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Sunday, April 1, 2012

O, Foolish, Foolish Day…

A spring day in the ValleyThou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

The Fool in W. Shakespeare’s, King Lear, I,v, ll. 48-49

Today is that one day of the year I sneak up on the kitchen sink. The problem with the First Day of April is that what befalls you on April First is long forgotten a year later. Thus year after year you become the fool, the victim of “Fool me twice, shame on me.” And so this day I approach the kitchen faucet warily. On at least three 4/1’s I can think of, my midsection received a good drenching when I turned on the tap to fill the coffee pot for the morning’s coffee. “Someone” in the household had the foresight the night before the Day of Fools to tape the hose nozzle lever in the “on”position and direct it purposely toward whoever used the sink faucet. Nothing quite like a spray of cold water below the belt to make one feel the fool. Believe you me, fools do suffer indeed.

A year ago I tried to prank Ripple readers (in modern vernacular, it’s now called “punking”) with a story about a bagful of cash I found roadside on my Valley walk ( “How Green is My Valley?”…, 4/1/2011). Some were fooled (my mother, for one, who called her friend to tell him I had won the Valley lottery); others were not (see the “comments” on the post). This year I was either at a loss on how to “put one over” on my readers or just lacked the inspiration, but I do hope if you were pranked today, it was in good, harmless fun and you played the fool with a sense of humor. I do hope also you did not fake your death in a traffic accident, as did my nephew, then post it on Facebook and make it appear as if his mother had written the post… a Foolish, Foolish thing that caused many of the close family to lose considerable sleep last night; there’s quite a divide between fun and thoughtless cruelty.

I have two friends, June and Floyd Preston of Lawrence, Kansas, who have spent most of their adult lives collecting, studying, and curating an extensive and thorough collection of North and South American butterflies. They are both in their eighties and their days of field work and collecting are now behind them. June and Floyd decided early on at the outset of their efforts, their collection and field notes should be devoted to scientific study and to this purpose donated their entire lifetime work of thousands of specimens to The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity in Gainesville, Florida. Inspired by an anecdote about the great naturalist Charles Darwin, two years ago I decided I’d April Fool June and Floyd by presenting them an email attachment of a strange butterfly I had discovered. As the story goes, Darwin liked children and two boys decided they’d pull a prank on their distinguished friend. They collected a beetle, butterfly, centipede, and a grasshopper, and removed certain body parts: the head from the beetle, body from the centipede, the butterfly wings, and the legs from the grasshopper. Carefully, they joined these body parts together to form a composite bug, which they presented to Darwin. Then the question: “What kind of bug is this?” Darwin asked them where they found the critter: “In a field,” they informed the naturalist. “Did it hum?” Darwin asked. “Well…”the boys replied, “yes, it did.” “Then it’s a humbug,” the old man informed them.

Thus inspired, I took the body of a honey bee and wings from four different species of butterflies, carefully glued them to the bug (and mindful to apply the rules of scientific nomenclature, named it after its discoverer), and labeled it as such. I photographed this rare, new insect, and sent it as an email attachment to my friends in Lawrence, Kansas. My efforts were done in pure jest; I knew two dedicated lepidopterists who’d spent a lifetime collecting and studying butterflies wouldn’t be fooled by such a crude attempt at such subterfuge and quickly expose the composite fraud. And the Prestons weren’t fooled in the least, but in the spirit of the day and my efforts to “humbug” them, April 1st was more than just another day of the year. They were entertained and enjoyed the diversion. After all--good, clean fun: isn’t that what April Fool’s Day is all about?Foolish bug...

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