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by Kathy Wolfe Most of us are familiar with the popular Christmas tune “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This week, Tidbits has a few more details about each of the gifts received by the singer from his or her “true love,” everything from drummers drumming to maids a-milking to swans, geese, turtledoves and the partridge in the pear tree! • The drum is considered the oldest musical instrument and is also used for non-musical purposes, such as long-distance communication. An Englishman set a world record by playing 400 separate drums in 16.3 seconds in 1995. Ireland’s Millennium Drum, constructed of birch plywood and sailcloth, is considered the world’s largest drum with a diameter of 15 feet, 6 inches. It was built for Ireland’s millennium festivities. • A set of panpipes consists of from three to 40 tubes, usually cane, but also wood or pottery. The length of the pipes determines the pitch of the note. • Greek mythology tells of Pan, the god of woods and pastures and the protector of shepherds and their flocks. According to legend,

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Pan, half-man and half-goat, is the inventor of the panpipe, fashioned from reeds, on which he piped lovely music. • The title “Lord” can be used if a gentleman is a baron, viscount, earl, marquis, bishop, a dignitary of the Church of England or a member of Great Britain’s House of Lords. An aga is a Turkish Lord. • The cuckoopint is a European plant with bright red poisonous berries and is often referred to as the “Lords-and-Ladies.” Ingesting the berries can result in swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, burning pain and an upset stomach. • The 1993 Arizona half-marathon had an interesting entrant, Elizabeth Ursic, who chose to tapdance the 13.1-mile distance. • In 1931, a couple set out to win Chicago’s Merry Garden Ballroom dance marathon. They danced over 214 days, with rest periods beginning at 20 minutes per hour, decreasing to zero minutes per hour. They were not allowed to close their eyes for more than 15 seconds. Their record-setting endurance was rewarded with a $2,000 prize. • A California cow named simply “Number 289” is the leader in lifetime milk production, with more than 54,070 gallons of milk to her credit. That’s enough to fill more than eight 60-foot tanker trucks. She averaged about 7 gallons a day, compared to about 4.4 gallons for a normal cow. Number 289 lived to be 19 years old, about four times longer than the average Holstein. • Thanks to L.O. Colvin, we have the milking machine. Back in 1860, he introduced the first suction-type contraption. A sign seen in recent years on the back of a milk truck read: “Modern Milking Machine Company … All That We Are We Owe to Udders.” • “Swan” is the 1,471st most popular last name in the United States,

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which computes to about 20,000 people. • Swans live on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. The sounds they make vary from whistles to hisses to trumpet-like noises. Beware of the female swan; she will attack anything that presents a danger to her eggs, including dogs, foxes and people. • The stars Deneb and Albirco mark the head and tail of the swan in the constellation Cygnus. According to mythology, Cygnus was a friend of the son of Apollo, the sun god. When the son fell into the river, Cygnus dove into the water time after time in an attempt to rescue his friend, but to no avail. They myth says Cygnus was turned into a swan by Zeus in order to allow him to dive deeper. The English language uses the word “cygnet” for a baby swan. • Although the lifespan of the domestic goose averages 25 years, making it the longest-lived bird, George the Goose of Thornton, England, lived to be nearly 50 years old. Speckle the Goose of Goshen, Ohio, is noted for laying the world’s heaviest egg. It was 24 ounces, twice as weighty as the average goose egg. • In order for it to be made into jewelry, other metals must be added to gold, creating an “alloy.” If your ring is 18-karat gold, it is 18 parts pure gold and six parts other metals. • Nevada is the leading gold-mining state in America, producing 79 percent of the nation’s supply. South Africa leads the world. It takes more than two tons of South African rock to yield less than one ounce of gold. • It’s believed that the calling bird in the song is actually the mockingbird, a bird with the ability to imitate the sounds of other birds. One such bird was heard to imitate the songs of 32 different birds during a 10-minute period. • Can you identify the famous family who lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane? It was television’s Herman Munster family — Herman, Lily, Grandpa and Eddie. • A hen begins laying eggs when she is about 20 weeks old. If a farmer uses artificial lighting, the hen will begin laying at a younger age. If she is exposed to about 15 hours of light per day, she will lay more eggs. The average hen lays about 250 eggs in a year. • A member of the pigeon family, a turtledove is noted for its purring coo. It differs from the mourning dove, although the two are often mistaken. Don’t look for turtledoves in America, as they live mainly in Europe, Asia and Africa. • The Turtledove Folk Club of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, is an organization for music lovers, specifically those who want to preserve and promote folk music and dance.  ��������� • A partridge is most generally �������������  ������� known as a quail or  ����� a bobwhite. There  ������� are about 150 varieties of partridges. Some  ���������� parts of America refer to a partridge as a ruffed  ������� grouse. If you plan to keep a partridge as a pet,  ������� have plenty of grains, plant shoots and insects on hand. A typical bobwhite might consume as ���� many 15,000 weed seeds a day, a tremendous ��������� help to farmers. • If someone offers you a Comice, Seckel, Winter Nelis, Kieffer, Leconte, Anjou, Bosc or Garber, he is offering you an item obtained from a pear tree. Over 800,000 tons of pears are produced annually in the United States, with the state of Washington leading the nation in fresh pear ����������������� ����������������������� ��������������� production. The average American eats about 3.1 pounds of fresh pears a year. When it’s YOUR home - you demand

