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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Legends of the Trees

During a recent weeding session, I ran across an obscure little book titled Legends of Famous Trees. Published in 1963, this is an older book, but it’s filled with all kinds of tidbits about trees, particularly trees with ties to history. Among the trees discussed are trees connected to presidents as well as trees linked to other historical events and people. There’s even a section about odd "freak" trees. Here are some of my favorite entries:

The Forest of Fame
Located in Mount Vernon, Wisconsin, this forest features trees that have been transplanted from the homes of many presidents, famous generals, and important people associated with religion, science, music, and commerce. The forest was started by a University of Wisconsin professor on Arbor Day 1916 when he planted trees from George Washington’s home.

The Tree that Owns Itself
Located near Athens, Georgia, the owner of this tree bequeathed it to itself in a will in the late 19th century. It’s even recorded in the town clerk’s office!  The original tree fell in 1942, but a new tree, known as the Son of the Tree That Owns Itself, was planted on the site of the old in 1946.

Old Moses
One of the largest trees in the world, Old Moses is located near Tule River in California. 240 feet tall with a 12-foot diameter where its top is broken off, it’s named for a nearby mountain and is estimated to be over 4,850 years old. The hollow of its trunk is 111 feet and can supposedly hold 150 people.

“Freak” Trees
Found in many parts of the country, some of these trees have been trained to grow in unusual shapes, while others have always been odd. Some examples include an old elm in Connecticut that grew around a grave stone and the Cannibal Tree in Oregon, a Douglas fir that encloses an oak.

The Courthouse Tower Tree
Trees grow from the top of the tower at the courthouse in Greensburg, Indiana. By the time this book was written, a total of 11 trees had sprouted from the courthouse at various points in time. All but one had been removed at the time of this book’s printing in 1963, and one still grows from the tower today!

Unless you're a hardcore tree enthusiast, I wouldn't count any of these sites as ultimate road trip destinations.  But if you enjoy nature, and you're passing through any of these places on the way to somewhere else, it seems like it'd be worth a side trip to see some trees you can't find in your own backyard.

Harris, Jessie Eubank.  Legends of Famous Trees.  Philadelphia:  Dorrance and Company, 1963.

Old-Timey Superstitions

While researching a recent genealogy question, one of our reference staff came across some interesting tidbits in an old Mississippi newspaper.
Apparently, around 1889, folks believed some pretty crazy things about the cause of certain common ailments. The Fayette Chronicle out of Jefferson County, MS, was good enough to publish these superstitions.
Superstitions About Diseases

Earrings were considered a sure cure for sore eyes.

Fried mice were looked upon as a cure for smallpox.

Ague was frequently treated with spiders and cobwebs. Fright was looked upon as a cure for ague.

Warts, it was averred, could be cured by rubbing bacon on them, the condition being that the bacon would have to be stolen.
Mice seem to have been a popular cure for several centuries. Another reference book, The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, mentions using the blood of a mouse to cure warts. And a lot of folks actually prescribed any manner of cooked mouse-meat to cure any type of ailment.

Of course, we do not advocate the use of any of these cures. Their reprint here is simply for your enjoyment. Makes modern medicine really seem like a miracle, doesn't it?

The Encyclopedia of Superstitions. ed. Christina Hole, Hutchinson & Co.: 1961

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hometown Mississippi: Attala County

This blog post originally appeared 10/24/07.

This post of unusual and unusually acquired place names comes from the great county of Attala in the Brown Loam Soil Area of the state.

Can you pronounce this? The natives say Kah-zee-es-ko. It's even trickier to spell. Many name changes took place before settling on the current one. To try and dignify the little village, settlers first chose Peking. Then the meager village became known as Paris. None of these efforts attracted more settlers, unfortunately, and so it became Kosciusko after Thadeusz Kosciusko, a Polish American Revolution hero (and grandfather to a council member).

The founding family of this settlement, the Temples, got up very early in the morning. No, really. In 1906, the town lost its post office and thus became extinct.

This town first went by the name Yockanookany. It was renamed for the McMillian brothers. Guess that's better than YockaMcMilliannookanyville. Maybe they were going for simplicity.

The name was chosen from a possible list of ten. The postmaster's 5-year-old daughter offered the name Pansy. The post office existed from 1899 to 1912.

This town was settled by Lewis and Frank Pickle, who also began the Pickle Jug Factory on this site. Sadly, Pickletown went the way of the dodo about 1890 (side tidbit: the dodo became extinct in the mid-1600s).

