Country Roads… That’s odd
“Girl gives birth to chimpanzee,” the headline screamed. That was it; I couldn’t resist any longer. I bought a copy of the supermarket tabloid, asking the checkout clerk to tuck it into a brown paper bag.
The story was a farce, of course, but the author ought to get a little credit for comedy writing. At the rate network television is going, he (or she) could probably write next season’s big hit — “Bonzo Remembers Mama.”
Then there’s talk-TV with the gurus of odd ? Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos, Geraldo, et al. Where do they find those people?
Do you ever wonder if there are any normal people left? Is our world getting weirder in 21st century? Quit worrying. Weirdness has been a part of human history ever since Eve asked, “Applesauce, dear?”
As Robert Ripley of “Believe It or Not” fame well knew, history has yielded a long list of weird, absurd and bizarre individuals and events, all of which would have made great fodder for the tabloid/talk show industry of its day, had it existed.
Just imagine what Geraldo could have done with these strange-but-true events from the history books:
Edmund II, king of England around 1000 A.D. died in the bathroom. History tells us that he was murdered there. One account has it that he was “stabbed from beneath as he answered the call of nature.” As Gomer Pyle would have said, “Sur-prize, sur-prize, sur-prize!”
Consider one William Finley Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio. In 1869 he received a patent for chewing gum. Shortly thereafter, an American physician warned that the use of chewing gum “would exhaust the salivary glands and cause the intestines to stick together.” The next time someone tells you that a big, thick, juicy grilled steak is bad for you, just remember what they said about Mr. Semple’s invention.
Many women have beauty secrets but Catherine the Great, the empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, took the idea to an extreme. So afraid was she that someone would discover that she wore a wig she locked up her hairdresser in an iron cage in her room for three years so he wouldn’t gossip about her false tresses.
Men aren’t immune to vanity, of course. Remember Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish author? Historians tell us that he was so concerned about his weak, concave chest he would build up his chest by stuffing old newspapers beneath his shirt. It’s a good thing that Catherine the Great didn’t have that problem; she probably would have locked up her newspaper carrier.
Florence Nightingale, we have been taught, gave a hoot for humanity. It’s no wonder; the founder of professional nursing owned a pet owl and carried it in her pocket whenever she traveled.
It may take some research to find the man, who it is claimed, was hospitalized in 1960 and found to have 258 unusual items in his stomach. The inventory included 88 coins, 26 keys, three pair of tweezers, 39 nail files and three sets of rosary beads. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz.
A Captain Kemble of Boston made the headlines there 360 years ago. In 1656 he was placed in the public stocks for two hours after having been found guilty of “lewd and unseemly behavior.” His crime: he kissed his wife in public on the Sabbath after a three years’ sojourn at sea. Must have been some kiss.
No one in my family would have been able to work for Catherine de Medicis, queen of France in 1547. She would allow no woman in her court to have a waistline larger than 13 inches.
Celibacy seems to have fallen into disfavor in recent decades. Jerry Springer would have enjoyed visiting with Martha Dias who died some 230 years ago in England. Miss Dias may have been the champion of celibacy as is evidenced in her epitaph:
Here lies the body of Martha Dias,
Who was always uneasy, and not over pious;
She lived to the age of three score and ten,
And gave that to the worms she refused to the men.