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From despair to hope to victory, Scott Smiley has met overwhelming challenges head-on and triumphed. Check out the story of this inspiring individual, an injured soldier who credits his faith, family and friends with his remarkable recovery from devastating injuries. • Life looked very promising for Scott Smiley back in 2003. He had recently graduated from West Point and married his high school sweetheart. Following his completion of Ranger school, he was deployed to Iraq in October of 2004. • In April of 2005, as a lieutenant in charge of a combat team platoon, Smiley’s life changed forever. He and his men approached a car with a nervous driver, who immediately raised his hands in the air. Smiley ordered the man to get out of the car, but seconds later, the driver set off a bomb. Shards of shrapnel sliced through Smiley’s eyes, shredding the optic nerves and penetrating his brain. • Smiley was put on an emergency airlift and transported to Washington, D.C.’s Walter Reed Hospital, where he remained unconscious for two weeks. During that time an ophthalmologist worked for eight hours on his right eye, attempting to save its sight. Unfortunately, when Smiley woke up, he was informed that he was partially paralyzed and permanently blind. • Smiley admits his “spirit was crushed” and that he felt he had no reason to live or any purpose in life. He was advised to take medical retirement. Instead, he made the courageous choice to fight his way back, firmly believing there was a place for him in the military. He took advantage of the Army’s new willingness to allow certain seriously injured soldiers to remain in the service. • After numerous surgeries and months of exhausting physical therapy, including relearning how to walk, Scott Smiley returned to active duty. • Smiley was accepted into Duke University’s business school, where he earned a master’s degree in Business Administration. Soon he was teaching leadership classes to West Point cadets. • Smiley’s list of accomplishments and adventures has continued to grow since his injury. He has been skydiving, gone snow skiing and surfed solo in Hawaii. Although he had never mountain climbed before Iraq, he reached the summit of Mount Rainier with a group of climbers in 2007. With two hiking poles, he was able to keep his balance, listening for the footsteps of the person in front of him. Smiley was the recipient of an ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) award in 2008. With the help of an Army buddy, he participated in the West Point triathlon. He has also been awarded the Army’s MacArthur Leadership Award, given to those officers who demonstrate “duty, honor, and country,” as well

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as the honor of being named the Army Times’ 2007 Soldier of the Year. • In 2010, Smiley was appointed commander of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Unit, becoming only the second wounded officer to assume such a position and the first blind active-duty officer. His responsibilities include overseeing the recovery and rehabilitation of about 200 armed forces members at the Army Medical Center at West Point. Hoping to inspire others, he has recently released his autobiography “Hope Unseen.” But his greatest accomplishment remains being a father to his two young sons. • “We all have tough times. It’s about understanding them and moving forward.” – Scott Smiley


