The Last Stagecoach Tavern of the Wild Wild West

Way off the beaten path, Cold Spring Tavern outside of Santa Barbara, California, is a lasting remnant of the stagecoach days. It began as a bunkhouse for immigrant road builders in 1868, then became a ballet school, then a money-laundering restaurant, and has been a pit stop for travelers ever since. The tavern has been operated by the Ovington family since Audrey Ovington bought it in 1941.

She came from eccentric stock, with a father who pioneered the skies as the first ever commercial pilot in the United States (and was an assistant to Thomas Edison), and an opera singing mother. With the passing of her husband in 1941, the Widow Ovington took on Cold Spring as a new adventure, and later passed it on to Audrey. It became home to an increasingly festive crowd, including her pet leopard, Ricardo (or “ricky”), who lived off of canned sardines and horse meat. Everyone else stuck to buffalo burgers, and a new, local sauce called “Hidden Valley Ranch” (yup, Audrey was the first to serve it).

Audrey Ovington bought up buildings from a ghost town and brought them to Cold Spring, making the business more than just a restaurant. Read about the last stagecoach tavern at Messy Nessy Chic.


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The Crazy Story Of A Real Life Treasure Hunt

(YouTube link)

The children's book Masquerade was illustrated by Kit Williams, who had, unknown to the publisher, made puzzles out of his illustrations that gave clues to a buried treasure. That was in 1979. People went nuts trying to figure it out, but the story of the golden rabbit is crazier than any of those facts indicate. -via Kottke


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Where Have All the Bloody Teaspoons Gone?

If your workplace provides coffee, tea, or other beverages, you might notice that the spoons are the first thing to go. Plastic spoons are easily replaceable, but they are not environmentally sustainable and haven't always been available. Scientists at an Australian research institute used metal flatware teaspoons, which tended to disappear. So in 2005, they set about doing on study on the phenomena.  

In January 2004 the authors found their tearoom bereft of teaspoons. Although a flunky (MSCL) was rapidly dispatched to purchase a new batch, these replacements in turn disappeared within a few months. Exasperated by our consequent inability to stir in our sugar and to accurately dispense instant coffee, we decided to respond in time honoured epidemiologists' fashion and measure the phenomenon.

A search of the medical and other scientific literature through Google, Google Scholar, and Medline using the keywords “teaspoon”, “spoon”, “workplace”, “loss” and “attrition” revealed nothing about the phenomenon of teaspoon loss. Lacking any guidance from previous researchers, we set out to answer the age old question “Where have all the bloody teaspoons gone?” We aimed to determine the overall rate of loss of teaspoons and the half life of teaspoons in our institute, whether teaspoons placed in communal tearooms were lost at a different rate from teaspoons placed in individual tearooms, and whether better quality teaspoons would be more attractive to spoon shifters or be more highly valued and respected and therefore move and disappear more slowly.​

They worked out their methods and set up a pilot study. They marked 70 teaspoons with numbers to track them. They found that 80% of the teaspoons disappeared during the study, and the half-life of a teaspoon was 81 days. At that rate, they predicted that 250 new spoons would have to be purchased each year to maintain an adequate supply. Extrapolating to the other workplaces of Melbourne, they estimated that 18 million teaspoons could go missing each year. The entire study is worth a read, because of gems like this found in the conclusion section.

Teaspoon displacement and loss leads to the use of forks, knives, and staplers to measure out coffee and sugar, inevitably causing a reduction in employee satisfaction; in addition, large amounts of time may be wasted searching for teaspoons, both factors leading to decreased employee efficiency.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal, and you can read it here.  -via Metafilter, where there are more tales of missing spoons, forks, pens, socks, and screwdrivers.

(Image credit: Auckland Museum)


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200 Dropped Wallets

(YouTube link)

After Mark Rober (previously at Neatorama) lost his wallet and never got it back. The experience inspired him to try an experiment: he dropped 200 wallets in different cities to see how many were returned, and which city had the highest ratio of returned wallets. People turned out to be more honest and helpful than he expected. -via Tastefully Offensive


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United States of Protest: A Citizen's Guide to 250 Years of Resistance

If you think there are a lot of protests in the United States in 2018, you'd be right, but it's not like we haven't done it before. Think back to the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests- those were only 50 years ago, and 50 years is a rather long stretch between major uprisings in America. After all, the country was born as a protest against Britain. Since then, we've seen the Civil War, the fight for women's suffrage, labor strikes, and more. Those were all sparked by people protesting against the status quo.     

The labor movement had been brewing since the Colonial era, and the first recorded strike—by skilled tailors protesting reduced wages—happened in 1768. At the time, most Americans did some farming to support their families, developing their craftsmanship in the winter months. Work hours were not much of an issue: Self-employed farmers put in the most hard labor for about six months of the year, estimated at 8-10 hours a day. In the early days of the United States, craftsmen began organizing trade unions in cities around the country to protect their fields from cheap and shoddy workmanship.

