All life on Earth is connected in a web. What happens to one species affects what happens to other species. For example, the dodo, a large, turkey-sized bird, is now extinct — there are no living dodos in the world. In 1507, Portuguese sailors discovered the small island of Mauritius in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The dodos lived only on that island, and they were plentiful there, but by 1680, the dodo had become extinct, in part because sailors and settlers killed them, but also because the pigs and monkeys that settlers introduced to the island ate the dodos’ eggs. All that remains of the dodo are a few drawings and paintings, and a skeleton or two. Three centuries after the dodo became extinct, people on Mauritius grew alarmed because there were no young Calvaria trees. In fact, the youngest Calvaria trees were 300 years old. Knowing that the dodo had become extinct 300 years ago, scientists theorized that the seed of the Calvaria tree had to pass through the gut of an animal before it would grow — enzymes in the animal help the seed to germinate. Previously, the dodos had performed that function, but now there were no dodos left and no other animals on the island were big enough to swallow the seeds. Therefore, the scientists fed Calvaria seeds to turkeys, and fortunately, after the seeds had passed through the gut of the turkeys, they began to germinate.
Canadian figure skater Toller Cranston once lived in a house in a very bad part of Toronto. On the street outside his house, prostitutes freely worked their trade. One day, Mr. Cranston’s pet dog, Minkus, an English setter, turned up missing. Mr. Cranston was frantic, and as he searched the neighborhood, he enlisted the help of every prostitute and every street person he could find. He remembers one Danish prostitute telling a john who tried to buy her wares, “I can’t. I’m looking for a dog,” as she teetered down an alley on stiletto heels. Eventually, the dog, which had been stolen, was found, and Mr. Cranston had a cocktail party for all the prostitutes and street people who had helped him in the search. At the party, all the guests — men and women — were on their best behavior, saying, “Can I pass this?” and “Can I wash that?” Even though the house was filled with works of art — Mr. Cranston is an artist and he was a collector — nothing was stolen.
Bob Denver once had a pygmy marmoset as a pet. She was only four inches tall and for food ate a grape a day. On a flight to LA, Mr. Denver put the box containing his pet in the overhead, then a man placed a box in the overhead. Mr. Denver rearranged the boxes so his pet could breathe, then the man rearranged the boxes. Mr. Denver rearranged the boxes again, then the man rearranged the boxes again. Finally, Mr. Denver said, “Listen, I have a tiny monkey in my box. I want to be sure she’s getting air.” The man said, “I’ve got three live Maine lobsters in my box, and I’ve got the same problem.” Fortunately, the two men were able to arrange the boxes in a way satisfactory to both.
Polar bears spend time each autumn on the western edge of Hudson Bay as they wait for the water to freeze solid. The town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, is located there, and polar bears often walk right into town. While polar bears are in the area, none of the townspeople go out at night, and children are escorted to school by police officers to make sure they are safe. Tourists come to Churchill to see the polar bears — they can watch the polar bears from the safety of tundra buggies, which are vehicles the polar bears can’t get into.
Some animals are very good at mimicking human voices. A German woman once got on a train and put a cage in the luggage rack. Later, some other people joined her and started talking to her. During a pause in the conversation, a voice was heard coming from the luggage rack. The other people turned on the German woman and accused her of putting her child in the luggage rack. Smiling, the German woman reached into the luggage rack, took out the cage, and showed the other people the source of the voice — an African grey parrot.
When Irène Curie, the daughter of Nobel Prize-winners Pierre and Marie, was very young, a family friend named Eugénie Feytis took her to a natural science museum, where she saw the tooth of a mastodon. Irène asked Eugénie, “Have you ever seen a mammoth?” Eugénie replied, “No. The beast lived a long time ago.” Irène thought for a moment, and since she wanted an eyewitness account, she said, “Very well. I shall ask GrandPé.” (“GrandPé” was her grandfather.)
President John Adams enjoyed telling a story about a con man who sold flea powder. After some ladies had bought the flea powder, they asked the con man how to use it. He advised them to catch a flea, then pour the powder down its throat, and that would kill the flea. One of the ladies asked, “Since the flea is between your thumb and finger, why not squeeze it to death?” The con man gravely replied, “That would do as well.”
When world-class gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi defected from Romania to the United States, he worked like a dog to earn whatever money — usually very little — he could. Often, he and his wife, Martha, ate a pretzel as their food for the entire day. By the way, they did have a dog. The dog ate better than they did, as Mr. Karolyi would feed him table scraps he had gotten from the restaurant where he worked as a cleaner.
The voice of Chewbacca, a tall, furry character in the Star Wars movies, was created by combining the sounds made by a bear, a lizard, a seal, a tiger, and a walrus.
Basketball player Chris Mullen of the Golden State Warriors certainly loved his dog, Kuma — sometimes he even fixed Kuma hot meals.
© 2016, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved
David Bruce has written lots of collections of anecdotes, plus other books. Take a look at the list here:
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