On Saturday, while listening to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” I heard the true story of a gentleman who tried to kill a cockroach by throwing a gun at it. Sometimes, things happen in my own life that render me speechless, but they don’t make it to the news. I imagine you have had similar experiences.
Explanations of the Stories & Photos
I have no authority to label these head-slappers as the most bizarre true stories of all time. Nevertheless, I won’t forget them, especially my top four. They happened right here in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains. Don’t start with the prejudice about dumb rural folk. It’s not true, and besides, these examples are primarily from urban transplants. I’m not using their names. The memories have become so precious to me that I don’t want to embarrass them.
The photos, accept for the one showing the deer tick and the ones of Hunter and Mo, are an amusing diversion for you, since there aren’t any of the actual events. My friend Mary’s Homer Simpson doll snuck out of her garage and got into trouble in our bedroom with some of my knitting. Luckily for us all, Rich caught him, and Homer Doll is now delighted to be part of the digital world.
In 4th Place (honorable Mention): Ticks, Lyme Disease & Gravity
When we moved to Susquehanna county in 1997, ticks weren’t in evidence. In fact, we didn’t have much in the way of bugs – likely due to the abundance of birds. Swallows and bats gobbled up mosquitos, while hawks and owls kept the rodent population under control. We often sat in the tall grass on lawn chairs or directly on the ground. We rarely found anything crawling up our legs or buzzing around our heads.
At some point, however, the deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, showed up. Almost every family on our rural road has at least one story to tell about a family member, dog or horse contracting Lyme disease. My fourth guide dog, Hunter had it, and my husband Rich had it more than once, leading to massive amounts of permanent nerve damage.
We were all frantic for information about how to protect ourselves and our pets from this scourge. The vaccine for humans was taken off the market not long after my third guide dog’s trainer had a life-altering reaction to it and spent a year in a wheelchair before regaining some strength and the ability to walk with crutches.
The best preventative we’ve found is the relatively new Soresto collar, which doesn’t smell and isn’t greasy like commercial topical remedies. My new guide dog, Mo, hasn’t had a single tick since we put one on him in 2016. Nonetheless, some people still stick to their own beliefs about what works, even if there is no anecdotal let alone scientific proof to support them.
One of our neighbors has a truly unique perspective to add to the conversation. We found out about it one day while talking to him on the road. He was picking ticks off of his two hounds, both of whom had been treated for Lyme disease. I asked him if he wanted a plastic bag to put them in, till he could deal with them properly.
“Not necessary,” he replied, “I just flick them on the ground.”
“What?” I interrupted before catching myself.
“Oh yes,” he continued, “Ticks like to fall onto an animal from the high grasses.”
We were dumbstruck. He was convinced that after millions of years of surviving almost every known environment, a tick who found herself flung to the ground would just shrug her little arachnean shoulders and give up, rather than attempt the monumental task of crawling up somebody’s leg.
And, in Third Place: The Bear & the Slim Jims
Here in the Endless Mountains, we have a healthy population of black bears. They sneak around during the wee hours of the morning and raid bird feeders, blueberry patches and, of course, gardens. They rarely bother with humans or pets, unless one gets between a mother and her cubs.
When Rich has seen them on our property, they spot him and gradually put more distance between themselves and him. Some people won’t walk as far as their mailboxes without a gun, while most of us don’t worry about them much, except for trying to bear-proof our bird feeders and trash.
One middle-aged man, however, was afraid of bears. He thought they were already coming too close to the house, so what does he do? Well, of course he buys a case of Slim Jims. Then, he walks around the house dropping one every ten feet.
We know this because he told us, exhibiting the conviction of a man who is positive that no self-respecting bear would eat a Slim Jim. We were flabbergasted. What was the logic behind this? Bears will brave an active bee hive for some honey, will ignore the thorns when raspberries are ripe, but the spice in a Slim Jim keeps them away from a serving of meat?