Here are just a few fun and interesting facts you may not know about the holiday season, from toys to trees to songs. • Twenty-four electricians, standing on scaffolding, string 5 miles of wire containing 30,000 lights on New York City’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree every year. The tree stands between 75 and 90 feet tall (23 to 27.4 m) and is usually at least 50 years old. The Center’s first tree went up in 1933 with 700 lights. The annual tree lighting was televised for the first time in 1951. When it’s time to take the tree down, it’s recycled into three tons of mulch. • Do you remember the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of Christmas 1983? Within the first six months on the market, there were more than two million sold. Consumers stood in line for hours hoping to purchase a doll, even suffering broken bones when crowds turned violent. Coleco Toys chartered planes to bring 200,000 more dolls per week from its Hong Kong factories. Each of the homely dolls came with its own birth certificate and adoption papers. A 21-year-old art student was responsible for the creation of the dolls. • The year before the Cabbage Patch craze, two of the most popular Christmas toys were Pac Man and the Rubik’s cube. Ten years before that, everyone wanted a mood ring! • The word “wassail” can have several different meanings. Since the Middle Ages, people in England have held a traditional ceremony of singing and drinking to the health of trees, hoping to scare away evil spirits that keep apple trees from bearing a good harvest the following autumn. The term also refers to the salute Waes Hail from an old English phrase, translating “good health.” • Wassail can also mean the hot mulled beverage frequently consumed during the holidays. It can be apple cider with several spices and

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• On Dec. 21, 1988 Islamic terrorists exploded a bomb aboard a Pan Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

From Scrooge to Saint

• On Dec. 26, 1966, In 1941, Winston Churchill became the first British prime minister to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress. • On Dec. 28, 1895, the world’s first commercial movie screening takes place at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The film was a series of short scenes from everyday French life. Admission was charged for the first time. • On Dec. 27, 1900, prohibitionist Carry Nation smashes up the bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas, causing several thousand dollars in damage and landing in jail. Nation became famous for carrying a hatchet and wrecking saloons as part of her anti-alcohol crusade. • On Dec. 30, 1922, in post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is established. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled by the Communist Party. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms. • On Dec. 31, 1937, Anthony Hopkins is born in Port Talbot, Wales. Hopkins is known for playing one of the greatest villains in movie history, the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” and its two sequels, “Hannibal” and “Red Dragon.” • On Dec. 29, 1940, London suffers its most devastating air raid when Germans firebomb the city. The next day, a newspaper photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral standing undamaged amid the smoke and flames seemed to symbolize the capital’s unconquerable spirit during the Battle of Britain. (c) 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.


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A tired traveler and his very pregnant wife needed a place to stay after a wearisome day on the road. They came upon a two-bit motel and sought a warm room from the innkeeper. “My wife is pregnant and we are both exhausted,” pleaded the man, “We need a room for the night.” “Can’t you read the sign? No vacancy,” the man shouted from the crack in the door. “But sir my wife is about to give birth and…” “OK,” grumbled the man, “You can sleep in the shed out back. Now leave me alone.” That night, surrounded by the musty odors of something between a garage and a barn, the man’s wife Dr. Ron Ross gave birth to a lovely little baby boy. The next day the motel was abuzz with the news that a baby was born out back. Even the innkeeper, amused by the activity, likely wandered out to the garage to see for himself. Now I know the original story doesn’t say so, but I believe that once the innkeeper saw the little baby boy that suddenly a room became available for him and his mother. I also imagine that other resources the new family needed were freely offered. Why do I think that happened? Because that’s exactly the kind of impact this little baby has had on people around the world for over twothousand years. When folks take a good look at that little baby born behind the motel, their lives change. They go from Scrooge to saint, from taker to giver, from tightwad to philanthropist, from moocher to minister. Need some evidence? Just take a look around. You’ll find hospitals, schools, social service agencies and volunteer groups in every land helping the sick, teaching the uneducated, housing the homeless, caring for the dying, and joyfully doing their work all in the name of that little baby boy. Show me a hospital erected by an atheist or find me a social service agency funded by agnostics. There are few if any volunteer organizations that serve the hurting world established and funded by humanists, new-agers, Marxists or secular progressives. When disaster comes to any location on earth, who is there first? The League of Wiccans? What about the ACLU - do they show up? Only if some kindly volunteer is caught praying with a hurting soul, then they’ll jump into action and shut down everything. When disaster comes to almost any placed on earth, the first group on scene is usually the Salvation Army. This impressive worldwide organization was started in 1875 in England by a Christian minister to the slums of London where thieves, whores, gamblers and drunks were among his first converts. It’s a matter of provable fact: there is no other religion in all the world that is as generous, loving, caring and other-oriented as the one that started in the back of that two-bit motel a couple of millennium ago because of a little baby named Jesus. ©2011 Ronald D. Ross All Rights Reserved

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Tidbits of Greeley Issue 806  
Tidbits of Greeley Issue 806  

Fun facts and info for the whole family.