A monkey wrench

mullet over

– Most beluga whales (white whales) molt, typically in July. Not all cetaceans molt. Orcas (killer whales) shed their skins, but not necessarily on an annual basis.

– It is fairly common knowledge that Seattle is the United States metropolis that experiences the highest average rainfall measurements. Ol’ Common Knowledge takes another hit. Meteorological records indicate that Mobile, Alabama is the rainiest city in our country. Hawaii is the rainiest state in the Union (about 64 inches per annum).

– As a youth, I recall seeing strange birds on the Texas High Plains dubbed “curlews.” The long-billed (bills as much as 8 inches in length) hunter would poke the soft prairie sod after our infrequent rains and pull earthworms out of the ground.  I was amazed to discover that the curlews are shore birds that primarily use those skinny beaks to capture shrimp and crabs in ocean-side mud flats. The Numenius americanus I observed were simply in transit to distant shoreline feeding grounds.

– Speaking of birds – we have mockingbirds in South Texas that mimic the songs/calls of other avian species. However, it is generally agreed that the champion song copier in the bird world would have to be the lyrebirds of Eastern Australia. Included in their repertoires are tunes that imitate car alarms, camera clicks, and that annoying backup-beeping one hears from trucks in reverse. Perhaps most impressive are mimicked songs thought to have been learned from settlers more than 100 years ago.

–  One last birdie narrative: Ornithologists studying black-throated magpie-jays have discovered that this species is quite intelligent. These birds can recognize their own images in mirrors and photographs (so say those bird-studiers). Subsequent to some New Year’s events, I would have difficulty matching those recognition feats.

– The adjustable tool known as a monkey wrench was reportedly first used on horse-drawn coaches. It was invented in the United Kingdom in the 1700’s. A later improvement on the device had a flexible bolt-gripping region and was called a Stillson wrench. The Stillson (aka “pipe wrench”) was widely used by plumbers because it was effective when grasping round pipes. Two urban legends have long circulated in reference to monkey wrenches. Most famous falsehood is that the name was actually Moncky (or Moncke) Wrench named after its inventor Charles Moncky (Moncke). Not true. The other story says that famous Boxer Jack Johnson invented the tool. This tale also lacks validity. The monkey wrench was in use approximately 100 years before Jack Johnson was born. Well, keep an umbrella accessible when in Mobile – and have a great week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at jkwhite46@gmail.com.

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