This establishment was so named for a local troublemaker named Herod. Herod, in court for a trial, was referred to by the witnesses as "King Herod." The judge asked, "King of what?" and the witness cried, "King of Possumneck!"(32) The name apparently stuck.

We conclude with four town names starting with the letter "z". These are merely four of the fourteen "z" names in the state:

Originally known as Ayres, the town was named for a Miss Zama Franklin.

Named for Zebediah Guess, uncle of the founder, H.M. Guess.

Named for Zemuly Morgan, wife of the postmaster.

Named for the creek of the same name, Zilpha exists today as a voting precinct.

It can be concluded that the early 20th-century popularity of personal names beginning in "z" directly affected several of the town names in Attala County.
If you buy that conclusion, what would some popular town names be today?

Brieger, James F. Hometown Mississippi, 1980.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Try Wheaties Instead

Over the weekend a meebo patron asked why his doctor advised him against eating grapefruit while on a certain medication. The website for the American Family Physician explains that grapefruit can cause medications to enter your body faster than necessary. This may cause an increased risk of side effects. Please, meebo guest, listen to your doctor and put down the grapefruit.
Here's the link:

Friday, May 21, 2010

General Lee, Dr. Freud, and PlayStation

For the past two years I’ve flirted with the idea of purchasing a video game system. I once had Sid Meir’s Civilization for my then new PlayStation 2 and played it for hours on end. When I turned 25, I decided it was time to put away video games and devote myself to more manly hobbies like playing the banjo and reading The National Review. Eventually though, I started to miss my PlayStation and the hours spent in a TV glow coma. I still haven’t decided whether to buy a system or not, so, naturally, I spent some time searching for counsel in MLC’s stacks.

To get a historical perspective on how a southern man should spend his leisure hours, I went straight to Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. Brown argues the southern notion of honor created the foundation for all institutions, most notably, masculinity. Brown explains a typical southern man spent his down time by gambling, drinking, and fighting.

What’s striking is that the leisure activities of this time were so much more, what’s the word, serious? To die in a game of Mortal Combat is one thing but to get your eye gouged out during a fight is quite another. And, ultimately, that’s why video games are unsatisfactory: they lack the visceral experience of a good eye gouging. Given this, I don’t see Nathaniel B. Forrest getting too worked up over a game of Wii Tennis.

In order to save some time let’s see what Dr. Freud might say about the Xbox360. Freud, of course, does not discuss video games but he does share opinions on why children participate in activities known as “play” (play being a key word here because we do indeed “play” video games rather than “work” them). Freud notes that “children repeat in their play everything that has made a great impression on them in actual life, that they thereby ab-reach the strength of the impression and so to speak make themselves masters of the situation”(643). So, Freud would probably argue the pleasure gained from conquering a video game is an extension of a childish desire to control our lives.

Do I believe this? I’m not sure. All I know is that whenever I have a problem, I peruse the stacks here at MLC to find the answer. After reading Brown and Freud I decided, for now, not purchase a PlayStation. Instead, I’ve decided to grow a beard. Now there’s a decision I know both Freud and General Lee would get behind.

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. London: The Hogarth Press, 1939. p. 643

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Library Links

This blog post originally appeared 10/19/07.

Warning: some of these links are almost unbearably nerdy -- but that's the name of the game here in the Reference Department!

  • If you'd like to see what a day in the life of a librarian is like, play one of these exciting library games.
  • Remember Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist who chronicled 17th-century English life? Read his diary online here.
  • It may have a scandalous name, but Bookslut is a great--if a wee bit irreverent--place to find reviews and discussions of recent books and publishing gossip.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Art Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Last week, a patron called with a question about mud painting and I was off, digging for answers and learning about art along the way. I had never heard of the technique--painting with mud? are you sure?--but after reading about Jimmy Lee Sudduth and talking to Charles Jenkins, I had a different perspective. These two men, along with others who use the "mud method," simply mix mud with other natural ingredients (like berries) and not-so-natural ingredients (like motor oil) to make a new sort of "paint." Here's one of Mr. Sudduth's mud paintings of his dog Toto:

Turns out, the earth figures into art a lot more than you might initially think. Of course, there is pottery, Mississippi itself having a plethora of talented potters. We can even lay claim to George Ohr, the so-called Mad Potter of Biloxi! By the way, did you know that George liked the fact that the first three letters of his name-G-E-O-were the same as his initials-George Edgar Ohr-so much that he starting following the same naming system with his third child?! (

I enjoyed sifting through all that mud to find people becoming downright whimsical and creative. There are shiny balls of mud.  I found furniture made of mud. One of my favorites, I think, are the take-offs off low rider art, in mud. Take a little trip with me, indeed!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hometown Mississippi: Amite County

This blog post originally appeared 10/17/07.

