit and tie and he would answer the call. In order to avoid exposure and keep the press off his trail, he would change the license plate on his car and replace it with another. Then he would head out into the dark of the night to fulfill the sinister request revealed in the mysterious letter. The Letter told him who he was to kill and when he was to do it.

There is a certain amount of skill required for the job he contracted out to do and the more he did it the more skillful he became. Not everyone was suited for this line of work. The first person he killed, was 40-year-old Gerhard Arthur Puff. A German immigrant from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

He would tell his victims to sit in a chair before he would place leather straps around their body and a mask over their face. Then he would kill them. He never tortured them. He made sure they died quickly and as painlessly as possible. He didn’t consider himself a monster. He was just doing his job. He figured if it wasn’t him, someone else would be killing these people.

After he confirmed the victim was dead, he was back in his car, heading home. According to his travel log (he was paid $0.08 per mile for his travel expenses) he pulled into his driveway at 1:30 a.m. Another mission completed. He usually never had to travel further than 160 miles to complete his contract.

A few days later, he received a letter  with two checks—”one in the amount of $150.00 and the other in the amount of $12.80 covering your services.” The language in these letters was always the same—exceedingly formal and intentionally cryptic.

The last contract he fulfilled was on January 22, 1963, in New Jersey. He ended the life of a man named Ralph Hudson.

The executioner’s name was Dow Hover. He was a trained electrician and was employed as a deputy sheriff for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department in upstate New York. He was the last executioner for the state of New York.

He also performed fourteen executions in New Jersey and was the executioner for six executions in Connecticut during the mid-1950s to early 1960s.

His later life was characterized by intense grief and he died of an apparent suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on June 1, 1990.

New Jersey Governor, Richard J. Hughes, found himself in the position of Chief Executive with the power to end or continue the life of a fellow human being. Years later he told his stepson how torturous it was to be thrust into that role.

Maintaining public support for the death penalty has long depended on keeping the act of killing prisoners shrouded in secrecy—no television cameras, no interviews with the execution team, no revealing of the executioner’s identity. Conversations about the death penalty often remain abstract, focused on issues like “justice” and “deterrence.” Rarely do they focus on how the death penalty affects those most intimately involved, transforming everyday people into professional killers. The voices and stories of the people who carry out executions are almost never heard.

 Lorne Clarke, a Canadian singer-songwriter, wrote and recorded a song about the life of Dow Hover called Execution Nights.

When Dow Hover died he left behind evidence of his work in a filing cabinet in his house which included the execution letters he received from the warden of Sing-Sing Prison.

Auburn War Eagle? I don’t think so. University of Georgia War Eagle? Hardly.

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For over 100 years now a battle has raged between these two schools as to which school originated the war eagle cry. But they are both out in left field because it was in Wisconsin where the true War Eagle originated. One that actually saw combat, albeit, he showed some of his chicken heritage as he feared artillery fire and took off whenever the big guns began to fire. But then, who doesn’t? In fact, he was actually wounded in battle, well, maybe not in battle, but he did injure his leg during a hurricane.

My Auburn University friends say they are the originators of the “war eagle” yell, but I know this isn’t true. I have read that there are three or four different theories on how the Auburn Tigers seized the War Eagle sobriquet and a couple of them have ties to football games against the University of Georgia. My favorite one is when the bird takes off in flight and screams, igniting the fans to scream, ‘war eagle,’ and the Auburn offense to score the winning touchdown. Immediately after the score, the eagle performs a kamikaze act, taking a nose dive onto the football field where it dies. Can you believe that? I can’t. In fact, some of the stories claim Auburn actually stole the war eagle cry from Georgia. Another one claims a Carlisle player was named War Eagle and they would call out his name during a game. But, listen, I’m here to put this silly argument to rest. Whatever side you support on the War Eagle debate, you are wrong. The cry “War Eagle” originated in Wisconsin. In fact, many cries originate in Wisconsin it’s so damn cold up there, plus Lutefisk and bratwurst both produce a case of indigestion that can cause any man to whimper in pain.