But as the Industrial Revolution progressed in the new country, it revealed cracks in the Enlightenment ideals about equality the United States was founded on. Mechanized production created three distinct classes, the upper class or the company owners, the middle class or the business professionals, and the working class who labored in the factories. The growing wealth gap between the upper and lower classes was at odds with American ideals. Some historians believe factory workers—men, women, and children—would work from sun up to sun down, with only Sunday off. It’s estimated American workers devoted 60 to 70 hours a week to their jobs during the 19th century.

The Working Men’s Party was established in 1828 in Philadelphia and in 1829 in New York City. The so-called “Workies” advocated for men of low economic status, demanding that all (white) men receive the right to vote while also fighting for shorter working hours, educational opportunities, and safeguards from debtor’s prison.

After the Civil War, industrialization took off in earnest as coal, steel, and railroad equipment were in demand to develop the American West. Industry magnates employed bevies of European immigrants in low-wage jobs in their plants. The overworked and underpaid coal miners, steel workers, and train-car builders, among others, began organizing and striking against their wealthy bosses for better pay and improved working conditions. These strikes often led to violent clashes with company guards, police officers, and even the U.S. Army, where striking workers would sometimes be shot and killed. The union members sometimes retaliated with guns and pipe bombs of their own.

Read a chronological rundown of some of the biggest protest movements in American history at Collectors Weekly.


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A Kid's Version of "We Didn't Start the Fire"

(YouTube link)

Matt Silverman and his kids Amelia and Arthur sing Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" with new lyrics about toys and media that kids have loved through the years, from Howdy Doody to Minions. The lyrics are at the YouTube page, but the video clips illustrate them well enough. -via Tastefully Offensive   

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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How a Special Diet Kept the Knights Templar Fighting Fit

The Knights Templar was a Catholic military order that took part in the Crusades and in consolidating the rule of the Church in Europe. They were also unusually healthy for their time. While the average European in the Middle Ages would be lucky to see the age of 50, many of the Knights were fighting into their 60s. That may have been due to the rules they lived by. As monks, they took a vow of poverty and their diet was kept simple, unlike the rich dishes of the wealthy class. But as warriors, they had to stay in fighting shape and power their extensive training, so they were permitted an amount necessary to stay strong.

The knights’ diets seem to have been a balancing act between the ordinary fasting demands on monks, and the fact that these knights lived active, military lives. You couldn’t crusade, or joust, on an empty stomach. (Although the Knights Templar only jousted in combat or training—not for sport.) So three times a week, the knights were permitted to eat meat—even though it was “understood that the custom of eating flesh corrupts the body.” On Sundays, everyone ate meat, with higher-up members permitted both lunch and dinner with some kind of roast animal. Accounts from the time show that this was often beef, ham, or bacon, with salt for seasoning or to cure the meat.   

Read about the rules for the Knights Templar, including their diet, at Atlas Obscura.


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Merpeople Sightings, 1610-1784

During the Age of Exploration, ships sailed all over the world, mainly looking for new products to sell, new sources for existing products, and new markets to sell them to. Along the way they found strange lands, strange people, and saw strange things in the ocean that were difficult to describe -and that's how you get mermaids. The legend of mermaids had already been around, but between 1610 and 1784, there were so many documented reports of merpeople that History Today put together an interactive map of them. Use the right arrows to read them in chronological order, or drag the map around to find a sighting near you. -via Nag on the Lake 


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Curious Cats Follow a Robot Vacuum

(YouTube link)

What is that thing? What's it doing? Where's it going? A clowder of cats at what looks to be a cat shelter encounter a robotic vacuum cleaner. Their curiosity is way ahead of their caution, which is where we got the adage "curiosity killed the cat." -via Digg

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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1886: The Birth of Coca-Cola

The soda fountain at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta sold the very first Coca-Cola on May 8, 1886. The tonic, made of carbonated water, sugar, lime juice, cocaine, and other flavorings, was marketed as a medicinal tonic for all kinds of ailments.   

Whatever the case, as to how its inventor, pharmacist John Pemberton, came up with the tonic, he was specifically looking for a cure for his own morphine addiction. You see, Pemberton was a former Confederate soldier who nearly had his head lopped off in the Battle of Columbus. During his recovery from his wounds, as with so many others at the time, he became addicted to morphine and so was looking for something to wean him off the habit.

This all led him to experimenting with coca-leaf extract, and thus Pemberton’s French Wine Coca was born, which he claimed did the trick. (Though it should be noted that when he died of stomach cancer two years later in 1888, he was still addicted to morphine.)

Unfortunately for him, his initial concoction also included alcohol (from wine), which became banned in Atlanta where he lived in the same year he debuted his tonic, resulting in him substituting the wine with sugar and citric acid. He also, of course, mixed the whole thing with carbonated water, owing to, at the time, fizzy water being thought to be good for your health.

The public response was pretty much meh, a disappointment for Pemberton and his investors. Read about the birth of Coca-Cola at Today I Found Out.