This installment of interesting Mississippi place names comes from Amite County, Mississippi.

Established c. 1891, "Bewelcome...was for many years a wide-awake little village, in which school, church, and singings provided a means of enjoyable recreation" (13).

Busy Corner
Obviously, this place was just a busy corner 10.5 miles from Liberty.

Dot was obviously named for its diminutive size. The postmaster kept all the mail, unsorted, in a dresser drawer. Dot became extinct in 1920 when Postmaster Huff closed his drawer for the last time.

Eleven Mile
The town, which was created in 1903 and became extinct in 1921, was 11 miles to the west of McComb.

Contrary to what you might think, this community derives its name from a local farmer, Thomas P. Street.

As perhaps an apology for her horrible name, Dr. Hiram K. Butler named this settlement after his daughter in 1902.

Brieger, James F. Hometown Mississippi. 1980.

Best Pun Ever.

This blog post originally appeared 10/16/2007.

I just saw this on the AP wire, via The New York Times.

Pa. Woman Accused of Being a Potty Mouth

Published: October 16, 2007
Filed at 5:02 p.m. ET

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) -- Talk about a potty mouth. A Scranton woman who allegedly shouted profanities at her overflowing toilet within earshot of a neighbor was cited for disorderly conduct, authorities said. Dawn Herb could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.

''It doesn't make any sense. I was in my house. It's not like I was outside or drunk,'' Herb told The Times-Tribune of Scranton. ''The toilet was overflowing and leaking down into the kitchen and I was yelling (for my daughter) to get the mop.''

Herb doesn't recall exactly what she said, but she admitted letting more than a few choice words fly near an open bathroom window Thursday night.

Her next-door neighbor, a city police officer who was off-duty at the time, asked her to keep it down, police said. When she continued, the officer called police.

Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia, took issue with the citation.

''You can't prosecute somebody for swearing at a cop or a toilet,'' she said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hometown Mississippi: Alcorn County

This blog post originally appeared 10/11/2007.

Here in the state of Mississippi, we have some interesting place names and sometimes even more interesting origins of those place names. We often use a book called Hometown Mississippi to answer reference questions. Using this resource, we will begin a series on unusual place names of Mississippi.

Alcorn County, MS

Alcorn County is located in the northeast corner of the state and is bordered by Tishomingo Co. to the east, Tennessee to the north, Tippah Co. to the west, and Prentiss Co. to the south. The county was formed in 1870 and named after the Governor of MS at that time, James L. Alcorn.


Corinth started life in 1853 under the name Cross City for the junction of two railroads: the Mobile & Ohio and the Memphis & Charleston. As the town grew, W.E. Gibson, the editor of the local paper, suggested a name change. The name Corinth comes from the city of the same name in Greece.


In the 1830's, this site eight miles to the west of Corinth became the home to a "homely cadaverous looking man by the name of William Powell"(7). Before its destruction during the Civil War, the site became known as Boneyard as a direct result of the physical appearance of its founder.


This little place was established in 1920 and was named for Tom Coke, a farmer who owned the land.


Cuba was formally established in 1880 and was named for the island of Cuba.


Gift was first known as Jones after Uncle Jimmy Jones who built a home there in 1864 and also donated land for the first schoolhouse. A jeweler named J.E. Gift donated an even larger gift of money for the schools. So the settlement's name became gift in the benefactor's honor.


Twelve miles southwest of Corinth, this settlement was named so in 1839 for its high elevation.


This town in the northern part of the county was settled in 1880 by a man named Vince Tapp. Sadly, the town was listed as extinct in 1928.


This settlement is named for an Indian Chieftan and was established in 1859. It's affectionately known as "Sogie".

Until next time...

Brieger, James F. Hometown Mississippi. 1980

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ostrich Egg Special

We just got a really interesting question from a meebo patron. The patron was wondering where they could order some ostrich eggs. I did not find any restaurants here in Jackson that offered ostrich eggs on the menu, but I did find two ostrich ranches that will deliver the eggs to your house. The first is Floeck’s Country Ranch in Tucumcari, New Mexico. The other is Indian Point Ostrich Ranch in California. You can get ostrich eggs and meat from Indian Point. You can also have your kid’s birthday party there, if you’d like.
Lastly, the folks at Floeck’s Country Ranch say that it takes 24 chicken eggs to equal one ostrich egg. I found this hard to believe, until I saw this picture:

That’s a huge egg!