The true story of War Eagle began many years ago, a Wisconsin Ojibwe, Chief Sky, one of five sons of Thunder of Bees, Chief of the Flambeau band of Chippewa Indians, part of the Anishinaabe tribe, called the first people, during sugar making time about 125 miles outside the city of Eau Claire, chopped down a pine tree containing an eagle’s nest with two eaglet’s nestled inside. One died. Chief Sky, gathered up the other one and, evidently, not learning from the 1626 bead transaction his brothers conducted with the Dutch for selling Manhattan, sold the eaglet to a Dan McCann from Eagle Point, Wisconsin, for a bushel of corn. Actually, the bead transaction story is also a farce. The Canarsie Indians sold Manhattan to Dutch settlers, but not for some worthless glass beads, but for iron kettles, axes, knives, and cloth. The kicker to the story is that the land that they took payment for didn’t even belong to them. But, I don’t think all the kettles and other gadgets involved in that transaction come close to the $2100.00 per square foot that vacant land is currently selling for in Manhattan.

Now back to Wisconsin’s War Eagle. Dan McCann eventually sold the little eaglet to the commanding officer of the Eau Claire Badgers militia company. Typical of Wisconsin, a tavern was involved in this purchase when tavern owner, S.M. Jeffers, pitched in to help defray the exorbitant selling price of $2.50.

When the eagle was sworn into service, he was adorned with a breast rosette (rose shaped ornament) and a red, white and blue ribbon around his neck. They named him Old Abe.

While in Madison, a dog joined the regiment. Abe and the dog, Frank, tolerated one another because Frank provided rabbits and other small mammals for Abe to eat. Unfortunately for Frank, one day he ventured a bit too close to Abe’s meal, bringing an end of their relationship.

During “Old Abe’s” service, the 8th Wisconsin militia participated in many battles, expeditions, and pursuits of Confederate forces during his namesake’s Mr. Abe Lincoln’s war. Among these were the battles of  Corinth; Island Number 10; Big Black; Champion’s Hill; the Red River and Meridian expeditions; and the Battle of Nashville. “Old Abe” was there every step of the way. In many battles, he would circle the smoky battlefield as the enemy would be closing in and the bullets flew. He would rise high in the sky, all the while screaming at his assailants. After the battle, upon seeing his bearer, he would descend like a shot and fly into his arms. “Go War Eagle!”

Old Abe so infuriated Confederate General Sterling Price he was said to declare that he would rather “capture that bird than a whole brigade.”

Old Abe entered his last battle in the Great Rebellion, also referred to as the Civil War, as well as with many other names, at Hurricane Creek, MS. The war eagle’s shrieks could be heard clearly and distinctly above the victorious shouts of the Eau Claire Badgers militia. Abe seemed to have protected his bearers and dodged the bullets of rebel sharpshooters who had failed to kill them.

Old Abe died on March 26, 1881, of smoke inhalation in the loving arms of his handler when, it has been said, he was reminiscing with his old militia pals while smoking a fine cigar and sipping a brandy. I might be distorting the truth here a bit but it was reported that one time he did get drunk on some peach brandy that was left unattended in his presence. “Go War Eagle!”

Today, a likeness of Old Abe, the original War Eagle, can be found at the main entrance to University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.

And that my friend, is the true story of the one and only War Eagle!

Go Badgers!

The Gangsters of Wildlife, or a Diety?

Coyote

The Prairie Wolf and Biological Warfare:

When Lewis and Clark first saw a coyote in 1804, they thought it was a fox but then corrected themselves and William Clark finally called it a prairie wolf.

In 1823 naturalist, Thomas Say officially described the prairie wolf as Canis latrans, barking dog, which has been the recognized scientific name ever since.

Most of us are familiar with the cartoon, Wylie Coyote, where he tries his hardest to catch the Road Runner but is always unsuccessful. That is about all that the coyote has been unsuccessful at doing in spite of man’s efforts for over 100 years to eradicate him from this earth.

To the many Indian tribes of the Great Plains down to the Southwest all the way up to Oregon, Old Man Coyote was known as the Trickster and a deity, that saved the buffalo from a monster, invented fires and helped shape the world. But to the cattlemen and sheep ranchers, they are considered parasites and they launched a fierce battle that still rages today to wipe the coyotes out.

The first government agency saddled with the job of taking care of the coyote problem, was the Bureau of Biological Survey(BBS). Don’t you think this is a great acronym for a government agency? The original target of BBS and the ranchers was the gray wolf and they were almost successful in wiping every wolf off the planet. Their recipe to achieve this included biological warfare and strychnine was the weapon of choice. They found that they could kill over 300 coyotes in a little over a week with the use of strychnine. But Montana officials rose, or should I say, stooped, to another level when they introduced sarcotic mange to coyotes. Mange is a parasitic mite that causes hair loss and inflammation.  It is a miserable condition that causes itching and pain that eventually will cause the death of wild coyotes and foxes. Our government’s policy has and still seems to be that predatory animals no longer have a place in our civilization.

Like buffalo skulls and exotic bird plumage, predator pelts were in high demand and it is estimated that hunters, called wolfers, killed hundreds of thousands of coyotes on the Great Plains in the mid-1800’s.

In 1871, when Horace Greeley told R. L. Sanderson to, “Go West!” he didn’t tell him that he would encounter an animal that was as smart or smarter than he was, the coyote. Anglo-Americans were unfamiliar with the coyote and didn’t know if it was a wolf, a fox, a bobcat or something else. What they were to find out is that he possesses all the same traits as humanity, the good and the bad and that he was truly a cunning force to reckon with.

They possess a trait similar to what some humans attempt to achieve through Autogenic Training, the ability to adjust to a stressful environment and survive. This trait allows them to assess the environment around them. If they sense plentiful resources, they will produce large litters of pups, if not, their litters are much smaller.

Why is this important? Well, as the cattle and sheep ranchers of the west were busy eradicating the wolf population, the coyotes were quietly replacing them until their population was estimated to be in the millions.

In addition to the biological warfare, the ranchers employed firearms, dogs, and traps. That along with market hunting, which was later to be outlawed, they were on the way to the eradication of the barking dog.

But wait, it seemed almost impossible to even thin out this trickster, the coyote. As the saying goes, it’s time to get out of Dodge and that is what they did. The coyote started to move to different locales and, like humans, they are very adept at adapting to their new surroundings.

Coyotes represent one of the most successful colonization stories of any animal in North America. In less than 70 years, they had spread to almost all habitats within the US and now they live just about everywhere imaginable to even include your backyard. Coyotes begin looking for a den sometime in March or April, and usually do not use the den again from one year to the next.

Coyotes seek out the type of prey that will give them the greatest reward with minimal risk of injury to themselves.  As a result, their favored prey include small mammals such as rabbits, mice, rats, and squirrels, as well as human-produced food such as garbage, cat or dog food.  Coyotes also eat insects,fruits, and berries.

From coast to coast they’ve become a fact of life in American cities. They howl in downtown Atlanta, Washington D. C., Chicago, Beverly Hills and just about every city in America. Coyotes now born and raised in cities prefer to live in cities just like humans.

Studies have found that the coyotes in the northeastern US differ from their western cousins.  As coyotes migrated east across the continent, they encountered whatever remained of wolves and some interbreeding occurred.  Coyotes in the northeastern United States outweigh their western cousins by 20 – 30 lbs and have more wolf-like physical traits. Urban coyotes do not feast on pets and garbage; they typically stick to a natural diet and prefer living in parks, preserves, cemeteries, and other out-of-the-way areas as much as possible. The food available in these locations is rodents, reptiles, fallen fruit and other food items that are part of a natural diet.Coyotes, of course, take feral cats or the occasional domestic cat that has been left outdoors. However, pets are not primary prey for them. A study by Urban Coyote Research Program analyzed over 1,400 scats and found that “the most common food items were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).” Only about 2 percent of the scats had human garbage and just 1.3 percent showed evidence of cats.

Probably the best-known trickster ever, Richard Nixon, banned the federal use of poisons for predator control in 1972. Like the wild horses and burros and the buffalo eradication, coyote control has been in the middle of the culture wars for years.

Between 2006 and 2011, hunter’s have killed over 500,000 coyotes nationwide.

For every coyote killed, another rat lives.

An American Legend-One Of The Most Well-Known Conmen Was From Newnan, Georgia

Soapy_Smith_1898

It was 9 p. m. and the sun was still shining brightly so it had to be Alaska. In fact, it was Skagway, District of Alaska and it was 1898, the year American legend, Soapy Smith, was to meet his maker. It’s believed he was shot on the streets of Skagway by a little Irishman by the name of Jesse Murphy.

