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The story behind 6 of the creepiest  nursery rhyme lines 

Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 1:10 PM

Here's the story behind some creepy nursery rhyme lines "Hey Diddle, Diddle" may be a reference to the scandal between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester “Humpty Dumpty” was a piece of propaganda that passed from town to town as the news of Charles I's defeat The old woman from "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" may have been Queen Caroline or Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston

It's a lucky babe who is sung to sleep with a nursery rhyme, soothing and rhythmic, just like a mother's heartbeat. And the rhymes date back centuries.

Still, "for all their popularity, most of us don't know what the heck we're singing about," noted Emily Frost in Babble. "There was an old lady who lived in a shoe? What!? To make matters worse, we're singing them with children who are at the height of their inquisitive and persistent phase, as in, 'Why? Why? But why?'"

»RELATED: Real-life Humpty Dumpty statue falls off wall

Every now and then, it's refreshing to join the little ones in a good bit of curiosity. 

Before chanting another rhyme about animals who may or may not have any wool or pockets that are full of posies, let's review some lyrics and their origins. Just what do those weird old nursery rhymes mean?

First off, there are the purely bizarre. Kids don't have to grow up and read Alice In Wonderland for outright strange sequences. Not when there's Hey Diddle, Diddle, a nursery rhyme that can be traced back to 1500s England and may be a reference to the scandal between Queen Elizabeth I and her "lap dog," Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester, according to ABC Kids, Inc.

Sure, the diversity of the dish running away with the spoon is admirable, but "The cat and the fiddle / The cow jumped over the moon / The little dog laughed to see such fun," is pretty odd.

Runner-up in this category, definitely is the Three Men in a Tub. There is the obvious question of whether anyone could ever make a solid living as a candlestick maker. And the whole scene of "Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub. And who do you think were there? The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and all jumped out of a rotten potater" conjures up the kind of dream you'd have after too many late-night chili dogs.

It's kind of surprising that Stephen King hasn't based a suspense story on a similar scenario: “Them”, instead of “It”.

Even weirder: the actual story behind the lyrics, according to Albert Jack in Babble.  It dates back to the 15th century and first referred to "maids" in a tub, not men, and most likely alluded to a traveling peep show.

When the nursery rhymes aren't outright acid-trippy, they can still be oddly violent, especially against the background of slumbering babies and their parents sing-song voices. Um, really, "All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again" after his great fall? And while illustrators have long considered Humpty an egg, that's not apparent in the verbal version. Shattering is so uncool!

The historical background does put a positive spin on the death and destruction that modern-day parents can appreciate: "Written in the same vein as “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball” (a song mocking the Nazis that raised the British spirits during the darker days of World War II), “Humpty Dumpty” was a piece of propaganda that passed from town to town as the news of [Charles I's] defeat spread across England and the Parliamentarian troops slowly returned home, teaching even their youngest children to recite the tale of their victory," Jack said.

And that stinking Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe? Had so many children, she didn't know what to do? Surely we're not advocating her approach of giving them all broth without any bread, whipping them all soundly and putting them to bed?

But the reassuring note about the Old Woman nursery rhyme is that it probably related to a good thing: According to ABC Kids, Inc., two famous figures may have been the old woman in the rhyme. One is Queen Caroline, wife to King George II, who had eight children. The other is Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston, who had a total of 16 children, six of her own and 10 adopted. A queen who could produce lots of kids for her monarch (the old "heir and a spare") was a good thing, even if whipping was not.

Rock-a-bye-baby is another that's melodious, and has soothed tykes to sleep by the billions. Probably better not to dwell too long on the lyrics involving, "When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all."

It's just no good to have a baby falling out of a tree, whether or not the chant was written by an American immigrant or back in England, as speculated.

Another disheartening, gray tale that is widely accepted and rarely analyzed: "Old Mother Hubbard." The first few lines from this 1800s rhyme, possibly based on a comic book, are probably all most of us know well:

Old Mother Hubbard/Went to the cupboard/To give the poor dog a bone/When she came there/The cupboard was bare/And so the poor dog had none.

While that's not a sweet message for our tots, the second verse is a real hair raiser:

She went to the baker's/To buy him some bread/When she came back/The dog was dead!

To which we reply, "Yikes."