Position Wanted: Engraver, Mississippi, 1900

This blog post originally appeared 10/9/2007.

I was browsing the 1900 U.S. Census's "Occupation" volume -- such is the life of a reference librarian -- and some of the statistics are fascinating.

In Mississippi in 1900, there were:

51 male Architects
0 female Architects

15 male Cigar and tobacco salespersons
2 female Cigar and tobacco salespersons

25 male Butter and cheesemakers
0 female Butter and cheesemakers

0 male Boxmakers (paper)
1 female Boxmaker (paper)

1 male Umbrella and parasol maker
0 female Umbrella and parasol makers

0 male Engravers
0 female Engravers

26 male Office boys
1 female Office boy

1 male Quarryman
0 female Quarrymen

I'm a little confused about how there could be only one quarryman in the state. It must've been a really, really small quarry.

(from Occupations at the 12th Census. U.S. Census Office. 12th Census, 1900.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Laborer Offers To Sell One Eye For Family's Sake."

This blog post originally appeared 10/2/2007.

We mentioned before that we come across some interesting items in doing reference work. A reference staff member came upon this article on the front page of the Wednesday, August 31, 1955 edition of the Clarion-Ledger (which, by the way, cost five cents):

Laborer Offers to Sell One Eye for Family's Sake

ALEXANDRIA, La. August 30. -- A 40-year-old Louisiana man offered today to sell one of his eyes for funds to keep his family of five together.

L.C. Thompson said that he has two good eyes, but that he needs more than the $30 a week he gets at a shaping machine in a box factory where he works.

He said: "I want to sell my eye because I have a large family, and can't find a good paying position here to provide for them in the right way."

Unfortunately, she did not see any follow-up to this story in later issues.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Titles in the Reference Collection

This blog post originally appeared 10/2/2007.

Here are some of the newer titles we've received in the Reference department:

The Book of the States, Volume 39. Lexington, KY: The Council of State Governments, 2007.
  • Provides information on politics, policy, and administration of the 50 states and U.S. Territories.
  • Sample entries: Methods of Nominating Candidates for State Offices; Election Dates for National, State, and Local Elections; State Excise Tax Rates.
Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.
  • Information on the history of hair, including what certain styles reveal about age, gender, religious beliefs, occupation, economics, etc.
  • Sample entries: Liturgical Comb, Mesopotamia, Styling Products, Farrah Fawcett.
Chase's Calendar of Events, 2007. McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  • Provides day-by-day information on various holidays, celebrity birthdays, and historical anniversaries.
  • Sample entry for September 27: It's Ancestor Appreciation Day, the anniversary of the day a letter from "Jack the Ripper" was received by London's Central News Agency (1888; also later believed to be a hoax by a journalist), the anniversary of the Warren Commission Report (1964), along with the birthdays of Wilford Brimley, Shaun Cassidy, and Meat Loaf.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Add A Dash Of Salt And A Pinch Of Meebo

Earlier this afternoon, one of our Meebo patrons asked us to post some information about salt. More precisely, how much salt does it take to make water boil better? I overthought the question (as I am want to do) and learned a lot of stuff about boiling point and so forth which you are more than welcome to read about here or here. I think, though, that our patron may be looking for an answer that is a little more helpful in the kitchen area, which I found over at
Salted water flavors the pasta. A generous amount of salt in the water seasons the pasta internally as it absorbs liquid and swells. The pasta dish may even require less salt overall. For a more complex, interesting flavor, I add 1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt to a large pot of rapidly boiling water. By the way, the claim that salted water cooks food faster (because of its higher boiling temperature) is exaggerated; you're not adding enough salt to raise the temperature more than about 1°F.

I hope this is what you are looking for, Meebo patron, and that all of your pots of water are perfectly salted from now on. Please be sure to let us know if you need more information!


This blog post originally appeared 10/2/2007.
Welcome to the Mississippi Library Commission Reference blog! Reference staff will be posting information on the services we provide, exciting new reference sources, and nuggets of reference knowledge that we glean from our patrons.
MLC is a state agency that has recently opened to the public. While we've always answered reference questions from whoever has asked -- state employees, public libraries, individuals in Mississippi, and patrons from out of state and out of country -- now individuals can visit our beautiful new facility here in Jackson at 3881 Eastwood Drive and get their own MLC library card, providing they are 17+ and are in good standing with any public library in the state. If you have a question, you can email us at or call our Information Desk at 601.432.4492 or 1-877-KWIK-REF.
Speaking of reference nuggets, did you know that cheese was once used as a deadly weapon? According to Fast Answers to Common Questions, "[d]uring a mid-19th century naval battle between Brazil and Uruguay, hard balls of stale Dutch cheese were used by the latter in lieu of cannonballs, which were in short supply during the conflict. Reportedly, two Brazilian sailors were struck and killed by the cheese."

