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February 18 is Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplane Day

Today is Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplane Day.  This self-explanatory holiday commemorates the first documented flight of a cow. (It’s possible one snuck aboard an earlier flight disguised as a businessman but we can’t confirm it.) On February 18, 1930, a cow known as Nellie Jay to locals in Bismarck, MO (then Elm Farm Ollie to fans of bovine aeronautics), boarded a plane bound for the International Aviation Exhibition in St. Louis, Missouri.cow milked while flying in airplane day

Legend has it that the Guernsey cow was chosen for her high milk production: she required milking three times a day for a total of 24 quarts. She also was selected because of her docile, agreeable nature; loading a half-ton cow onto a plane was difficult enough without adding a surly disposition into the mix.

She was helped onto the Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, accompanied by Wisconsin native Elsworth W. Bunce, who would soon become the first man to milk a cow in flight. (It’s never been attempted during space flight, perhaps because of the potentially catastrophic effect of quarts of milk droplets in zero gravity.)

The feat was supposedly done to allow scientists to observe mid-air effects on animals.  A St. Louis newspaper stated the flight would “blaze a trail for the transportation of livestock by air.” However, there is no evidence of a scientist being onboard.

As a publicity stunt, it gained epic proportions. Nellie Jay produced 24 quarts of milk, which were packaged into paper cartons and parachuted to spectators who’d gathered along the route to watch the historic flight. Charles Lindbergh reportedly drank a glass of it.

There are a few minor problems with this story which has been, ahem, milked for all it’s worth in books, on historical websites and blogs. First, the trip was only 72 miles long. The Ford Tri-Motor has a normal cruising speed of 90 miles per hour. We know the cow was a statistical outlier for her ability to produce 24 quarts per day, but how could it produce that in such a short flight?

Maybe the plane just flew back and forth on the run or circled around for hours so there would be more time for her to do her thing? The Ford Tri-Motor can carry a total of 345 gallons of fuel. At cruising speed, the fuel burns at up to 75 gallons per hour. The tanks would be dry in a little over 4.5 hours, still not enough time for Nellie Jay. It would have required a mid-air refueling.

St. Louis weather in February 1930 ranged from a low of 20° to 81° Fahrenheit, so it’s possible that people would have gathered outside to watch aviation history and get the chance to drink some warm sky milk. But we can’t find any news source that publicized the route. And again, we’re stuck with the implausibility of the airborne cow expressing milk at such a high rate.

And the stuff about Lindbergh? He could have been there. We’ll let you know once we’ve combed through every biography of the aviator for news of his participation in dairy history. Until then, we have the photo of Nellie Jay aka Elm Farm Ollie about to board the plane. After her flight, she was also called Sky Queen. One more and she could have had a name for each of her four stomachs. She lived to be ten but her fame lives on.

Have a happy Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplane Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

National Champion Crab Races Day

Today is National Champion Crab Races Day. How did it get its start?

There’s only one Kentucky Derby, there’s only one Indy 500, and there’s only one crab race – the NCRA.”

So says Jim Morgan, who founded the National Crab Racing Association (NCRA) in 1979. His first act was to appoint himself “Commissioner for Life,” preventing the possibility of being voted out, a problem which plagues other sports.

Next, he went looking for a few good crabs. For six months, he scoured Florida for world-class racers, to no avail. Fate intervened one day on a beach in Siesta Key where he struck up a conversation with the head of Florida Marine Research (FMR), the number one importer of hermit crabs in the world.  Thirty-seven years later,  their business relationship is still going strong.

national champion crab races day

FMR crabs in designer shells

Crabs with the most potential are put through a rigorous training program to develop discipline, skill and a winning attitude. As with all athletes, only the most outstanding racers make the cut.

Crabs with the right stuff join the roster of the official racing circuit. Each year one champion receives the prestigious Morgan Trophy, the NCRA equivalent of college football’s Heisman Trophy.

A racer’s professional career lasts only six months; it’s a physically demanding sport. After retirement, they are adopted by good families to live out their lives in comfort.

Crabs in captivity may live only one year but with regular activity, other crabs to socialize with, and a visually stimulating “crabitat,” can live up to 20 years. See Hermit Crabs for Dummies to learn more.

Since 1979, the NCRA has toured the USA and Canada. (Quarantine laws prevent travel for overseas competitions.) It hosts many races at fairs, festivals, seafood restaurants and corporate events. Check its schedule at crabrace.com.

