Imaginary creature wanders the mountainside

Sunday, December 9, 2012

By Gary Clothier

Question: Have you ever heard of an imaginary animal that has longer legs on one side of its body so it can easily walk on steep slopes?

K.K.J., Malvern, Ark.

Answer: In some areas of North America, the legendary creature is known as a sidehill gouger. In Vermont, you would be talking about the wampahoofus. The first mention of these creatures in America dates to the mid-1800s. In parts of Europe, there are legends of the gyascutus and the dahu. The creature is variously known as a wowser, gudaphro, hunkus, prock and gwinter.

Question: Is there a time frame for the Old West?

C.L., Bennington, Vt.

Answer: No. The time period of the Old West is vague, though it's generally thought to be the latter part of the 1800s, possibly after the Civil War to the turn of the century.

Question: Who was the first athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties?

K.R., Indianola, Iowa

Michael Jordan

Answer: New York Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig was the first athlete on a Wheaties box, appearing in 1934. The first image on the box was that of fictional character Jack Armstrong, "All-American Boy," who appeared earlier in 1934. Later that year, the first female depicted was aviator Elinor Smith.

For the following 24 years, the pictures appeared on the side of the box. It wasn't until 1958 that pictures were featured on the front -- Olympic pole vaulter Rob Richards had that honor. By the way, basketball superstar Michael Jordan has been on the Wheaties box a record 18 times; golfer Tiger Woods has appeared 14 times.

Question: When a person is drugged by putting something in his drink, why is it called a "Mickey Finn"?

J.W.J., Minersville, Pa.

Answer: No one knows for sure, but one popular explanation involves a former bartender. The term "Mickey Finn" originated at a Chicago bar called the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant, where a man named Mickey Finn worked. He had a practice of drugging his patrons with chloral hydrate and robbing them. Before becoming a manager of the Lone Star Saloon, Finn was a known pickpocket who usually victimized drunks coming out of bars and saloons. The Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant was open from 1896 to 1903.

Tony Bennett

Question: Is singer Tony Bennett married? Does he have any children?

H.B., Alturas, Ga.

Answer: Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born Aug. 3, 1926, in Astoria, N.Y.

In 1952, Bennett married Patricia Beech. Several thousand women dressed in black and gathered outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City in mock mourning of his marriage. The couple had two sons, D'Andrea (Danny) and Daegal. They separated in 1965 and divorced in 1971. Bennett married Sandra Grant in 1971. They had two daughters, Joanna and Antonia. They separated in 1979 and divorced in 2007. In 2007, Bennett married Susan Crow.

Question: Has any American president ever been a prisoner of war?

R.B., Spring Hill, Fla.

Answer: Yes. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, was a prisoner of war. Jackson was 13 when he joined the South Carolina militia to serve as a courier in the Revolutionary War.

In 1779, the British captured him. When Jackson refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the officer slashed at him with a sword, leaving scars on his left hand and head, as well as an intense hatred for the British.

Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson was born in 1767 and died at the Hermitage in Nashville, Tenn., in 1845.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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