Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Mail Car" Max

Since I am well-travelled, I am often asked about the best routes to take. Sometimes I can oblige the individual with a knowledgeable response, and sometimes I tell him about "Mail Car" Max.

"Mail Car" Max was a medium-sized mutt of indeterminate ancestry who made his home at the railroad station in Yonkers, New York. Every morning he would hop on the 6:40 a.m. mail and freight train going due south to Fort Washington. There he would get off and relieve himself, then reboard and continue on to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn he would disembark once more and visit a local tavern, where he was given a bowl of beer and a sausage biscuit. After that he would take a nap. He always woke up in time to board the 2:10 pm westbound train, and returned travelling north by way of Hoboken to Fort Lee, where he completed a circle by taking a ferry back to the city.

Max was well known to all the porters, who documented his travels. When he wasn't sitting on a mail sack he often rode with the conductor, looking out through the foremost window.

Why didn't Max simply hop back on the northbound train to Yonkers for his return trip, in order to get home quickly? Why on earth did he go through New Jersey? Perhaps he preferred the view when crossing the Hudson River from the west to the east. Perhaps he felt he should comfort the porters who had to work in the Garden State. I do not know. The "best" route is sometimes a matter of personal taste, and there's no accounting for that.

copyright ©2011 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chicken Wrangling

blackeye peasOut West the farmers have so much open space that they try to do everything on a large scale. I met a fellow who kept a chicken ranch of over 5000 birds. He herded them like cattle. Every fall specially trained dogs and poultry wranglers would drive the flock south to fields he owned in Florida. Come spring they'd move north again. "It's a tedious process," he said, "but they can't handle winter on the plains."

I suggested he add a little Wizard Water© to their feed. "They will either warm up with calisthenics, or fly all the way to Ocala," I said. He did as I suggested, and sure enough, the trip to Florida was shortened by half.

However, with extra time on their hands, the birds started getting into poker games with the wranglers. They used themselves as collateral. The wranglers, who couldn’t read the birds’ expressions, began losing games, and often accused them of cheating.

This came to an abrupt end on the return trip when the flock thundered through a field outside of Abilene. They churned up the crops so badly that the sheriff fined the farmer 25 cents per chicken to pay for damages.

Since then, the farmer ships his chickens by train. It costs more than traveling by foot, he says, but it’s cheaper than paying a fine for what the sheriff called "disturbing the peas." Plus, the birds aren’t allowed to run free, so he doesn’t have to worry about fowl play.

copyright ©2011 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dealing With Heat

Hot weather is the bane of many who must work outdoors. There are places so hot that the people who live there have to live someplace else. A farmer once asked me if I could recommend some way to deal with extreme heat.

"Yes," I said, "Move to Nova Scotia."

"I can't," he said. "My farm is here."

"In that case," I said, "I can only offer you an untested theory. In my travels I have seen that people who live in the Tropics consume very fiery cuisines. The Mexicans season their meals with jalapeƱo peppers. The East Indians burn their stomachs with curries. West Africans chew the powerful piri-piri chili pepper, and the Polynesians eat lava.

"I believe this is in response to the weather. These natives eat hot things to raise their internal body temperatures to more closely match the external temperature. This enables them to work with impunity in the equatorial heat. Of course, they are used to such searing dishes and we are not."

The farmer pondered this a moment and then walked away. I put the incident out of my mind. A year later, he approached me and gave this interesting report:

"I thought about what you said, Doc, and decided to test your theory. I fed one of my cows nothing but peppers, onions, chili powder and a little sulfur for two weeks during the hottest part of summer. My other cattle were collapsing from the heat or wouldn't budge from the shade, but this one galloped around an open field for hours in the full sun.

Everything seemed fine until she trotted into a creek and exploded."

"Ah!" I said. "I am sorry for your loss. Obviously her system had adapted to extreme heat but could not adjust quickly enough to the cool water. This is good to know. If you ever decide to try this method yourself, take care to avoid sudden changes of temperature."

He said that would not be necessary, as he planned to avoid the method entirely.

That is probably a wise decision. I will rest easier knowing that this cure is not being practiced by anyone in my vicinity.

copyright ©2011 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom for Travelling Life's Highway

19th century doctorA vigorous 15-mile walk will do more for an unhappy man than all the medicine in the world, especially if his creditors are unaware that he has left town.

When one window of opportunity closes, another one will appear. This is why you should always keep your eyes open and a crowbar handy.

Do not worry about financial setbacks. It is always possible to live beyond your means.

You can tell the size of a town by what you see on the front page of its newspaper. Crime, scandal and politics -- large town. Crop reports and school recitals -- small town. If the only newspaper you see is from a village 20 miles away, you are at a mailbag stop.

If you must stay at a boarding house, always ask for a bed with sheets.

Always tip the stableboy who minds your horse, or else don't be surprised if halfway to the next town your animal develops a loud case of gas.

If a cowboy joins you for dinner, hide your liquor.
If a minister joins you for dinner, hide your liquor and your opinion.
If a sheriff joins you for dinner, share your liquor and hide your real name.

Don't bother shooting a bird unless it weighs at least 40 pounds. It is not worth plucking and cooking anything smaller, as there is so little meat left after you have removed the feathers and burned it.

Never trust a one-eyed card dealer or a three-fingered explosives expert.

A long head start is better than a fast horse.

copyright ©2011 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Safety Tips

There are many ways to celebrate the fourth of July, but enthusiasm should be tempered with caution. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Always make sure that your Roman candles are pointed away from yourself.
  2. Do not come between a cannon and a countdown.
  3. Make certain that any mortars you light are not aimed at occupied buildings, including chicken houses.
If you discover too late that your rockets were indeed aimed at an egg production facility, it may help to know that a sudden shock to birds helps to prevent avian flu. Tell the owner of the demolished chicken shed that the surviving flock will be stronger and more disease-resistant. A few birds may be lost and the feather quality of those remaining may suffer, but what a small price to pay for peace of mind regarding the health of the rest of flock!

This should buy you enough time to catch the next train out of town.

copyright ©2011 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.