Soapy Smith, really? I often wonder where some of these characters acquire their nicknames. I have a nickname that I acquired many years ago while I was attending college. It came about when my nephew was baptized and I had to wear a suit and tie. I don’t recall where I got the suit. I just got out of the army and I do recall owning a set of fatigues and army jacket, that I forgot to turn in to Uncle Sam before I ETS’d out of Fort Lewis, Washington. I also remember owning a pair of blue jeans, bell bottoms, and a red, white and blue sear sucker pair of pants that my wife taunts me about to this day. But I know I did own a suit because ancient pictures confirm it. After my nephew’s baptism, I left to frequent a local watering hole and interact with a thousand of my closest friends. When I walked through the door one of them yelled out, “Look, the Baron!” That sobriquet sticks with me to this day, although, Max Fly, that ubiquitous gadfly is quickly taking its place.

Soapy Smith was one of the most well-known conmen of the 1800’s. He was born Jefferson Randolph Smith, II, in Newnan, Georgia in 1860. He came from a family of college-educated professionals but the Civil War forced him to find a way to support himself and his young brother and sisters by selling cheap watches and jewelry on the street.

While selling these cheap watches he learned to enhance the quality of his junk through his persuasive Southern manner and moved people to make a purchase. Selling exposed him to slight of hand shell games and his superior dexterity took him to state fairs and street corners throughout the West. 

He traveled from New York to Chicago to New Orleans as well as Houston and Mexico before he landed in Denver, Colorado where he lived for 17 years. In Denver, he owned gambling clubs, auction halls, and street businesses most of them on the shady side of the law. His most famous being the Tivoli Saloon and Gambling Hall. Above it was a sign that read “Caveat Emptor,” which means “Let the Buyer Beware” in Latin. He left Denver after a newspaper editor listed his wife’s name alongside his in alleged criminal activity. Soapy sent his wife and child away before he beat the offending newspaper editor with a cane. He then traveled to San Francisco and Spokane before heading North to Juneau and finally settling in Skagway in 1897.

So, again, where did he acquire the nickname Soapy? Evidently from the scam he carried out selling miracle soaps containing a prized currency ranging in value from $1.00 to $100.00, concealed beneath its wrapper. Of course, only his co-conspirators got the bars with the bills in the package. This scam not only brought him great wealth but fame as well. So, in 1884 while in Denver, he acquired the moniker Soapy and when he was arrested, the arresting officer couldn’t remember his first name for the arrest ledger, so he wrote “Soapy” instead. This appellation stayed with him to his dying day and beyond.

Try Getting a Concealed Carry Permit For This Gun

Punt Gun
Punt Gun

Before we had the debate over banning the AR-15, we had the Punt Gun. The what? Try sneaking that past Homeland Security.

The Punt Gun could be 11’ long and weigh in excess of 250 pounds and discharged over a pound of shot and was capable of killing from fifty to one hundred birds at a time. The reason I say could be 11’ long is because no gun manufacturer wanted to make one. So most were crude sturdy hand-built muzzle loaders fired with percussion caps.

In the 1800’s, the market for fowl along with bird feathers(see the extinction of Florida’s egrets by Plumage hunters) used in the manufacture of lady’s stylish hats, made it very lucrative for hunters to bag as many birds as they could. To meet the demand, enterprising hunter’s developed extremely large bore, the diameter of the barrel, shotguns, some as large as 2” in diameter. They would mount them on a punt boat(thus, the name Punt Gun), also known as a small skiff, or sneaker boat, and head out to the lake to find some ducks or geese. They would aim the Punt Gun in the general direction of a flock of birds and pull the trigger. The guns were so powerful and the recoil generated so much force, that it would push the boats backward across the lake. They would then spend the rest of the day picking up the dead birds. To increase their efficiency, the hunters would ban together in groups of 6-10 boats so they could end up bagging over 500 birds in a day each with a single shot.

And to the surprise of many I’m sure, this practice of hunting with a Punt Gun depleted stocks of waterfowl. Thankfully, by the 1860’s most states banned the practice otherwise the only fowl or foul, we would see today would be at a baseball or basketball game.