These are the kinds of tidbits that we come across every day in the reference department. If you have a question, email us and we'll get right back to you!

(Fischer, Carolyn A., ed. Fast Answers to Common Questions. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2000. p. 89.)

Hey! Ho! Let's Go! (Retro, That Is.)

Many moons ago, our estimable Reference Leader, Tracy, decided that we needed a blog. I'm fairly certain that our old co-worker Blair and I were not fanatics regarding the idea, but Tracy stuck with it and our blog was born. In that time, we've joined Facebook, Twitter, and Meebo, all in a happy effort to get tasty nuggets out to you, our adoring public! We brought you these tantalizing nuggets for nearly a year before tragedy struck. While we were preparing for the annual Mississippi Library Association Conference in 2008, the blog was deleted! Through the marvels of modern technology (which equates to a little typing and fiddling on my handy-dandy keyboard) we'll be reposting these old gems for your enjoyment over the next month or so. Be sure to look for the original post date in the header or the "old posts" label below!

I can't leave you without one small nugget! Did you know that the punk band The Ramones took their name from Paul McCartney of The Beatles fame? It's true! Apparently, Sir Paul used the name Paul Ramon when The Beatles were a young band on tour. Well, Hey! Ho!

"The Ramones." Contemporary Musicians, Volume 41. Gale Group, 2003. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'll Have Some Codswallop With A Heaping Side Of Meat

Getting new Reference books is a little like Christmas morning. The Historical Encyclopedia of American Business, while an excellent tome, reads more like underwear in your stocking. Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year, however, is the equivalent of a brand new bike hiding behind the tree. This marvelous book details a meal from the past for each and every day of the year. April 2? First Dinner aboard the RMS Titanic in 1912! February 23? Why, the Coronation Feast of Queen Catherine, Westminster Hall in 1421.

On the morning of May 6, 1875, emigrants aboard the SS Prussian settled down to a large breakfast that followed this menu:
  • Spatchcock and mushrooms: According to A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, a spatchcock is a small bird split down the back and flattened before grilling. By the way, if you do the same thing to an eel, it's known as spitchcock.
  • Fried ham and eggs
  • Fried potatoes
  • Mutton chops
  • Minced collops: Slices of meat (I was hoping for something more exotic here.)
  • Dry hash
  • Yarmouth bloaters: I am also disappointed with bloaters, which are nothing more than salted and smoked herrings (Clarkson 295).
  • Fried tripe and onions: The idea of tripe, the stomach of a cow or ox, has always been enough to turn me a pale shade of green, but Menus from History describes it as "the takeout of the nineteenth century" (Clarkson 295). The recommended serving methods include dousing it in a sauce of some sort or frying it in batter or butter. I am assuming that cloaking the tripe makes it more bearable.
  • Devilled kidneys
  • Beef steak and onions
  • Porridge
I'm not sure that I find this particular menu as appealing as Elvis Presley's wedding (May 1!) or Amelia Earhart's meal at the Hotel Grand Preanger in Indonesia (June 21!), but I'm feeling much more disposed towards bloaters now. Tripe anyone?

"tripe" An A-Z of Food and Drink. Ed. John Ayto. Oxford University Press, 2002. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mississippi Library Commission. 6 May 2010

"spatchcock" A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. Ed. David A. Bender. Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mississippi Library Commission. 6 May 2010

"collop" The Oxford Dictionary of English (revised edition). Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mississippi Library Commission. 6 May 2010

Clarkson, Janet. Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2009.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Archie and His Mississippi Friends

Did you know that Mississippi was the subject of one issue of a famous, nationally-published comic book series? Archie Comics Publications occasionally produces custom comics for certain causes. In 1994, literacy in Mississippi became one of those causes when Archie Comics produced a limited edition issue in conjunction with the Bolivar County Literacy Council. Aptly titled Archie and Friends Help Raise Literacy Awareness in Mississippi, the issue was used to help promote literacy in Bolivar County and the state.

The Archie comics were a childhood favorite of mine, and now I know that there’s an entire issue related to Mississippi. How cool is that?
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