Cliffhanger!

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Hey…I was at a meeting last week (all week) and we had HORRIBLE internet and email connectivity while I was there (up in the mountains), so that’s why there were no posts last week.  But, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health (oh, wait a minute – that’s something else!) I’m back!!!!

Today’s picture was taken about three weeks ago at the Grand Canyon.  It was our second day there and we had gone out the east road along the south rim of the park as we’d never been out there before.  On our way back, we stopped at some overlooks that we’d bypassed on our way eastbound.  At one such spot, we found the critter featured in my picture for today.

If you have read my posts for a while, you know I’m terrified of heights.  I mean…T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D.  But here was this little pip-squeak of a rodent, perched on the edge of oblivion, surveying what he probably thinks is his canyon.  The wind was strong and gusty and I think it could have blown this beast over the edge, but he (she? – I didn’t get that close!) didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  As we stood there, it actually turned and lay lengthwise along the very edge!  I don’t know, but I suspect it was demented.

A bit later, we stopped in one of the gift shops and my eye was drawn to the title of a book right beside the check-out stand.  The title was: Over the Edge – Death in Grand Canyon, and it purports to document every known fatality in the Canyon (of course, that can’t possibly be true going way back into history, but it goes back into the 1800’s).  What a FASCINATING read!!!  People have drown (of course), fallen over the edge (of course), died of dehydration and heat stroke, died of freezing to death, driven over the edge a la Thelma and Louise, committed suicide in various ways, been murdered, died in airplane crashes, etc.

But, bottom line: as spectacularly dangerous as the Canyon can be, it is still worth visiting and seeing it first hand.  Truly stupendous!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1913, two farmers walking near a quarry outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, found two small, dead bodies floating in the water, tied together. Although the bodies were so waterlogged that authorities could barely confirm that they were human, Sydney Smith, the century’s first “Quincy,” was able to use forensics to help solve the crime.

Smith was at the beginning of his 40-year career and working as an assistant to Professor Harvey Littlejohn at Edinburgh University. The first thing he noticed about the body was the presence of adipocere, a white and hard type of fat. The level of adipocere in the bodies, which takes months to form inside the human body when exposed to water, led Smith to believe that they had been in the quarry somewhere between 18 to 24 months.

The adipocere had preserved the stomachs of the bodies and Smith saw that the children had eaten peas, barley, potatoes, and leeks approximately an hour before they died. Given the seasonal nature of the vegetables, Smith figured that the kids had died at the end of 1911. Most importantly, Smith found an indication that one of the children’s shirts had come from the Dysart poorhouse.

With this information, law enforcement officials quickly found the killer. Patrick Higgins, a widower and drunk, had placed his two boys in the Dysart poorhouse in 1910. When he didn’t pay the small fees, Higgins was jailed. He eventually took the young boys out of the poorhouse, but they had not been seen since November 1911.

Higgins was arrested and pled temporary insanity at his trial in September 1913. The jury rejected his defense, and, on October 2, 1913, he was hanged.

Sydney Smith went on to be a pioneer in forensic medicine.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: a shark’s jaw is not attached to its cranium. Because its mouth is situated on the underside of its head, a shark can temporarily dislocate its jaw and jut it forward to take a bite.

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2 thoughts on “Cliffhanger!”

  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I may just have to check that out! I read a forensics book by the guy who was the Coroner in LA who handled tons of interesting cases in Hollywood, etc., Fascinating read. Can’t remember his name offhand, though, or the title of the book.

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