The Long Way

On Sept. 19, 1927, a bedraggled woman arrived at a telegraph maintenance cabin in British Columbia. The operator, Bill Blackstock, fed her and asked where she was going. “Siberia,” she said.

Her name was Lillian Alling, and she had crossed the continent on foot since entering Canada at Niagara Falls the previous year. She said she had emigrated from Russia to New York City, where she had worked as a maid but found herself unhappy there. She had decided to return to Russia, but realized it would be impossible to save enough for a steamer ticket. After consulting a map of North America in a public library, she had resolved to walk home.

Fearing for her safety in the Yukon winter, Provincial Police constable George Wyman contrived to charge her with vagrancy. “I was so surprised to see that woman there,” he told journalist Donald Stainsby. “She was so scantily clad and had no firearms or anything to see her through that country. She was about five foot five and thin as a wisp. When I first saw her, she was wearing running shoes. She had a knapsack with a half-dozen sandwiches in it, some tea and some other odds and ends, a comb and personal effects, but no makeup. I had a time getting her name; she wasn’t going to say anything to anybody. But I finally got it, and when she said she was going to Siberia, I couldn’t say anything. I thought she was out of her mind.”

Alling was released from prison by early November and resumed her journey. She reached Nome in 1929 and headed west, having covered more than 6,000 miles in less than three years. Her trail disappears there, but there’s an intriguing postscript: When True West magazine published an article about Alling in 1972, an Arthur F. Elmore of Lincoln, Calif., wrote to say that a Russian friend of his had grown up across the Bering Strait from Wales, Alaska. In the autumn of 1930, while on an errand for his mother, he had noticed three officials questioning a woman accompanied by three Eskimos:

“He remembered the woman telling the officials she had come from America where she said she had been unable to make a living or make friends. … She said she had had to walk ‘a terrible long way because no one would lift as much as a finger to help me in any way because they didn’t want to — or couldn’t understand — my feelings. I tried to make friends at first, but everyone wanted no part of me — as a foreigner — and that so deeply hurt me I couldn’t bear it and so I began to walk. I knew it was far and it would be hard but I had to do it even if no one understood. And I did it!'”

(From Susan Smith-Josephy’s monograph Lillian Alling: The Journey Home, 2011.)

Calendar Trouble

From Sam Loyd:

Two children, who were all tangled up in their reckoning of the days of the week, paused on their way to school to straighten matters out.

“When the day after tomorrow is yesterday,” said Priscilla, “then ‘today’ will be as far from Sunday as that day was which was ‘today’ when the day before yesterday was tomorrow!”

On which day of the week did this puzzling prattle occur?

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Unquote

“The animal needing something knows how much it needs, the man does not.” — Democritus

Like Father, Like Son

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Hoover_Dam_01.jpg

The first person to die in the construction of the Hoover Dam was J.G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned in the Colorado River on Dec. 20, 1922. Thirteen years later, to the day, his son Patrick became the last man to die when he fell from one of the intake towers.

The first conscript in World War II was the son of the first conscript in World War I. Alden C. Flagg Jr., of Boston, held the first number drawn in the U.S. peacetime draft lottery of 1940. His father, Alden C. Flagg, had drawn the first number in the draft of 1917.

Crime Story

Six boys are accused of stealing apples. Exactly two are guilty. Which two? When the boys are questioned, Harry names Charlie and George, James names Donald and Tom, Donald names Tom and Charlie, George names Harry and Charlie, and Charlie names Donald and James. Tom can’t be found. Four of the boys who were questioned named one guilty boy correctly and one incorrectly, and the fifth lied outright. Who stole the apples?

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Playing With Food

A group of four missionaries are on one side of a river, and four cannibals are on the other side. The two groups would like to exchange places, but there’s only one rowboat, and it holds only three people, and only one missionary and one cannibal know how to row, and the cannibals will overpower the missionaries as soon as they outnumber them, either on land or in the boat. Can the crossing be accomplished?

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High Drama

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Owen_Wister.jpg

When Theodore Roosevelt was reelected president in 1904, his friend Owen Wister, author of The Virginian, sent him a congratulatory telegram:

RICHARD THIRD ACT ONE SCENE ONE LINES ONE AND TWO

The lines read “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

Roosevelt spent the next four years fighting a recalcitrant Senate and House. As he was leaving office he received another wire from Wister:

ROMEO AND JULIET ACT THREE SCENE ONE LINE THREE PRECEDING MERCUTIO’S EXIT

The line is “A plague o’ both your houses!”

War Games

In 1916 British movie houses thrilled to The Battle of the Somme, which depicted actual fighting in the trenches of France as it unfolded that summer. At the visual climax of the film (30:33 in the video above), the British Army goes “over the top,” climbing over the parapet and losing a number of soldiers as it advances on the German position.

“Oh God, they’re dead!” cried a woman in the audience. The Dean of Durham entered “a protest against an entertainment which wounds the heart and violates the very sanctity of bereavement.” And H. Rider Haggard wrote, “[I]t does give a wonderful idea of the fighting … The most impressive [picture] to my mind is that of a regiment scrambling out of a trench to charge and of the one man who slides back shot dead. There is something appalling about the instantaneous change from fierce activity to supine death … War has always been dreadful, but never, I suppose, more dreadful than today.”

Unfortunately, six years later a panel of experts pronounced the sequence a fake. The troops are not carrying heavy equipment, the grass is lush, and the trenches are open to sniper fire and unprotected against artillery, and, most telling, the camera positions would have been dangerously exposed to enemy fire if this footage were authentic. It appears that cameraman Geoffrey Malins had staged certain crucial scenes for the sake of the drama.

Malins had profited from the film’s notoriety with a book called How I Filmed the War in 1920. This came back to bite him: Another cameraman later described meeting a soldier who had “died” for Malins in a trench well behind the lines.

(Roger Smither, “‘A Wonderful Idea of the Fighting': The Question of Fakes in ‘The Battle of the Somme’,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television, 13:2 [June 1993], 149)

Wash and Carry

https://www.google.com/patents/US185372

This is admirably simple: In 1876 Ethelbert Watts invented a portmanteau that doubles as a bathtub:

“The object of my invention is to provide a portmanteau, valise, traveling-bag, or other equivalent article used for the transportation of clothing, which shall be convertible into a bath-tub, so as to afford travelers in places where such conveniences are wanting the luxury or comfort of bodily ablution.

“Articles of clothing, &c., may be packed and carried in it as in any portmanteau or equivalent device. When it is desired to use it as a bath-tub the portmanteau is opened, as shown in Fig. 1, and the contents removed. Water is then poured in, when a bath may be enjoyed, as in a permanent tub or fixture. When the bath is over, the water is poured or dipped out, the interior dried by any suitable means, and the device is again ready for use as a portmanteau.”

Black and White

loyd chess problem

By Sam Loyd. White to mate in two moves.

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