If you think about it, this might be good training. Today, toddlers can subconsciously absorb lyrics to nursery rhymes like Frere Jaques, and only many years later ponder such questions as, "Would morning bells that are ringing really go 'ding, dang, dong?'" This reasoning process will prepare them not to be alarmed when they start listening to rock and pondering lyrics to, say, American Pie. Or maybe they'll do like they do now: enjoy the bonding and not worry about the words.

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We're not playing: Here's how possums can help your household 

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 10:36 AM

Possums are beneficial as rodent and eaters of carrion Opossums also keep rats and cockroaches at bay by competing with them for food Possums are North America's only marsupials When they're just hanging out, possums constantly groom themselves Don't feed opossums Don't give opossums access to garbage

If you think possums are funny-looking, threatening pests that should be destroyed if they set so much as a paw on your property, you're probably in the majority. However, you are still sorely mistaken.

»RELATED: Here are tips on keeping a snake-free yard

Granted, with their 50 sharp teeth − more than any mammal in North America − and naked tails, possums certainly do look strange, but their other negative qualities are sometimes exaggerated.

Although, a recent report of an opossum breaking into liquor store and getting “drunk as a skunk” doesn’t support the theory of the animal’s positive qualities.

Still, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife attests, in urban areas, possums are beneficial as rodent and eaters of carrion (flesh of dead animal).

Mother Nature Network lauded possums for their pest control attributes, explaining, "Since their diet allows them to indulge on snails, slugs and beetles, they are a welcome addition to the garden. Opossums also keep rats and cockroaches at bay by competing with them for food. In fact, it's common for opossums to kill cockroaches and rats if they find them in their territory."

Not only do they take care of pests, they do so without spreading disease to humans. 

"They are far less of a health risk to you or your children or pets than nearly any other wild animal," according to The National Opossum Society (which is run by human advocates, not the marsupials themselves). 

Even if you can't appreciate a possum's ability to clear the woods of bacteria-laden carrion, the species has other adorable characteristics. Below are some little known tidbits about the critters:

Possum or Opossum?

Technically, the North American animal is called an opossum, while possum refers to a similar Australian species. According to Garner's Modern American Usage, however, the terms are used interchangeably. In fact, "possum" is twice as likely to appear in print and is even more common in speech.

(People Magazine)

Possums are North America's only marsupials

That means the undeveloped young they give birth to just 12 days after breeding then crawl into their mother's pouch and attach to a teat, according to WDFW. When they're 80 or 90 days old, the young start riding on their mother's back, sometimes five or 10 of them, with feet and tail firmly attached to her fur. 

Possums are smart

Sure, they're not so great at looking out for cars, but they have a remarkable memory. According to MNN, when possums were tested for the ability to remember where food is, they scored better than rats, rabbits, cats and even dogs. They can also make their way through a maze more quickly than either rats or cats.

They're clean

When they're just hanging out, possums constantly groom themselves, sort of like house cats, according to WDFW.

Possum tails are cool

Their tails are able to wrap around and grasp tree limbs and can support the animal's full weight for short periods. Contrary to myth, opossums do not hang upside down by their tails when sleeping.

As for "playing possum," that's a real thing

"When threatened, opossums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate," according to MNN. "And when all else fails, they 'play possum' and act as if they are dead. It is an involuntary response (like fainting) rather than a conscious act. They roll over, become stiff, close their eyes (or stare off into space) and bare their teeth as saliva foams around the mouth and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from glands. The catatonic state can last for up to four hours, and has proven effective as a deterrent to predators looking for a hot meal."

How to prevent human-possum conflicts

While you may benefit from possums' pest patrolling skills, that doesn't mean you want them in or around your house. According to WDFW, there are fairly simple ways to prevent possums getting too close.

It recommended these steps:

  • Don't feed opossums. "Opossums that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive when not fed as expected. Artificial feeding also tends to concentrate opossums in a small area; overcrowding can spread diseases and parasites."
  • Don't give opossums access to garbage. Secure your garbage can lids tightly and put them out for pickup in the morning, after possums have returned to their resting areas.
  • Feed dogs and cats inside and keep them indoors at night
  • Clean barbecue grills and grease traps after each use.
  • Install a commercially designed and engineered chimney cap.

And if one of these critters does end up in your house or too close for comfort in the yard, WDFW reminded people that as long as you limit their interactions with your pets, possums are not dangerous. The fish and wildlife experts suggest staying calm if an opossum gets too close. If necessary, homeowners can use a broom to coral possum outside.


