Cumberland Times-News

Columns

August 17, 2013

Nobody ever found that sub or the gold

The old saying, “Never give a sucker an even break,” is attributed to W.C. Fields.

I interpret this to mean that some folks will believe just about anything, and they deserve whatever happens to them.

People apparently loved Discovery’s annual Shark Week until the airing of an episode that speculated the Megalodon shark may not be extinct. A Megalodon eats full-grown whales and appears in a photo to be almost as big as a World War II German submarine.

It was fascinating, but the longer it went on, the more I said to myself, “Self, this ain’t real.”

And it wasn’t (the sub photo was faked). The fine print in the closing credits said it was “dramatized,” but added that “legends of giant sharks persist all over the world.”

Some viewers were highly offended that they had been deceived. A spokesman for Discovery replied that it was the “ultimate Shark Week fantasy.”

My feeling is that if educational TV makes people think, it’s doing a good job. I was fine with “Megalodon” until it was rerun a few days later, with the addition of Tweets from viewers who must have thought it was real.

Come on. Is that the best thing you can find to do with your life? Send Tweets that will run across the bottom of the screen on a TV show? The Ghost Adventures crew did a live lockdown that featured on-air Tweets, some of them coming from viewers who said they were scared.

Some time back, Animal Planet network aired a program that suggested mermaids were real. It was so convincing that I wanted to believe it, but of course, it was no more factual than the Megalodon show.

How outraged people were at being fooled by the mermaid show, I don’t remember. However, Animal Planet later aired a sequel that was as dumb as the first show was good.

The Megalodon matter is covered by Goldy’s Rule 146: Few things should be taken seriously; and Rule 146a: Considerable amusement can be derived by observing the confusion or outrage of people who don’t know about Rule 146.

Americans once enjoyed being fooled. P.T. Barnum (who is credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”) got rich doing it.

The newspaper used to run April Fool stories, and it was fun. Our late sports editor J. Suter Kegg concocted them, and Mike Sawyers wrote about a fisherman who caught a sea-going amberjack in Wills Creek.

Some folks actually swallowed this stuff, and most of them loved it when they found out they’d been punked.

I did a column about a Confederate submarine fabricated from wooden beer kegs that was used to hijack a C&O Canal boat and the gold shipment it carried. I said the sub sank somewhere in the canal and was still there, buried in the mud, its contents undisturbed.

A friend called me at home immediately after reading this.

“You (four-word Anglo-Saxonism),” he said, choking with laughter, “you had me going until I turned to the page where you continued the story and all it said was, ‘April Fool!’ ”

Our collective sense of humor appears to have worn off. When I read on the Internet how some folks react to things like the Megalodon and mermaid scams, I just shake my head.

I recently turned to the Discovery Channel and found my new favorite show. Unfortunately, it airs on another network I don’t get, and Discovery was using its reruns to fill time.

“Mountain Monsters” features West Virginians from Pleasants County who search for legendary creatures like Mothman, Devil Dog and Wampus Beast (an enormous cat) that kill pets and livestock and scare the hell out of human beings.

Being a proper West Virginian, I’ve heard of all these monsters and am not inclined to dismiss them as fantasy. Around here, we call it the Wampus Cat. How did it get its name? Probably because somebody said, “Boy, that thing gets a-hold of us, it’ll whomp us good!”

People show the mountain monster hunters cell-phone videos of these beasts, and they build huge traps and go hunting for them with shotguns.

They listened while the Wampus Beast killed a coyote that was screaming in pain, and they caught it in a net that was scratch-built from ropes nearly an inch thick — only it clawed its way out.

This, I said to myself, beats the folks who go hunting for Bigfoot. About the only thing that happens to those people is that they hear growls and something throws rocks at them.

Then they go chasing whatever it is, on foot and in the dark. The West Virginia monster hunters go after their prey through pitch-black woods at full-throttle in four-wheelers, which looks like great fun ... so long as you’re not the one thrown out of the vehicle.

Of course, there is an entertaining Internet debate about the authenticity of Mountain Monsters.

Some people swear it must be real, others swear that it must be made up, and both offer reasons why they’re right and the others are full of what’s left behind after Sasquatch goes to another part of the forest.

I DON’T CARE if it is or is not real, but it’s fun to think that it might be real. Nothing else matters. If you can’t suspend belief or disbelief and be thrilled by a question that has no easy answer, then I feel sorry for you.

I would rather watch Mountain Monsters or the Bigfoot guys than any of that nonsense about spoiled rich girls who have bad tempers, big egos and even bigger bumpers.

Consider also that these creatures (the monsters, not Kim, Khloe and Snooki) have been seen, heard and smelled — sometimes at very close range — by hunters, campers, police officers, loggers, forest rangers and others who are familiar with the woods and everything that is known to live there.

Although I have not seen the Wampus Cat, I once saw its smaller cousin — the black panther-like cat that officially does not reside in these parts. Folks I know who live in the country have seen it, too.

I was in my car at the time. From the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, he stretched nearly across one lane of the road ... and his tail wasn’t even fully unfurled.

I’m a skeptical man. Never having been close enough to see, hear or smell Kim, Khloe or Snooki, I’m tempted to write them off as mythical creatures that were made up for TV.

But I do believe in the Wampus Cat.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Big loophole Big loophole

    How ironic — and how sad — that the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority plans a closed executive session to discuss the open meetings law.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • Build it now Build it now

    Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo