Readers 1999

(This column was first published in the January 3, 2000 Buffalo News.)

    I write to thank my 1999 correspondents and to share with all readers a few of their messages.

    Together with a note about watersheds, cartoonist Margaret Shulock of Friendship sent me her 2000 calendar, each month decorated with one of her Gary Larson-like cartoons. It is hard to pick out a favorite but let February suffice: Two woodchucks stand on a snowy hill overlooking a house where a car beside it is half buried in the snow. One woodchuck says to the other, "He came out, kicked his car, said a bad word and went back in. How many more weeks of winter is that?" Note to my editors: I believe that Ms. Shulock's panels would enhance this newspaper's comic page.*

    As expected, my Kansas creationism column drew not only support from local science teachers but fire from the religious right. Rev. Daren Drzymala wrote that I am "another example of a Liberal humanist pushing their philosophy." He went on to present the standard arguments that evolution is only a theory and that " right or man in his limited knowledge is right." He concluded: "We're working to have creationism in the Buffalo schools" and "this is a battle for the minds of our kids." Sadly, I agree with this last comment but I hope that youngsters will be presented evidence and allowed to use those minds. Meanwhile L. W. Jawarski suggested that I read -- as it happens, reread -- Philip Johnson's "Darwinism on Trial," a collection of what I consider baseless nonsense. Since he will doubtless not accept my view, I suggest that Mr. Jawarski read Martin Gardner's responses to Johnson.

    In an August column I pointed out two places where you look south from the United States into Canada, one along the Robert Moses Parkway just east of Niagara Falls, the other in northern Minnesota. Ruth Smalldon of North Tonawanda named a third "in Essex County, Ontario (Windsor, Ontario) where about 30 miles of Canada (east to west) is south of Detroit, Michigan. Since I grew up in Essex County, that was something we all were taught." A check of the map confirms both Ms. Smalldon's point and my geographic limitations.

    My hogweed column drew many responses. Grace Dean sent pictures of this plant invading her East Aurora garden and Dick Rosche noted several colonies in Wyoming County. Shirley Werner thought she might have one of these giants in her Kenmore yard but happily the weed turned out to be a green amaranth.

    Again I received pictures of albinos: Doris Trautman's deer in Clarence and Odo Oliva's sparrow in Lockport. I was especially pleased to hear from Miriam Hill who wrote to tell me that this summer crows left her Buffalo neighborhood and nighthawks returned.

    But in what I judge to be the best of this year's always interesting mail, Maureen Royce wrote to tell me of her experiences during World War II collecting milkweed pods. "I was a small child in the village of Ebenezer," she wrote, "and very interested in the civilian war effort. My mother collected grease, tin cans etc., as did other families.... We were given mesh bags at the town hall and we returned the filled bags proudly. If I recall correctly, the milkweed pods were to be used in the making of life jackets for the servicemen." Indeed they were, Mrs. Royce, because our access to kapok had been severely curtailed by the Japanese. I would like to believe that my own navy life jacket was filled with some of the feathery material you collected.

    Thanks to all for your interest and support. Please continue to write in this bright New Year.-- Gerry Rising

* To gain more information about Ms. Shulock's calendars and art, contact her at R.D.#1, Box 183, Friendship, NY 14739.