For more information,  the National Opossum Society serves as a resource for current and correct diet, medical and general knowledge of opossums. 

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How to keep snakes out of your yard

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 6:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 6:06 PM

Woman Bit By Copperhead Snake At Longhorn Steakhouse

Forget about "Snakes on a Plane," we're more concerned with snakes in the yard. Even though snakes are nowhere near as prevalent as our irrational fears would have us think (assuming you don't live smack dab in the middle of rattlesnake territory), if you're a homeowner with a bit of landscape or yard under your direction, you may encounter snakes on occasion.

» RELATED: It’s the season for snakes: When should you worry?

That should be no biggie, according to experts at the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

"As a general rule, snakes are just as frightened of you as possibly you are of them and often they move as quickly as possible in the other direction," the extension noted. Venomous snake bites are rare and you can readily take steps to treat them. If you're an avid gardener, you may even want snakes in your slice of the great outdoors, since they diet on rodents and insects and can actually help protect you from garden pests.

» RELATED: How Atlantans can identify venomous snakes this summer 

Not buying it? You can try to keep snakes out of your home life. Just understand that even the best measures are not 100 percent foolproof, according to America's Wetland Resources, which is based in the South.

"There are no magic or absolute solutions," AWR asserted. "There are no poisons or repellents that work, though some new 'breakthrough' is occasionally advertised. Horsehair ropes and trails of mothballs have consistently tested negative, and pest control operators have no answers."

But there are still plenty of valid ways to limit, or possibly eliminate, a slithery presence in your yard, garden or home. Here are five tips from the pros on how to keep snakes out of your yard:

Seal crevices. Closer to your home, seal the openings where snakes like to set up house. "Check the clearance of door bottoms, weep holes, openings where pipes enter, cracks and spaces under eaves," AWR recommended. "Don't neglect storerooms and sheds."

AWR added that sealing enough openings to make a difference is much more difficult if you own a raised wooden home.

Lawrenceville approves $253,061 for upgrades to the Lawrenceville Lawn. Courtesy City of Lawrenceville(For the AJC)

Tidy up the yard. Snakes might choose to live on your property or simply travel through, according to AWR. You want to make your property as inhospitable as possible, so concentrate on ridding it of any places snakes would consider good spots to hide. Remove debris, from piles of boards, tin, sticks and leaves to flat boats on the ground and piles of bricks or stone, AWR advised, and keep vegetation cut back.

» RELATED: Snakes are most attracted to these kinds of Atlanta homes

Stop serving the snake's preferred menu. It's a win-win. When you take away potential hiding places for snakes, the spots where rat and mice families like to congregate are also eliminated. But take this one step further, AWR advised, and take further steps to get rid of the rodents that snakes like to snack on. You may want to involve a pest control agent, but you definitely want to practice anti-rodent hygiene, including not leaving pet food out for more than an hour or so, closing trash cans tightly and securing compost in a sealed container.

Combat the climbers. If limbs from a neighbor's yard hang over your fence, snakes may use them as an entry to your place. Consider working with your neighbor to get them trimmed.

» RELATED: Largest venomous snake in U.S. spotted swimming in waters off Florida Keys

Consider the snake-proof fence. If you live in an area where one or more venomous snakes are common, you may want to invest in a snake-proof fence, according to NCSU. "Small areas where children play can be protected from all poisonous and most harmless snakes with a snake-proof fence," it noted. "However, the cost of the fence may make it impractical to protect an entire yard."

Make a fence by burying 1/4-inch mesh wire screening 6 inches underground and building it up 30 inches, instructed NCSU.

"It should slant outward at a 30-degree angle from bottom to top. The supporting stakes must be inside the fence and any gates must fit tightly. Tall vegetation must be removed along the fence, both inside and outside."

It's costly, but you can snake-proof the entire yard with a concrete chain wall that extends six inches or so below the surface, noted AWR. 

» RELATED: Photos: Georgia’s venomous snakes and how to identify them

"If you already have a wooden fence and the boards are very close together, a good solution is to snake-proof the bottom." 

One fairly cheap way is to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut in strips wide enough to overlap the bottom of the fence so it can be tacked securely and extend down into a narrow trench six inches deep.

AWR added another word of caution for either snake-proof fence design (spoiler alert: it's nightmare inducing.) "Many snakes climb by looping over objects and the above described design may virtually eliminate their entry," it noted. "Others, however, can crawl up vertical surfaces if they are rough, such as the trunk of a tree or a brick wall (including the side of a house)."

» RELATED: Veterinarians say snakebites are up among pets

To overcome this creepy climbing capability, you can place a foot-wide ledge made of wood or metal flashing along the outer side at the top. "This structure makes the snakes lean out away from the wall and it will lose its grip and fall."

After all this snake talk, AWR does have one bit of great news. "Snakes are rarely abundant in any one location."

And if all your efforts fail and snakes do make their way into your yard, AWR recommended the ultimate failsafe. 

"The best thing you can do for yourself and family is to teach everyone to respect snakes and to be on the lookout for them," according to the  AWR website. "Remember, don't touch it with your hands. Use a shovel to place the snake in a deep bucket with a cover. The chances of your encountering a venomous species is remote, but possible enough to always by careful!"

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Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 2:39 AM

$550K Lion Gate Estate Takes Internet By Storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner?

No?

You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

>> PHOTO GALLERY: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate

>> See the listing here

"Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's Alex Lauer. "Every aspect of 'Lion Gate Estate' has been articulated with painstaking attention to detail and mind blowing decorative flair. Too many custom features to list!"

Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate. Every aspect of “Lion Gate Estate” has been...

Posted by Alex Lauer - Real Estate One on Thursday, March 15, 2018

And he's not kidding. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, owned by a former automotive designer, is the definition of "extra," with a "Liberace-inspired living room" and "museum-like" interior, Curbed reports

>> Read more trending news 

The listing continues: "Highlights include heated swimming pool with outdoor shower and cabana. Custom two car garage with hand painted automotive murals. Finished basement with billiard room and entertainment area. Fenced in yard with fountains and statuary. Sale includes full contents of the house, including Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano, mint condition Frigidaire kitchen appliances c. 1950. One of a kind custom built 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan, One of a kind custom built 1974 Lincoln Mark IV Coupe, Custom pool table, countless automotive relics and artifacts. Once in a lifetime offering."

But if you want to take a tour, you'd better check the weather forecast first. "Only shown on sunny days," the listing warns.

>> Click here or scroll down to check out some photos of the home

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Vandalia park offers nearly two dozen community garden plots

Published: Saturday, March 10, 2018 @ 7:00 AM


            Residents of Vandalia can participate in the annual Community Garden project using land set aside at Jeffers Park. CONTRIBUTED.
Residents of Vandalia can participate in the annual Community Garden project using land set aside at Jeffers Park. CONTRIBUTED.

VANDALIA – The city of Vandalia will again offer residents a chance to garden even if they don’t have a backyard.

The Vandalia Community Garden is located at Jeffers Park on Halcyon Drive near Interstate 75.

This year’s garden will feature 22 plots of 15 feet by 20 feet that are available to city residents on a first come, first served basis.

“Our Parks and Recreation Department is always looking for ways to better utilize park space and to respond to emerging community needs. We had heard suggestions we try this for a few years before we finally decided to give it a shot,” said Rich Hopkins, Vandalia communications manager

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The first year, the garden offered eight plots, which were claimed quickly. More plots were added along with a water source in the second year.

The program is a low-cost offering for the city, Hopkins said.

“We did have some initial costs in bringing a water source to the park, but beyond that there is not much we need to do. We prepare the plots at the beginning of the year by tilling the dirt, and we check on it regularly through the course of the year, but that’s a part of our routine maintenance,” he said.

Most of the plots are reserved by individuals, although some list friends as “additional authorized gardeners,” said Micki Weber, a city parks and recreation assistant. Among those using a plot in the past was a Girl Scout troop, she said.

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Most participants grow food, but some grow flowers.

The number of plots reserved declined slightly the past couple of years, Weber said. However, some of the returning gardeners will take a second plot when they are available, she said.

Registration packets are available at the Vandalia Recreation Center, 1111 Stonequarry Road. There is a $25 registration fee. The growing season is April 1 through Oct. 31.

“Ultimately, we believe the community gardens are a great option for folks who have more gardening ambition than they do garden space. The plots are fairly large and give people a creative and nurturing outlet for the spring and summer months,” Hopkins said.

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There have been few problems at the gardens during the first six years, he said, noting “isolated incidents” of trampled plans or pilfered vegetables.

Anyone with questions about the Community Garden can contact Weber at (937) 415-2353 or mweber@vandaliaohio.org.

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