In 1900, the Lacey Act was passed. This banned the transport of wild game across state lines, and the practice of market hunting was outlawed by a series of federal laws in 1918. By the mid-1900’s most states had banned the use of the Punt Gun, much to the relief of Donald and Daffy Duck. However, they better stay out of Great Britain as they still allow Punt Guns so long as the bore isn’t over 1.75” in diameter. This can still put a big hole in a little duck.

The Third In The Max Fly, Private Eye Series Is At The Publisher

BookCoverPreview

 

Soon Blue Magic will be available to Max’s adoring public online and at your favorite bookstores as well as in the trunk of my car.

It’s 1960 and America is embarking on a new decade that will lay the foundation of change and turmoil on the American landscape. But one thing still remains greed and corruption and all that goes with it. Max Fly teams up with his free-wheeling partner, Hap Schultz, to assist Max’s long-time friend, Homicide Detective, Harry Marshall, in solving three murders in the beer capital of the world, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His investigation leads him to Atlanta, Georgia and into the underbelly of crime and corruption. Of course, in their free time along the way, Hap and Max lend their expertise and provide much-needed comfort to the sexually frustrated women they meet while dispensing with the distasteful and defective elements of society.

 

“The police knew who did it, but didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him.
“I asked her if she would like to get revenge on the low life bastard. She said she did.
“We found out he was from Macon, so one weekend we went down and paid him a visit. He lived in front of this cow pasture west of town off Highway 129 in a closed up gas station his family used to run. We snuck up on the place after dark. The screen door was swarming with flies. Inside, the place wreaked of stale smoke, rotten food and diesel fuel. In one corner stood a busted up cigarette machine. Above it hung a Rainbow Trout and a life-size cutout of Jayne Mansfield with an oil-stained hand imprint on her left breast. The cheap black and white linoleum floor was yellowed and stained and had chipped away against the far wall. The door to the bathroom was open and the lid to the rust stained toilet was up and dirty towels littered the floor. The mirror over the sink was cracked and dirty. An old condom machine was hanging on one corner of the wall. On the other side of the room was a counter made of cheap pine, and it bristled with splinters and rusted nail heads and an old cash register. Just the thought of that place makes me sick.
“He was sleeping in the back room on an old army cot. He was covered with a filthy sheet. A pile of soiled clothing lay by the side of the bed along with an empty Thunderbird wine bottle and a well used Playboy Magazine. He looked as filthy as the sheet and smelled worse. I never in my life saw a place as filthy as the one he was living in, not even one of the Mason’s flop houses in downtown Atlanta.

You can order your copy of this book at:

https://www.createspace.com/6333785

National Bison Legacy Act, H.R. 2908

Bison Skull Pile circa 1870
Bison Skull Pile
circa 1870

On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, officially making the American bison the national mammal of the United States. This majestic animal joins the ranks of the Bald Eagle as the official symbol of our country — and much like the eagle, it’s one of the greatest conservation success stories of all time, says the U.S. Department of Interior – or is it?

In 1971, President Nixon signed The Wild Free-Roaming Horse And Burro Act (Public Law 92-195). This act, among other things, made it a crime to harass or kill these animals on federal land; unfortunately, the very government that is supposed to be enforcing this law is the biggest offender. So, what is to say that the National Bison Legacy Act won’t turn into another feel good law that was passed to provide lip service to those who really care about preserving this national treasure? Considering our past history with the wild horse and burro, this new act sure doesn’t present much hope. Fewer than 10,000 bison remain genetically pure, according to the Buffalo Field Campaign, and most of these exist within fenced areas that prevent them from doing what bison are meant to do, which is roam. Just as with the wild horses and burros, our government continues to mismanage the wild bison. They are quarantined and slaughtered in the interest of livestock ranchers; and, for some reason, ranchers believe, without any scientific basis, that bison poses a disease threat to cattle. They fear the spread of Brucellosis. What? These very same cattlemen are responsible for Brucellosis being here in the first place.

What is Brucellosis? In 1886 David Bruce a British army surgeon isolated a cocco-bacillus that he named Micrococcus melitensis. This disease was endemic but confused with other diseases, especially malaria. The human disease was associated with people who consumed goat milk and had other close contact with goats. The organism soon was isolated from these animals. In 1897 a similar microbe was isolated from the udder of cows, and in 1914 from swine. In about 1920 the genus was renamed Brucella. The disease has had numerous names, with “undulant fever” becoming predominant in the United States until the 1940s, when it began to be called Brucellosis.

So, Brucellosis was introduced to the US via European livestock in the early 1900’s. It was first detected in the Yellowstone Buffalo herd in 1917. The buffalo were exposed to Brucellosis by domestic cattle that were grazed in the park and held in confinement with buffalo. The chances of transmission between wild buffalo and vaccinated domestic cattle have been characterized as “very low”. but still, the cattlemen blame the bison, as well as the elk, for transmission of Brucellosis that they were responsible for by introducing this disease in the first place. Of course, that makes sense.

Now, one hundred years later, the states and federal government are embroiled in litigation on how best to control the disease and keep it from decimating herds of wildlife and domestic cattle. And what about the wild swine?

Feral pig populations are exploding across the country. These pigs reproduce like rabbits. We, the people, are partially responsible for the population boom. There is strong evidence that humans have transported feral pigs into new areas for hunting. I can attest to this happening in the North Georgia mountains. A few years back I confronted one while riding at Pine Log Wildlife Management Area. Both my horse and I about had heart attacks. They are mean looking animals and they stink and they carry the Brucellosis disease. Research indicates that about 70 percent of the population will need to be removed each year to keep a wild population stable. Regarding feral pigs, hunting usually removes from 8 to 50 percent of a given wild population so we have a lot of filthy pigs running loose thanks to our cattlemen.

So, like most everything else that is left up to this rogue bureaucratic federal agency, the Department of Interior, I’m afraid this National Bison Legacy Act is just another federal program passed to appease the public and provide a “legacy” for this president, not the bison.

Some of the information gathered for this blog was obtained from the Buffalo Field Campaign and from Brucellosis Therapy: A Historical Overview
Thomas Benedek, University of Pittsburgh.
.

For more information regarding mismanagement of the bison, go to www.buffalofieldcampaign.org

 

 

Flamingo, Florida, An Everglade’s Ghost Town

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Americans have always been fascinated by ghosts towns. A town often becomes a ghost town because its economy fails, or due to some form of disaster. Ghost towns exist in America from Montana to the southern tip of Florida.

In 1889, a fisherman by the name of George Elliot Cuthbert was looking for “a flower, a beautiful white blossom,” as he told his children. What he found was thousands of snowy egrets, ibises, wood storks, tricolored herons, and the circus-colored roseate spoonbill in what was to become known as Cuthbert’s Rookery. A rookery is a breeding ground for exotic birds. Cuthbert was after the egrets’ head plumage. Around this time, these feathers were worth $32 an ounce—double the price of gold. The ensuing mass slaughter of these birds was only matched by the mass slaughter of America’s bison in the West.

Flamingo, Florida, was settled near Cuthbert’s Rookery, in 1892. It consisted of 38 shacks on stilts. Duncan Brady, from New England, was one of the first residents. The Tequesta Indians had lived in the area prior to that, but that doesn’t count. The town received the name Flamingo in 1893 when a post office was established. In the late 1800’s, flamingos could be seen along the coast in large numbers. Life in the Everglades could be rough going. Naturalist Leverett White Brownell, who visited Flamingo in 1893, described a village infested with fleas and mosquitos. He claimed to have seen an oil lamp extinguished by a cloud of mosquitos. He also stated that flea powder was the “staff of life” and that the cabins were thickly sooted from the use of smudge pots. Flamingo experienced a small boom in the early 20th century when speculators thought that Henry Flagler would choose a route for his Florida East Coast Railway across Florida Bay to Key West. By 1900 about 50 families lived there and it had a school. Fishing, farming, charcoal making and plume hunting (hunting exotic birds for their feathers) were the area’s economy. Plume hunting brought people to Flamingo but also led to its downfall. Audubon warden Guy Bradley was killed in 1905 by plume hunters near the town. Public outrage over the murder directly led to federal legislation outlawing the practice of plume hunting. People figured if they couldn’t kill the birds, why go to Flamingo? So they didn’t. The post office closed in 1909 and soon only three houses remained occupied. During prohibition, outlaw moonshiners brought Flamingo back to life. But it wasn’t meant to be. When Everglades National Park was created in 1947, Flamingo, Florida became part of the park. Today, nothing much remains of this booming metropolis, located on the eastern end of Cape Sable on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, except a few building foundations and – ghosts!