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Coral Reefs & Poppy's Tales


Poppy Swam to America from Ireland

Well that's what he told me and my brother anyway. 

Poppy was my mother's mother's father. When my brother and I were young boys Poppy was living in a small room in my grandmother's house back east. He was bedridden. I'm not actually sure now how old he was then. But my grandmother was born in 1898, so he must have been born in the 1870's in Ireland.

When my mum would drive over to visit her mother, a few towns away, my brother and I would go with her. The best part of the trip for us was visiting with Poppy. Being bedridden didn't stop him from chewing - and spitting - tobacco. But his aim was shot and I don't recall his ever actually getting it into the spittoon across the room from his bed. So our Grammy kept the floor covered with newspapers.

For young boys that was pretty fascinating by itself, but the best part of visiting Poppy was his stories. He had plenty of them. He never ran out. 

Poppy had a long scar on his calf, with cross-hatching along it. Now you might think that this was a cut that got stitched up. Oh no - this was where a sawfish cut him while he was swimming from Ireland to America. 

He taught us how to make paper mache puppets. We saw photos of Poppy when he was an actor on vaudeville. There were pictures of him in various costumes. Before vaudeville he was an actor in Wild Bills Wild West Show. 

He always told me that he was going to buy me a horse so that I could ride over myself to visit him. I knew this could really happen because my mother showed me the horseshoe over the door that had been on the horse that he gave her when she was a little girl. So I started paying a lot of attention to the route my mum took to get to Grandma's so I could do it myself. I wasn't sure how I was going to get across Route 1 though.

These proofs of the fantastic life he had left us with no doubt about his stories. It may have been however, that a few of them were a tad exaggerated. What do you think?

Another favorite (water-related) story was about the time Poppy was on a hunting trip in the wilderness with some friends. They were staying in a cabin on the side of a mountain when a tremendous forest fire swept down the mountain. They were rooted out and forced down the mountain and into a lake to escape the flames. All the animals were likewise driven into the lake. (I'm picturing a scene from Ice Age 2: The Meltdown.) Poppy reported that no one was bothering anyone else that day. The hunters, human and animal - and the hunted - all kept to themselves. There were cougars, deer, partridges, wood rats and all kinds of wildlife - even a couple of bears. This story, like the Wild West Show stories, I believe was true.

But as a young boy every story he told held me in thrall. What a joy for young boys to have the insights into life in a former time - told by a real adventurer. Told by a man who had lived a bigger life than we could imagine. 


Island Stories:  Mutiny on the Bounty - The Sequel

Half of the 1900 inhabitants of Norfolk Island are the descendants of the Bounty mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian. Christian overthrew the tyrannical Captain Bligh and fled to Pitcairn Island with their Tahitian lovers in 1790. Due to overcrowding, the families moved to Norfolk Island in 1856. Many of the people speak their own language, a singsong mix of 18th century English and ancient Tahitian. And the islanders have the only phone book in the world in which people are listed by their nickname, including Cane Toad and Dar Bizziebee.

Norfolk Island is officially a territory of Australia, but has been mostly self-governed. Australia is now trying to take back control of immigration and customs due to security concerns . 

Norfolk was once home to a convict settlement renowned as the most savage in the British Empire. The island now has its own flag, stamps, customs service and international phone code. Lots of the locals are angry with Australia. They say they have no right to interfere because Queen Victoria bequeathed the island to their forebears in 1856. Some islanders believe Australia's real interest is in the rumored deposits of oil and gas.

                                     Thanks to a story by Nick Squires in the Christian Science Monitor

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Water In the News:  Coral Reefs

Global warming is affecting the turquoise reef line off Florida . "Elkhorn and staghorn used to be the dominant species on the Caribbean reef as recently as the early 80's," said Jennifer Moore, a natural resource specialist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which placed coral on the threatened list. "But the species has declined 97 percent since the late 70's."

One issue is the coral bleaching that is occurring with increasing frequency.This is tied to rising ocean temperatures. Vast fields of coral lose their gaudy colors, turn bone-white and die. "Last year was a particularly bad outbreak," said Tyler Smith, a coral biologist at the University of the Virgin Islands . "We lost anywhere from 70 to 100% of our coral to bleaching."

It isn't fully understood what is killing the coral. But another culprit is disease, especially "white diseases," which fleck the coral with pox and bands of deathly white. And there are other stresses including degraded water quality, nutrient runoff from agriculture, human poaching and boating accidents.

Ms. Moore said: "While water temperatures have gone up only a little in recent decades — just a degree or two — it is enough to affect these fragile organisms." They were already living near their temperature maximum, so just a tiny rise can push them over the edge," Ms. Moore said.

   From an article by Rick Lyman

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What Beer on Tap Should Mean

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