Toll Bridge War, eating boogers, pigeon photography, the Jafr alien invasion, wife selling, and Mike the Headless Chicken

Today we will look at the Arab version of War of the Worlds, a chicken that lived for years after being beheaded, the English custom of selling a wife for divorce, the war over the toll bridge at Red River, using pigeons for aerial photography, and eating mucus.

Aerial photography is a hobby of many people, especially as cameras have gotten smaller and means of aviation are more readily available. A friend of mine got some decent snaps of his neighborhood via a helium balloon and an RC helicopter. However, pigeon photography became a fad after it was invented in 1907 by German Julius Neubronner (who probably developed it from message-carrying homing pigeons). As an apothecary (analogue to a pharmacist), he occasionally used pigeons for medication deliveries; he combined his hobby of amateur photography after one of his lost birds returned inexplicably and he wondered where it had been. He dabbled in it for several years, designing and building miniature cameras (weighing about two ounces or seventy grams) with time delay shutters, his 1907 patent application being rejected as impossible until he provided photographic proof, and it fostered some interest at the Paris Air Shows of 1910 and 1911. He had some difficulty in gaining acceptance of the military application, and practical tests proved somewhat difficult. Neubronner's birds did provide reconnaissance at the Battles of Verdun and the Somme, but the army rejected him later. The Germans did revive the pigeon photographer in the late 1930s and used them a bit in World War II, including dogs trained to take and release the birds at a specific location. In 1933, a Swiss watchmaker made a timer mechanism for the cameras, the CIA is reported to have dabbled in it in the 70s, while BBC has done some work with bird photography in 2004.
Some pioneers circa 1910 in Germany.

The Red River Bridge War isn't a war or a battle perse, but a short boundary dispute between Texas and Oklahoma that didn't shed any blood. A private toll bridge carried US routes 69 and 75 over the Red River between Durant, Oklahoma and Denison, Texas for many years when a new bridge was built nearby in 1931. The span was to be free, and financed jointly by Texas and Oklahoma, and a promise to purchase the old toll bridge went unhonored. The private firm sought an injunction on July 10 against the Texas Highway Commission, and Governor Sterling ordered the new bridge blocked at the Texas end. Oklahoma Governor Murray asserted that land on both shores belonged to his state per the Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803, and sent crews to dismantle the barricades. When Texas Rangers were sent to protect and rebuild the barricades, Oklahoma highway crews demolished the approach to the toll bridge and sent National Guardsmen to protect the bridge the next week. The issue was resolved when the Texas state legislature passed an emergency bill, letting the firm sue the state for the money owed, which allowed them to lift the injunction and open the free bridge.

The story of Mike the Headless Chicken is actually fairly well-known. one of the few chain email tales of the 1990s to have truth behind it. Owned by Colorado farmer Lloyd Olsen, Mike was selected to be dinner on September 10, 1945. Olsen's botched axe swing missed the jugular and carotid, but severed Mike's brain above the brain stem, leaving him to heal the wound and remain capable of sustained life. The stem allowed his basic body functions to continue, and he was able to walk and climb around the roost around after adjusting to a new center of balance. Olsen took pity and began feeding Mike milk and water with an eyedropper, and the occasional kernel of corn, by dropping down his throat. His attempts to peck and preen made him a sideshow star, and generated thousands of dollars in income each month (as well as media attention, such as TIME and Life "interviews") until his March 1947 death (from choking) in a Phoenix motel.
Mike, courtesy of miketheheadlesschicken.org.

I think that War of the Worlds is better known for the panic caused by its radio broadcast in 1938 than the story itself. Similarly, the Jafr alien invasion was a story ran by Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad on April 1st, 2010, and likewise caused a bit of a panic. The story claimed that flying saucers landed in the town of Jafr in the middle of the night, the light causing panic, and out came 10-foot creatures and communication disruption. The readers fell hook, line, and sinker for it, and disruption ensued. Children were kept home from school, the mayor prepared to evacuate the 13,000 residents, and a posse of armed men ventured out to the desert to find and kill the aliens. After things quieted down, the newspaper quickly claimed it was an April Fools' joke, probably to prevent a lawsuit. Instead, they were criticized for not picking a British or Egyptian town as the butt of the joke. You can read the original article on Al-Ghad's website, or this Google translation.

As a kid, sometimes I would pick my nose. I'm not ashamed, because every kid does it at some point in their life; I've been known to do it now and again as an adult when I have a cold (in private, or course). However, I refuse to admit that I've ever eaten mucus. Daring each other to eat boogers is a schoolyard prank that I've never indulged in, but some of my classmates would do so for a nickel (or even for the "taste"). However, it seems to be a psychological habit that is fairly universal, and likewise universally deemed unhygienic. However, despite the risks of germ transmission and nosebleeds, some people suggest that it is actually good for you. Supposedly, there are natural antiseptics and antibodies in mucus, with the germs in it being already dead and able to serve much like a vaccine. Others suggest that snot can stimulate B-lymphocytes for an accelerated immune response. Luckily, however, most people consider it a passing phase of growing up, where a child begins to learn about social mores and the exploration of one's own body. Personally, I just want to be able to breathe clearly, and decongestants aren't always effective; but I've never sampled the debris of my own orifices.
What I still don't understand is why this is so common in cars stopped at red lights.

I've mentioned that I am undergoing a divorce at the moment. Had I lived in 18th century England, selling my wife would be a viable alternative. Because divorce was a very pricey method of ending an unhappy marriage, men were known to occasionally publicly auction off the unwanted bride. Though there was never a basis in law for this custom, it seems to refer to an archaic view of wives as property, which some societies have held in both modern and ancient times. Until 1753, marriage in England was not required to be registered or formalized in any way other than mutual agreement (and the age of consent), and thus divorce was equally unceremonious. After the Marriage Act of 1753, suing for divorce in court was prohibitively expensive (cheaper was to pay a conveyancer to draw up a deed of separation, but still costly), and while a man could simply move out and set up a new home with a mistress, he was still responsible for the old wife's support. Some wives often insisted on it, to be free to find a new (or be with the current) lover without the dangers of cuckoldry, and men thusly cheated on would sometimes prefer sale to ecclesiastical suing in order to make a financial gain. By the mid-19th century, it was mostly restricted to the rural lower-class, though prices could still range from a glass of ale up to £100 (roughly $17,000 today). By the early 1830s, it was very poorly considered, and considered an illegitimate method by the 1880s. The last known case was in Leeds in 1913, where police investigated the £1 sale. There is a similar Chinese custom dating back to the Yuan Dynasty from a 14th-century law, but was prohibited by the Communists in the 20th century.
Honestly, I'd be happy to get a beer out of my current matrimonial wreck. I'll be lucky if I don't wind up owing money for her financial irresponsibility.
A french satirical print circa 1820.

That's all for today, dear readers. Happy reading!

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