Have a happy National Champion Crab Races Day! And don’t keep it to yourself—that would be shellfish.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Do a Grouch a Favor Day

Today is Do a Grouch a Favor Day. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives this definition of grouch:

Noun /ˈgrau̇ch/: A habitually irritable or complaining person

Origin: probably alteration of grutch grudge; from Middle English grucche, grugge, from grucchen

First Known Use: circa 1895

Synonyms: bear, bellyacher, complainer, crab, crank, croaker, crosspatch, curmudgeon,fusser, griper, grouser, growler, grumbler, grump, murmurer, mutterer, sourpuss, whiner

It defines favor as a kind or helpful act that you do for someone. Today is the day to look around for a grouch. They’re everywhere; sometimes you’ll even find one in the mirror.

do a grouch a favor day

Now, do something nice for that grouch: give up your place in line, reach something down from a high shelf, hold a door open. Don’t expect to melt a grouch’s heart in one day. With any luck, you could start a thaw. The only way to guarantee results? Try doing it every day. But whatever you do, don’t explain why you’re doing a kindness and never, ever use the word grouch!

Have a happy Do a Grouch a Favor Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

February 14 is National Ferris Wheel Day

Today is National Ferris Wheel Day, a holiday that celebrates the birth of George Washington Gale Ferris on February 14, 1859. At age 33, he designed the first Ferris Wheel, which was introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

national ferris wheel day

The exhibition was also known as the Chicago World’s Fair and commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the New World. It was one year late but, considering that Columbus actually landed on an island in the Caribbean, thought he was in Asia and never set foot on what would become the United States, maybe we should let it slide.

national ferris wheel day

The Ferris Wheel was America’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, the jewel of the 1889 Paris Exposition. When completed, the ride stood 264feet high, with a circumference of 825 feet, and had 36 cars, each 24 feet long, 13 feet wide and 10 feet high, weighing 26,000 pounds. Screens were fitted over the glass windows on each side. Doors locked securely; firefighting equipment was included. Conductors rode in each car to answer questions and allay fears.

Cars held up to 60 passengers at a time, with a total capacity of 2,160. It took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions, stopping at six platforms to admit and unload passengers then making a nine-minute nonstop rotation. A guard was posted on each platform to signal the operator when it was safe to resume.

national ferris wheel day

The Ferris Wheel opened on June 21, 1893, carrying up to 38,000 passengers daily. A ticket cost 50¢. More than 1.4 million people rode it over the next 19 weeks. On clear days, it was possible to see the fairgrounds, the surrounding city and countryside of four neighboring states. Three thousand of Edison’s new lightbulbs mounted on the wheel made it a spectacle at night as well. The ride had a perfect safety record.

national ferris wheel day

After the fair closed, George Ferris became convinced he’d been cheated out of his share of the reported $750,000 profits the ride earned for exhibition management. His investors and suppliers pursued him for nonpayment. He was also sued by makers of similar “pleasure wheels” for patent infringement. He spent the next two years embroiled in litigation.

Although he eventually proved himself to be his ride’s rightful inventor, the efforts took an emotional and physical toll on him. In 1895, instead of selling the wheel to an amusement park like Coney Island, Ferris paid to have it dismantled and rebuilt in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, hoping to earn a profit from ticket sales. The venture was a failure.

In what would prove to be his last attempt to pay debts, he sold most of his interest in the business he’d built, G.W.G. Ferris & Company, to his partners. He died of typhoid fever on November 22, 1896, at the age of 37. After his death, it was revealed that he was bankrupt and his wife had left him the year before.

On June 3, 1903, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Ferris Wheel, with $400,000 in outstanding debts, had been sold at auction for $1,800 to a wrecking company called Old Truck, which took it down and reassembled it for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s estimated to have carried 2.5 million passengers from its inaugural day in 1893 through its last day of operation in 1904.

In 1906, with neighbors complaining about the eyesore that remained, the Ferris Wheel was reduced to rubble with dynamite. Demolition experts had to use twice the amount of TNT they thought would get the job done. The first 100 pounds brought down the wheel but didn’t destroy the foundation. Workers drilled holes into the concrete and dropped in 100 pounds’ worth of dynamite sticks. What was left was hauled away as scrap.

national ferris wheel day

national ferris wheel day

Perhaps what we should remember about Ferris are his contributions as an engineer to the modern usage of steel in building construction and the experience he gave to millions. As journalist Robert Graves reported in 1893, “It is an indescribable sensation, that of revolving through such a vast orbit in a bird cage.”

Happy National Ferris Wheel Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays