Because today is April Fool's Day it seems like a good time to fool the readers by diverting from local history long enough to look at some silly trivia.
Perhaps it is not so silly that in the first year of a second millennium, A.D.1001, no wars were started and no major historical events took place.
However, those were the days when Lief Ericson, son of Eric the Red, is supposed to have discovered the American continent and landed at Nova Scotia, setting up a Norse colony. It was also the time when the Mayan civilization reached its peak in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
The ancient people living in Peru developed potatoes and corn. Also at that time, mathematicians of India recognized the importance of zero, and the Chinese perfected their invention of gunpowder. The latter promised that rumors of war would soon reappear.
Closer to home, I am sure you want to know why old folks apparently have big ears. A researcher, James Heathcote, and several other doctors from Kent, England measured the length of the ear from lobe to ear top in 206 patients, male and female, between the ages of 30 and 93. After accounting for natural variations in ear size and earring weight, the doctors found that ears grow about .0087 inch a year. That is about half an inch over 50 years. As to why ears keep growing, the doctors speculated that it is because of the difference between cartilage and bone. Bones grow at puberty and then stop growing. Cartilage, of which the ears are made, continues to grow. Noses are mostly cartilage also, so how about that old nose? It gets bigger too.
Here's a little diversion for us April Fools. From a book by Glen Clift on "Kentucky Marriages" we learn (on page 66) that on June 11, 1831, Moses Alexander, 93, was married to Mrs. Francis Tompkins, aged 105. They were married in Bath, Steuben County, New York, and "they were both taken out of bed dead the next morning."
Turning from our aging process to romance, the lady's fan had a language of its own. In fact, communication across a crowded room was a primary reason to carry the fan. In her left hand it meant she wished to make your acquaintance. If she twirled it the gentleman knew he was signaled to make himself scarce. A lady fanning herself slowly was not simply a relief from the heat but signaled, "I am married." To stop fanning and hold the fan in front of her face with the right hand was the signal to follow her. If however she knew someone was on to their plan and the tryst was doomed to failure, she would subtly draw the fan across her forehead. So, don't take the use of those old-time fans too lightly.
A book on "Cornish Folklore" informs us that "if an unmarried woman's garter loosens when she is walking her sweetheart is thinking of her." Not many of those to loosen any more. And the Charlotte County (Florida) Genealogical Society tells us that a child born in less than nine months from the time of the marriage of its parents was referred to in the old records as an "engagement child." Most of us have middle names, and it is interesting to know middle names were at one time illegal. Old English law proclaimed "a man cannot have two names at baptism." An exception was made for royal personages. When the Mayflower sailed for America there was not a single man or woman on board who had a middle name. Even a century ago double names were uncommon. Sometimes combining names, such as Annamaria, circumvented this taboo.
In England the law against middle names was ignored when a son inherited an estate through his mother. He would be given her maiden name as a middle name. The practice is still often followed in America, giving the mother's maiden name to the eldest son. That was my case, having been proudly bestowed with the middle name of my maternal grandparents, Coleman. However, there was no estate to inherit. Are you game for more foolishness on this April Fool's day? How about the discovery that age influences the memories sparked by our olfactory sense. People born before 1930 found that fragrances from nature were most evocative in recalling childhood memories. These included pine, hay, horses, sea air, and meadows. People born after 1930 were more likely to become nostalgic over food odors and synthetic smells. The younger they are the more likely their memories are triggered by the synthetic.
Among people 20 to 30 years old the sentimental smells came from crayons, men's cologne, chlorine, window cleaner, motor oil and car exhaust.
Of course all this had its regional aspects as well. People who grew up on the East Coast were more likely to say that the smell of flowers evoked memories of childhood. Those from the Midwest mentioned farm animals. Southerners referred to fresh air. West Coast people cited cooked or barbecued meat. The most common odor to trigger childhood memory -- 85 percent -- was the smell of fresh-baked bread. Let's go for one more bit of foolish trivia. A 30-year study in New Mexico reports that eating chiles is addictive. It seems that the stuff making a chile hot, called capsaicin, causes the body to release endorphins -- those well-known natural painkillers and goose-bump producers that are so healthy for us.
Without going into the long scientific process by which they discovered all this, the fact is people often crave pain producing foods. One student, for example, was given five jalapenos to eat. Within minutes sweat was running off his nose and chin. His eyes and nose were runny. However, the endorphins kicked in and this chile junkie was in seventh heaven. Have a happy April Fool's day, ruminating on all this important information.