April 8th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 14
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
Revisiting All Fool’s Day
Looking Back
courtesy petmaya.com
The dreaded hot headed naked ice borer
The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year –Mark Twain

Two guys are talking. One has a fly circling around his head. One guy says; “Say, ain’t those the kinda flies you see buzzin’ around the back end of a horse.” The other guy says; “Are you insinuatin’ I’m a horse’s ass?” The first guy says; “No, but you know, you sure can’t fool them flies.”

I’m not sure how many I fooled last week with my bizarre apocalyptic “Winter of the Century” story. Abe Lincoln once said; “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” I sure am curious about how many took this story in as true?

It was just too perfect to have the paper come out on the first day of April. It doesn’t happen very often and one has to abide by the rules of this day, that hoaxes and pranks are okay until noon and then that’s it. For those of you that were taken in, I should clarify that none of the bizarre snow accidents I wrote about occurred.

The name Aprile Pazzo, the midwife who died in a roof slide of snow was so named because her name actually means April Fool in Italian. The Bulgarian immigrant, Loof von Lirpa, is actually April Fools’ spelled backwards with von thrown in to make it less obvious. And the big one, which reader Keith McClary homed in on, was the fact that Huntigowk Day, the name of the kid impaled by an icicle, is in fact the Scottish name for April Fools’ Day.

I grew up expecting this tomfoolery to happen on this day and became somewhat wary of what my mischievous mother, or anyone else, for that matter, would attempt to foist on me. I thought I was on top of it all until 1995.
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As an avid reader of that respected and most informative science magazine Discover, I was gob smacked to read a small article in their April issue about a remarkable little beast profiled as the Hotheaded Naked Ice Borer. Their editor described it as; “A naked mole rat-like creature with a bony growth protruding from its head.” According to the article, this animal had recently been discovered in Antarctica and that bony structure was suffused with tiny blood vessels that would heat it to a temperature high enough to melt through ice. To acquire food, a group of these animals would burrow into the ice underneath suitable prey, and use their heads to melt through. When the animal, usually a penguin, sank helplessly into the slush, the group of Borers would devour it.

What? Are you kidding me? They went on to say all that was found after their attack was the penguin’s feet and beak, which were inedible. It also stated that after much research it was theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," the article was quoted as saying.

I took this magazine to work and showed it to all my co-workers, raving about how remarkable this creature was. After all, this is Discover Magazine, a respected scientific journal that I had been reading for years. Then the May issue came out with a confession by that editor, Tim Folger, about it being a hoax. I was so damn embarrassed that he had taken me down. It was then that I decided that the gloves were off and that I was going to get into this game big time.
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I concocted a few dandy April Fools’ Day stories through the subsequent years but probably the best was a yarn about finding blind cave fish in a warm water cave in Hosmer Mountain near Fernie. I hooked a retired and respected geologist and expert in karst topography (specifically caves) on this one. I did my homework on this “pallid creature with no visible eyes” and used all kinds of speleological terminology like troglobites and troglofiles. I even stated that I had kept it in a zip lock bag, had taken it to Browns Meat Market to have it sealed in plastic wrap and shipped it to a speleologist in Utah for confirmation.
Geologist Dr. Dave McRitchie, who had retired to Fernie specifically to do cave research, contacted me, asking if I would take him to the Hosmer cave. When I confessed it was bogus there was a loud groan on the other end of the phone. Needless to say he was somewhat embarrassed.

Sometimes when you go fishing on this day of fools you can catch a big one. One of the most famous hoaxes caught a whole country full of fish. It was perpetrated by the BBC in 1957 and led Britons to believe that a family in Ticino in Southern Switzerland was harvesting spaghetti from their spaghetti tree. The three-minute broadcast claimed the family was pulling in a bumper crop because of a mild winter and the virtual “disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” Britons, being relatively unfamiliar with spaghetti back then, bought this story hook, line and the station got hundreds of calls from people wondering on how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

So where did all this April tomfoolery come from anyway? Well, it seems it all has to do with Pope Gregory X111 and his ordering of a new calendar (Gregorian) to replace the Julian in 1582. It called for New Year’s day to be celebrated on January 1st. Ancient cultures, including those as varied as the Romans and the Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 21st). Many countries decided to resist this change and held out for centuries, Scotland did until 1660, Germany, Denmark and Norway until 1700 and England until 1752.
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Communication being what it was back then, many people didn’t receive the news for several years. These backward or obstinate folks were referred to as “fools” by the general populace and were subject to some ridicule and often sent on “fool’s errands” or made the butt of practical jokes.

This harassment evolved over the years into a tradition of deliberate deception on April 1st that we all find so delightful.

In Scotland April Fools’ Day is celebrated for two days, the second of which is dedicated to pranks involving the south end of you when you’re walking north. It is called Taily Day and anyone who has ever had a “kick me” sign pinned on their backs will understand what this observance is all about.

As I said earlier, Herald reader Keith McClary clued in on the Huntigowk Day misnomer in my snow job story last week. A gowk is a Scottish term for a cuckoo or a foolish person. Huntigowk is a corruption of the term Hunt the Gowk and it is the April 1st prank scenario that goes something like this. The prankster asks someone to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests help of some sort.
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In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile." The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts yet another person, and sends the victim on to this next person with an identical message, with the same result. And so on..

I wonder how many trips it takes for some ‘gowks” to figure out that they have been had. Reminds me of a prank that was pulled on me in college. I was in a horseshoe-shaped lecture room in which a talk on building materials was being given. From one end of the horseshoe seating the instructor sent along a foot long, three-inch piece of wood decking for each of us to examine. When it came to me, down at the other end, I noticed someone had written in pencil on one side; “How do you keep a Scotsman occupied for 24 hours – over?” So I turned it over and it said exactly the same words. I didn’t react quickly enough and turned it over yet again whereupon the class let out a roar of laughter at my gullibility.
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April 8th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 14
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