Coming in at #2: The Swede on the Roof
One autumn day, a 60-something Swede trudged out to his barn and unearthed his tallest ladder from the haphazardly organized collection of tools and machinery that left no room for a car. He carried it to the house, extending it and leaned it on the roof. One last trip to the house for his double-barrelled shotgun, and he was ready to go. He climbed the ladder one-handed, the shotgun lazily gripped in his other hand.
When he reached the top, he stepped onto the roof and climbed to the peak next to the chimney. It wasn’t the highest vantage point on his property, but it did give the best view of the main road. Because of this, no one could be blamed for assuming that he was engaged in a militia exercise, the intent of which was to surveil the area for fire, a contingent from the FBI or other dangers.
But, no one suspected anything of the sort. His neighbors and half the county knew exactly what he was doing.
Lots of us out here in the sticks use wood stoves to heat our homes. For some, it is their only source of heat, for others, it supplements oil, electric or geothermal. With the build-up of creosote in the chimneys, chimney fires are a major risk. Cleaning out the chimney, before the heating season, is a must. You can hire someone to do it or do it yourself.
A car turned in from the road and rolled up the gravel driveway. The Swede paused to watch as his wife came to a stop. After collecting her shopping, she headed to the house, spotted him on the roof and waved.
“Hi Honey,” he called, waving the gun, “Stay out of the living room.”
Bracing himself with one foot on each side of the peak, he removed the chimney cap, put the barrel of the gun in the chimney and fired. End of creosote.
Drum-Role … and in 1st Place: Dog Training Method 983
As a guide dog handler, I get some attention from dog owners who must think I have a corner on the market regarding all things ‘dog. Most of their questions relate to puppies. The fact that my guide dogs are adults when I get them has yet to dissuade them from ploughing forward with their problems.
I enjoy this almost as much as when people get lost in our rural area. Since I am usually the only one out for a walk and they are hopelessly lost, they end up asking the blind lady for directions. After determining where they would like to end up, I give them my best effort and off they go. This just never gets old.
But back to the advice-seekers. Occasionally, I can offer some assistance. I extoll the virtues of consistency and praise. I explain that a dog that won’t come to you in the house is not ready to be off the leash outside, that it’s folly to repeat a command over and over and other canine truisms that are lost on many dog owners.
We knew a forty-something chemist, who retired to the country to start a business. I called her one morning to check on an order. She decided that, while she had me on the line, she would pick my brain about training dogs. She had a German shepherd and some chickens. The problem was that the dog enjoyed killing the chickens. This was not going over well.
I asked what she had tried. She explained her technique in a manner that suggested no awareness of how it might sound to dog or chicken lovers.
Upon finding a dead chicken, she picked it up and put it in a barrel. She then put the dog in the barrel with the dead chicken. After affixing the lid, she rolled the barrel – containing the culprit and his victim – down their long rural driveway. To her credit, she did admit that this method wasn’t working.
Anything to Add?
If you would like to share any head-slappers of your own, have at it. And, thanks for stopping by.
- Homer Simpson doll is standing in lower dresser drawer wearing winter hat, knitted in Lynda
Lambert’s pattern by Donna W. Hill using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn: Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.
- This deer tick, shown with straight pin, dime and ballpoint Pen, is huge compared to some we’ve found: photo by Rich Hill.
- Hunter, a male black Lab and Donna’s fourth guide dog relaxes in the fall leaves: photo by Rich Hill.
- Donna W. Hill & her new yellow Lab guide dog Mo standing by Hill’s pond: photo by Rich Hill.
- Homer Simpson doll is reclining in the dresser drawer wearing a hat, knitted in Lynda Lambert’s pattern by Donna W. Hill, using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn; women’s undies visible : Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.
- The Homer Simpson doll has climbed up the dresser. He’s admiring himself in the mirror, wearing a winter hat. The matching scarf – knitted in Lynda Lambert’s one-row pattern by Donna W. Hill, using Caron’s Simply Soft Victorian Rose yarn – is over his right shoulder, and he’s pulling it from the drawer : Homer, courtesy of Mary McAleavey; photo by Rich Hill.
- Donna W. Hill with her new yellow Lab guide dog, Mo, and rescued strawberry-blonde tabby Goofus: photo by Rich Hill.