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As one who is an unabashed admirer of cats, telling this story is somewhat painful. This is a true story which happened during the late 1970's. My wife has firsthand knowledge of the circumstances since, at the time, she was a police officer in whose jurisdiction the incident occurred.
There is a small rural town, somewhat northeast to the city of Niagara Falls, NY. One evening, a resident of the town called the local volunteer fire department to request assistance in removing their cat from a tree. Since this was a "questionable" call, the fire control dispatcher called the fire chief at home to ask if he wanted to respond. The chief said sure, call out the department, since it was early evening and it shouldn't be a problem for the volunteers to respond.
The fire department responded with a rescue truck which had an extension ladder. The tree, however, was too tall and willowy to support the weight of the extension ladder. Rather than send men back to the fire hall to bring the aerial ladder truck, one of the firefighters suggested an alternate course of action. Two of the firefighters supported the ladder while a third climbed high enough to tie a rope around the tree at about half its height.
The other end of the rope was tied to a trailer hitch on a pickup truck, with the truck slowly driven forward, forcing the tree to bend over. One firefighter was poised to grab the cat as soon as it was within his reach.
The knot securing the rope to the trailer hitch slipped free.
The cat was last seen airborne heading south toward the city of Niagara Falls, and was never seen again.
This incident adds a rather new definition to the word "catapult". Needless to say, the particular fire department did not receive praise from the local SPCA when the story made its rounds. Please note that this story is not meant to put down volunteer fire departments, who perform a dedicated and essential community function.
The story behind this... There's this nutball who digs things out his back yard and sends the stuff he finds to the Smithsonian Institute, labeling them with scientific names, insisting that they are actual archaeological finds.
The really weird thing about these letters is that this guy really exists and does this in his spare time! Anyway... here's a letter from the Smithsonian Institute from when he sent them a Barbie doll head.
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull." We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago."
Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the "Malibu Barbie". It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings.
However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to it's modern origin:
1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.
3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the "ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.
This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.
B. Clams don't have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.
Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name "Australopithecus spiff-arino." Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin. However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your back yard.
We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed
in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay
for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories
surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in
a structural matrix" that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus
Rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a
rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.
Yours in Science,
A crusty old man walks into a bank and says to the teller at the window, "I want to open a damn checking account."
To which the astonished woman replies, "I beg your pardon, sir; I must have misunderstood you. What did you say?"
"Listen up, damn it. I said I want to open a damn checking account, right now!"
"I'm very sorry sir, but we do not tolerate that kind of language in this bank." So saying, the teller leaves the window and goes over to the bank manager to tell him about her situation.
They both return and the manager asks the old geezer, "What seems to be the problem here?"
"There's no damn problem," the man says, "I just won 50 million bucks in the damned lottery and I want to open a damn checking account in this damn bank!"
"I see," says the manager, "and this bitch is giving you a hard time?"
Subject: Easy Quiz
Easiest Quiz in the World
1) How long did the Hundred Years War last?
2) Which country makes Panama hats?
3) From which animal do we get catgut?
4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
5) What is a camel's hair brush made of?
6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
7) What was King George VI's first name?
8) What color is a purple finch?
9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?
10) How long did the Thirty Years War last?
ANSWERS TO THE QUIZ
1) 116 years, from 1337 to 1453.
3) From sheep and horses.
4) November. The Russian calendar was 13 days behind ours.
5) Squirrel fur.
6) The Latin name was Insularia Canaria - Island of the Dogs.
7) Albert. When he came to the throne in 1936 he respected the wish of Queen Victoria that no future king should ever be called Albert.
8) Distinctively crimson.
9) New Zealand.
10) Thirty years, of course. From 1618 to 1648.
Subject: low life books
Announcing, from Low-Life Books -- MYSTERIES OF THE OVERBLOWN
This provocative new book series provides amazingly arbitrary explanations to events which lie entirely within ordinary reality. Just listen to some of the stories described within.
In Malibu, CA, a woman suddenly feels that her grandson in New York has just received a phone call bringing terrible news. She places a frantic, long distance call and the line is busy.
...IT'S DISMISSED AS COINCIDENCE
A group of youths in a wooded clearing are held aloft by an unseen force. They report hearing "wow, like, really freaky noises, man."
...IT'S DISMISSED AS "BAD" ACID
As reported by dozens of observers, numerous glowing lights appear in the night sky over Denver, remaining until dawn.
...IT'S DISMISSED AS STARS
In Lynchburg, VA, a man sticks a fork in a toaster when suddenly a bolt of energy shoots up his arm, knocking him unconscious.
...IT'S DISMISSED AS STUPIDITY
We can no longer afford to ignore things which may not be complete fabrications. Act now and you'll receive the exciting first book, "THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT." After that, you'll receive one book per month. If you don't want it, send it back within 30 seconds for a full refund. Many exciting titles await, from "SPOOKY NOISES" to "HOW TO TELL IF YOU'RE REALLY FROM ANOTHER PLANET."
