by Keith Sutton
My mind is a trash basket. Nearly all of my life, I've found enjoyment prowling the back alleys of knowledge in search of trivial bits of information others might discard as worthless. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you the date when the Magna Carta was signed (or even what it was), but I do know that the first pump-action shotgun was patented in 1882 and that a duck sent aloft in a hot air balloon in 1783 was one of first animal aviators.
Robert Ripley was responsible for my affliction. When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one of his Believe It or Not! books where I could learn amazing things like how "the tail of the porcupine was used by the Crow Indians as a comb" and how a hen in the Marianas "sat on a live hand grenade for 26 days." Later I become a big fan of Jeopardy and learned to hold my own with anyone in a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Somewhere along the way, I started stuffing a shoebox with scraps of trivia torn from the pages of newspapers and magazines. Later, I transferred this collection to a "Weird Stuff" card file, and more recently, much of it found its way into files on my computer. No limit was set on subject matter, but certain strong favorites emerged, including trivia related to hunting and fishing.
And so it is you get to enjoy the following compendium of stimulating information, queer coincidences and strange stories about the world of waterfowling. I've spent years collecting all these amazing facts and hope this avalanche of the irrelevant will surprise, bewilder, intrigue and entertain you as much as it has me. Whether this information has any use at all, I leave to you.
Hunters Who Really Quacked Us Up
Stuttgart, Arkansas, hosted the first World's Championship Duck Calling Contest in 1936. The winner was Thomas E. Walsh of Greenville, Mississippi, who used his voice, rather than a duck call, to imitate the sounds of a mallard hen. His prize for winning first place was a hunting coat valued at $6.60.
It's Raining Ducks!
And speaking of Arkansas, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission reported that workmen were preparing a mobile home for transport near Hot Springs in the fall of 2000 when a thunderstorm blew up. They all felt a mild shock when a lightning bolt lit up the sky, and a few seconds later, ducks began raining down all around them. Apparently the flock of 20 or so birds was struck in mid-air, a rare though not unheard of event.
Web Address Fowl-Up
When the Indiana Department of Natural Resources published its 2003-04 Indiana Hunting and Trapping Guide, it inadvertently directed readers to a website that wasn't what it was quacked up to be. The website was supposed to allow hunters to complete an on-line Harvest Information Program survey. But the correct site address, www.wetland.net, was mistakenly listed as www.wetlands.net. Adding the letter "s" to the URL led surfers to a pornography site with the headline, "The Wetlands, where wives get naked." Almost half a million copies of the booklet had been distributed when the mistake was discovered. Most were retrieved and sent to a women's prison where inmates covered the error using a black marker, a logical task for the Hoosier State's "department of corrections."