June 1992: Dick W. Pirkey Jr., a teacher at Harmony High School in Texas, was fired from his job after a student in his animal husbandry class castrated a pig with his mouth. Pirkey acknowledged that he had described such a procedure to his students, but insisted that the 17-year-old had performed the procedure without his permission and before he could stop it.
Seven months elapsed between the incident and Pirkey's termination. Explaining the delay, the School Superintendent admitted that when the board had first heard about the in-class oral castration they had thought it was a joke and that someone was trying to play a trick on them.
Pirkey appealed his termination, noting that oral castration was described in a state-approved textbook, and that it was also "routinely practiced throughout the state, but not in our locale, and is normally performed on sheep."
However, his firing was ultimately upheld by the State Commissioner of Education who pointed out that instead of stepping in to stop the student from performing the procedure, Pirkey had actually taken pictures of him as he did it. In fact, Pirkey even took a picture of the student "holding the testicle overhead in a victory stance."
"Some board games turn up the tension so high you practically sweat through your clothes. Squatter, an Australian import which brings home the high-stakes world of sheep-herding, is probably not one of them."
Feb. 18 is Elm Farm Ollie Day, commemorating the first flight in a plane by a cow. An article posted over at rootsweb.ancestry.com tells us that Elm Farm Ollie (aka Sunnymede Ollie, Nellie Jay, or Sky Queen) is remembered each year at the dairy festival in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin:
Celebrated as a pasteurized legend of the pasture, Ollie has for 60 years remained the star attraction at the Feb. 18 dairy festival held each year at Mount Horeb, Wisc. In addition to having her praises sung in such works as "The Bovine Cantata in B-Flat Major" (from Madame Butterfat) and the stirring "Owed to Ollie," she has been the subject of stories, cartoons and poems. E. D. Thalinger even painted her portrait for posterity.
A 1930 news-wire story provided details about the historic flight:
Will Milk Cow in Air
Claude M. Sterling, of Parks Air college, will pilot Sunnymede Ollie, Guernsey from Bismarck, Missouri, over the city in a tri-motored Ford.
The cow will be fed and milked and the milk parachuted down in paper containers. A quart of milk will be presented to Colonel Lindbergh when he arrives.
Weighing more than 1000 pounds, the cow will be flown to demonstrate the ability of aircraft. Scientific data will be collected on her behavior.
-The Evening Tribune (Albert Lea, Minn.) - Feb. 18, 1930.
Weirdo was a giant among chickens. He weighed a colossal twenty-three pounds — about four times the size of an average rooster. Throughout much of the 1970s and 80s, he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the heaviest chicken in the world. He was said to have the strength and stamina of an ostrich.
"Grant Sullens holds his prize 23-lb. White Sully rooster. Note the gloves he is wearing for protection. Note also that the photographer stayed on the safe side of the fence." Source: Farm Journal - Nov 1971.
However, Weirdo had a temper and ferocity that matched his size. His violent exploits were legendary. He killed two cats and pecked out the eye of a dog. He routinely tore bits of metal off his feed bucket, demolishing feeders at a rate of one per month. When an ungloved visitor made the mistake of trying to touch him, he removed their fingertip. He shattered the lens of a camera. And, in his crowning achievement, he managed to rip through a wire fence and attacked and killed one of his own sons, an eighteen-pound rooster.
Just as unusual as Weirdo himself was the story of how he came to exist. He was the result of a seven-year chicken-breeding program conducted by a teenage boy, Grant Sullens, of West Point, California. Sullens had decided that he wanted to create a breed of "superchickens," and he actually achieved his goal, succeeding where highly paid poultry researchers had failed.
Ernie Hausen, of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, had one great talent. He could pick the feathers off of chickens really, really fast.
When he started picking chickens, in 1904, it took him a full half hour to defeather one. Since he was paid 5 cents per chicken, he wasn't making much money. Over the years he sped up. By 1922, he won a Chicken Picking Championship by picking his chicken clean in 6 seconds. He topped this in 1939, upping his time to 3.5 seconds. As far as I know, that record stands to this day.
Hausen dips the chickens in 164-degree water, quickly runs his large, powerful fingers across the wings, from the tips inward; does the same with the legs, finally peels the feathers from the back and breast. Suddenly the bird is as bare as a billiard ball.... He tells of picking 1,472 birds in 7 hours and 45 minutes in a contest. -Ithaca Journal - Feb 7, 1946
Julie Baker, owner of Pampered Poultry, is cashing in on the recent fad for keeping chickens as pets. She's selling 500 to 1000 "chicken diapers" every month, for $18 a piece. More info at The Outline:
In wealthy cities like San Francisco, chickens have even become an unlikely status symbol, with poultry owners going to unimaginable lengths to care for their pets. As The Washington Post reported in March, certain chicken owners have hired “chicken whisperers” to consult on their pets’ comfort (to the tune of $225 per hour).
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.