Each book is $89.90, with 10 monthly installments of - ONLY $8.99 EACH!!
Martha Stewart's Calendar
Blanch carcass from Thanksgiving turkey. Spray-paint gold, turn upside down and use as a sleigh to hold Christmas cards.
Have Mormon Tabernacle Choir record outgoing Christmas message for answering machine.
Using candlewick and hand-gilded miniature pine cones, fashion cat-o'-nine-tails. Flog gardener.
Address sympathy cards for all friends with elderly relatives, so that they're all ready to be mailed the moment death occurs.
Get new eyeglasses. Grind lenses myself.
Fax family Christmas newsletter to Pulitzer committee for consideration..
Debug Windows 95.
Finish needlepoint colostomy bag cozy.
Buy some cockroaches from the less fortunate; decorate eggs.
Update enemies list. Place in hermetically sealed vault. Remove air, replace with nitrogen.
Visit crematorium. Collect dentures. They make excellent pastry cutters, particularly for decorative pie crusts.
Install plumbing in gingerbread house.
Replace air in mini-van tires with Glade "Holiday Scents" in case tires are shot out at the mall.
Childproof the Christmas tree with garlands of razor wire.
Adjust legs of chairs so each Christmas dinner guest will be the same height when sitting at his or her assigned seat.
Dip sheep and cows in egg white and roll in confectioner's sugar to add a festive sparkle to the pasture.
Outfit neighborhood rats with tiny antlers.
Float votive candles in toilet tank.
Seed clouds for white Christmas.
Do my annual good deed: Go to several stores. Be seen engaged in last-minute Christmas shopping, thus making many people feel less inadequate than they really are.
Bear son. Swaddle. Lay in color-coordinated manger scented with homemade potpourri.
Write and mail Christmas thank-yous. Order cards for next Christmas. Estimate number of cards needed by allowing for making new friends and actuarially appropriate death rates for current friends and relatives.
Build snowman in exact likeness of God.
New Year's Eve! Give staff their resolutions. Call a friend in each time zone of the world as the clock strikes midnight in that country.
Jan. 1, 1997
Catch up on gardening. Sew leaves back onto trees. Do all cooking for 1997.
Repaint Sistine Chapel ceiling in ecru, with mocha trim.
Drain city reservoir; refill with mulled cider, orange slices and cinnamon sticks.
Lay Faberge egg.
Freshen air in home by sliding a dozen Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts into heat pump.
Make steel wool from mussel beards saved over the years.
Spin silk cord to garrotte squid; fill fountain pen with the ink and hand-write staff their dismissal notes.
MLK birthday. Find out who MLK is.
Take dog apart. Disinfect. Reassemble.
Organize spice racks by genus and phylum.
Culture ancient DNA into dinosaurs for nieces and nephews.
Align carpets to adjust for curvature of Earth.
Receive delivery of new phone books. Old ones make ideal personal address books. Simply cross out the names and addresses of all the people you do not know.
Review the Christmas '95 show and try to understand why Julia Child is much beloved even though her croquembouche was very much askew.
Attend workshop on obsessive-compulsive disorders. Take verbatim notes.
Kentucky Fried Chicken just announced their new bucket, the Hillary Clinton bucket. It comes with two small breasts, two large thighs, and a whole bunch of left wings.
Why E-Mail Is Like a Penis
It can be up or down. It's more fun when it's up, but it makes it hard to get any real work done.
In the long-distant past, its only purpose was to transmit information considered vital to the survival of the species. Some people still think that's the only thing it should be used for, but most folks today use it for fun most of the time.
It has no conscience and no memory. Left to its own devices, it will just do the same damn dumb things it did before.
It provides a way to interact with other people. Some people take this interaction very seriously, others treat it as a lark. Sometimes it's hard to tell what kind of person you're dealing with until it's too late.
If you don't apply the appropriate protective measures, it can spread viruses.
It has no brain of its own. Instead, it uses yours. If you use it too much, you'll find it becomes more and more difficult to think coherently.
If you're not careful what you do with it, it can get you in big trouble.
It has its own agenda. Somehow, no matter how good your intentions, it will warp your behavior. Later you may ask yourself "why on earth did I do that?"
Some folks have it, some don't. Those who have it would be devastated if it were ever cut off. They think that those who don't have it are somehow inferior. They think it gives them power. They are wrong.
Those who don't have it may agree that it's a nifty toy, but think it's not worth the fuss that those who do have it make about it. Still, many of those who don't have it would like to try it.
Once you've started playing with it, it's hard to stop. Some people would just play with it all day if they didn't have work to do. It can be used in solitaire or with others.
Subject: More Jewish humor
A Scotsman and a Jew went to a restaurant. After a hearty meal, the waitress came by with the inevitable check. To the amazement of all, the Scotsman was heard to say, "I'll pay it!" and he actually did.
The next morning's newspaper carried the item:
"JEWISH VENTRILOQUIST FOUND MURDERED IN BLIND ALLEY."
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