“Are there really ghosts in ghost towns?” My friend Scamp was worried as we prowled around the abandoned buildings. No silly, it just means the town has been abandoned. It happens when a natural disaster happens such as drought or floods. A war could drive people from an area, or maybe the main business of the town like a mine or manufacturing plant closes. Sometimes a train will stop providing service or a freeway will change the traffic flow and leave a town isolated. The term was popularized when the California Gold Rush of 1849 ended, but there are ghost towns all over the world. Some have been preserved and have become tourist attractions or movie sets. Others have slowly drawn people back to live and work in the area. No need to be a “fraidy cat”, Scamp, we won’t be ghost hunting today. Purrs, Gulliver
After our tour of the State House, there was time for questions. One of the first things I learned was the building is heated by underground hot springs which come from deep in the earth. Idaho is an interesting state with lots of mountains and rivers. We found out that if all the mountains were flattened out, Idaho could be the size of Texas. Idaho is famous for its potatoes, it grows about 20 percent of the nation’s crop, and about 50 percent of McDonald’s french-fries come from Idaho potatoes.
Everyone wanted to know what the word Idaho means. It is actually a made up word! People in Colorado tried the name out first for their territory, but didn’t like it. Then it was used by miners looking for gold in the territory and it stuck. Idaho became a territory in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the bill, then a it became a state in 1890. In 27 years the Idaho Territory had 16 governors, four who never set foot in Idaho! Maybe that was why so many silly laws were passed, because no one was there to say no to the voters. Purrs, Gulliver
I am a law abiding cat, and try hard to stay out of trouble. But it helps to know what the rules are so you don’t break them. I visited the Idaho State House where people make laws for Idaho when I was in Boise. It can be a long and complicated process, but I really enjoyed hearing about laws that might have made sense at one time, but sound silly now. For example, it is against the law for anyone over the age of 88 to ride a motorcycle, and riding a merry-go-round on Sundays is considered a crime. It is against the law to live in a dog house unless you’re a dog. Some cities have their own strange laws. In Pocatello, a person may not be seen in public without a smile on their face. In Tamarack, it is illegal to buy onions after dark without a permit. You also can’t sell chickens after sundown without permission from the Sheriff. Snakes have been banned from biting humans on a Sunday – except when it’s snowing. How do they explain to the snake about human laws? Purrs, Gulliver
Today I am visiting Zulus, a tribe of people who live in South Africa along the coast of the Indian Ocean. They are famous for their basket work. By tradition, Zulu baskets made of dried palm fronds and were plain, with no decoration. Now, the baskets are made with recycled wire and each is unique in shape, pattern, color, weave and size. No two baskets are ever the same, even if made by the same person. The patterns, each with their own meaning, vary from pretty bands to triangles, diamonds, zig-zags, and checkerboard styles. Cats always like baskets to sleep in, I think I will get one for my new bed!
I went camping in some of our national parks last summer. In Bryce Canyon, I had a wonderful time listening to the rangers talks about hoodoos – such a scary sounding name for the tall, odd shaped pillars of rock that are caused by erosion. I loved the moonlight night hikes and stargazing in one of the darkest skies in North America. Even without a telescope, I could see over 7,500 stars, according to the ranger. I didn’t try to count them all, just imagined what it would be like to visit another galaxy. Would it look like ours? Purrs, Gulliver
After Colorado, we headed south to Arizona, stopping at Four Corners, which is the only location in the United States where the borders of four states meet at one point. I had to stretch, but I managed to put a paw in each state – Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Arizona has a lot of “ghost towns” which are abandoned towns where people came to mine minerals, then left when the work was finished. There is even a range of mountains called Superstition Mountains – spooky place!
Arizona is the last state to join the union in the “lower 48” connecting United States. It became the 48th state on February 14, 1912, earning the nickname “The Valentine State”. Arizona is also called the Grand Canyon state, and there is a Native American tribe called the Havasupai Indians who actually live inside the Grand Canyon. It is the only place in the country where mail is still delivered by mule. Purrs, Gulliver
Last year I wrote about the Cholla, or jumping cactus. Another kind of cactus is the Saguaro cactus, called the “old man of the desert”. The Saguaro cactus is the largest cactus found in the U.S. It can grow as high as a five-story building and live to be 150 to 200 years old. But they also grow very slowly. It can take 10 years for a saguaro cactus to reach 1 inch in height. They grow their first arm at the age of 70. Since they live in the desert where rain and water are scarce, they have one root that goes deep into the ground, and more roots are close to the surface to collect water. They can shrink and expand depending on how much water they are holding. After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. Native Americans used these cacti as water containers long before the canteen was available. The Saguaro is only found in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Sonora Mexico. The flower of the cactus is the state flower of Arizona!
Vietnam food is considered very healthy because they use a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish, herbs and rice. Traditionally, each meal has something spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet. While I was visiting Vietnam, I asked what a specialty dish would be, and the chef said “Baby Tiger!” They eat tigers here? No, it is actually cats! If a cat is a pet, it is usually walked on a leash to keep it from disappearing. Potbellied pigs are also kept as pets, where at home pigs are eaten as bacon and pork chops. I started daydreaming about what people eat around the world. People from India revere the cow and would not dream of eating a hamburger made of beef. Before I realized it, the chef was chasing me through the village market, waiving a knife and calling “Here kitty kitty!” Because the Vietnamese language uses different tones to make meanings of a word change to something new, it was hard to understand the chef, but his meaning was clear! Whew, I felt like I barely escaped with my life! Purrs, Gulliver
And here is a comment from one of the teachers:
My kids get such a kick out of Gully’s adventures! The cat-hunting Vietnamese cook had the exact response I hoped for….a discussion of differences, not judgments of cultures. Sushi, Tajin, escargots and nopales were all loved by some and considered really weird by others….but after a talk, we decided it’s a decision, not a judgment. “I don’t like sushi” or “I’ve never had sushi” is different from “Sushi is disgusting”. Thanks again for all you do!
Is your teacher a daredevil? In 1901, for her 63rd birthday, Annie Taylor, a teacher, was the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She survived with only a small cut on her head. A housecat was sent over the falls two days before in the same barrel to make sure the barrel worked ok. The cat also had a head injury, but was ok otherwise. After the journey, Annie Taylor told the press: “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat…. I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall”. No one asked the cat what it thought of the trip, but I would expect a lot of meows were heard! One fifth of all the fresh water in the world lies in the four Upper Great Lakes-Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie. All that water empties into the Niagara River and eventually flows over the falls. Purrs, Gulliver
I’m the King of the Mountain! I got to cross the Continental Divide, where rivers on the west flow to the Pacific Ocean, and rivers on the east flow to the Atlantic Ocean. The Blackfeet tribes originally settled Glacier National Park, and still consider this place sacred to this day. They call it “The Backbone of the World”. I took a bus on the Going to the Sun Road to Lake McDonald, and saw glaciers. A glacier forms when more snow falls each winter than melts the next summer. The addition of snow above presses down on the layers below, and makes them into ice. This ice will move down a mountain, making peaks, canyons and valleys. It is a beautiful place!