Well, let’s see. May is the month when you find out that the guy with seniority picked the two vacation weeks you wanted. It’s when you hear the question, “How can a lawnmower that’s been allowed to rest all winter dare to refuse to start in the spring?”
May is bicycle, home improvement and lawnmower tune-up month, as well there’s National Forest Week, when we can ponder trivia such as:
• Canada’s forests contain about eight per cent of the world’s timber resources.
• South America has a greater area of productive forest than Canada.
• Beaver prefer poplar, willow and alder. (They also like lasagna.)
• Dutch elm disease — surprise, surprise — originated in China. The disease probably came to North America in elm logs imported from Europe to the U.S. in the early-’30s. The first Dutch elm infection in Canada was discovered in Quebéc in 1944.
• Splitting wood is easier if the position of knots and grain is considered. It’s also easier if you get someone else to do it.
May 4, 1957 — Here’s a Kentucky Derby moment to remember, although I’m sure Willie Shoemaker would rather forget it. He was riding Gallant Man to a sure victory, thought he had crossed the finish line and stood up victoriously in his stirrups thinking that the race was over. Wrong.
He had confused the 16th pole with the finish line. He sat down quickly in the saddle to continue the race, but the momentary delay was all that Iron Leige needed to squeak by and steal the Derby by a nose.
And while we’re on the subject of the annual May event, horse around with this trivia (answer at end of column):
1. Where is the Derby held?
2. Which horse was the first winner and when?
3. How long is the Derby distance?
4. Name the first horse to win the Triple Crown and when.
5. Which races make up the Triple Crown?
May 14, 1686 — The birthdate of Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit. He invented the mercury thermometer and the temperature measurement system bearing his name — the Gabriel system. Sorry, I mean the Fahrenheit system. Then Cecil Celcius came along and we all became very confused.
May 19, 1889 — It was on this day that the first speeding ticket was issued. Jacob German of New York became the first person arrested for speeding in an automobile. He was clipping along at the outrageous speed of 12 miles per hour. Shocking!
May 21, 1826 - The Red River reached a level estimated to have been twice that of the disastrous flood of 1950. In 1950, the river crested in Winnipeg at 9.2 metres above normal, and as a result 100,000 people were evacuated and 5,000 homes and businesses were damaged at an estimated cost of a $100 million . More recently in 1979, over 10,000 people were evacuated in southern Manitoba before the Red crested at about its 1950 level.
May 23, 1785 — Bi-focal glasses were invented by Benjamin Franklin.
Thanks Ben! Without you, I would be having a heck of a time reading this.
May 24, 1953 — Baseball bufoonery. Dodger hurler Russ Meyer “lost it” when he was pulled from the game by manager Chuck Dressen. As Meyer ranted and raved, he grabbed the resin bag and threw it high in the air. Moments later, the bag came down and hit Dressen squarely on top of the head. A perfect pitch. It was a great baseball moment: the crowd cheered, cameras clicked and bells rang. You had to be there.
May 29, 1912 — The editor of The Ladies Home Journal fired 15 of his women employees for dancing the Turkey Trot during lunch hour. Scandalous!
May 30,1961 — Noah’s Ark weather in Buffalo Gap, Saskatchewan. The town endured one of Canada’s most intense rainstorms ever as 250 millimetres, or 10 inches, sloshed down in just one hour.
1. The Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs, near Louisville.
2. The first horse to win the Derby was Aristitides in 1875.
3. The Derby distance is a mile and a quarter.
4. The first horse to win the Triple Crown was Sir Barton in 1919.
5. The Triple Crown races are: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.