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How Dr. Strangelove Turned a Cold War Horror Story Into Comedy Gold

(YouTube link)

The source material for Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the 1958 suspense novel Red Alert by Peter George. However, Red Alert was not at all funny, just a terrifying story of nuclear armageddon. In Kubrick's hands, the tale became absurdist satire all around. Cinefix tells the tale of how the transformation took place and left us with a classic black comedy. -via the AV Club


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The Brothers Creating Lifelike Figures of Early Man

Dutch sculptors Adrie and Alfons Kennis are the artists behind many of the recreations of early man you've already seen, like Otzi the Iceman and the recent Cheddar Man. They are also twin brothers. The Kennises are most renowned for their sculptures of even older people -Neanderthals and other hominins. Their third display in the UK will open in October at St Fagans National Museum of History in Wales. To do the work they do, the Kennis brothers have studied human anatomy, evolution, DNA, and anthropology. The results are sculptures that appear startlingly lifelike while still being different from what we know.   

This alien-ness is tempered, however, by their particular skill for facial expressions, giving life and personality to the clay. Each full-sized reconstruction takes half a year, but a face alone can take a whole month, and although the brothers refuse to refer to themselves as artists, this is obviously the area that gives them the greatest artistic freedom and satisfaction. “There are some things the skull can’t tell you,” admits Adrie. “You never know how much fat someone had around their eyes, or the thickness of the lips, or the exact position and shape of the nostrils.”

This personal quality is what makes Kennis models so captivating, and so desirable to museums: they don’t simply depict a generalised early man, but a specific man or woman, an effect that allows onlookers to glimpse human prehistory with immediacy, even familiarity. But while curators and museum-goers are sometimes surprised by the vivid, emotive features of the Kennis models, there is only one person Adrie needs to impress: “If Alfons doesn’t like the face, I am disappointed. But if he likes it, if we are both satisfied, then we can handle the whole world.”

Read about the sculptors' process, and get a preview of their Neanderthal recreations at The Guardian. Article contains some Neanderthal nudity. -via Metafilter


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Astronauts Falling on the Moon

(YouTube link)

Gravity wins again! The Apollo moon landings were the first time humans walked on a celestial body besides Earth, and the astronauts found that it was quite different. While there is less gravity, it still works. But the other forces of physics were no different, so just moving around was a learning experience. And those cumbersome spacesuits didn't help. YouTuber Martian Archaeology put together a blooper reel of sorts from NASA footage. It's okay, since 50 years on, we know they made it back home in one piece. -via Tastefully Offensive 


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C-AT Work: Cats at Work

Nappone at the upholstery shop.

Italian photographer Marianna Zampieri presents a series called C-AT Work that features cats who go to work with their humans. Librarians, hair stylists, musicians, craftspeople, office workers, and store owners go about their day as their cat presides over their domain.

Fulvio in his theater.

The goal of this project is always to try to capture the beauty of the relationship that is created between cats and people with whom they share most of the time, demonstrating the great dignity and incredible adaptability of these animals in any situation. All seasoned by the setting that the most diverse work environments can give, creating the astonishment that can be born seeing the cats placed in environments where we are not used to see them.

Nando at the newsstand.

You can see the series in slideshow format at Facebook and more of Zampieri's cat photography at Instagram. -via Laughing Squid

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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True Facts: Carnivorous Plants

(YouTube link)

Ze Frank suddenly has another True Facts video. This one isn't about some weird animal, but the weird plants that eat animals. He talks about plants eating bugs as payback for us eating plants, but that only works if you feel closely related to insects. And if that's the way you feeel, the video might strike you as a bit gruesome. Contains NSFW language. 


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Can You Pass the Test NASA Gave Potential Astronauts in 1958?

In 1958, America's new space agency called NASA launched an extensive search for men who would become astronauts. Of 508 candidates, the Mercury 7 were selected via a battery of physical, psychological, and intellectual tests.

Hopefuls sat in extreme heat and cold, did math in 145-decibel rooms (normal conversation is 60 dB), and spent hours in isolation chambers. On top of all that, candidates took 12 intelligence tests. These exams sought to predict a wealth of unknowns: how the men would maneuver spacecraft, if they could problem-solve midflight, and whether they grasped the science that would keep them aloft.

While the physical tests can't be taken online, Popular Science is offering us the chance to try a small portion of the intelligence tests those men took 60 years ago. I tried it; all I can say it I'm glad the questions aren't timed. Good luck! -via Mental Floss


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Crow Trying to Buy a Train Ticket

(YouTube link)

We know crows are intelligent and good with tools. We know they learn from watching others do things. And in case you didn't know, they hang around train stations in Japan. This crow is using an automated kiosk to buy a ticket. When the machine says "insert credit card," the crow realizes he doesn't have one, but the women at the next machine does -so he takes it! The video stops before we find out if he got a ticket; let's assume the woman took her credit card back. Sure, he could have flown to his destination, but why flap your own wings when you can use someone else's money to ride? -via Digg


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Wisteria Hysteria Hits London!



Wisteria sinensis, or Chinese wisteria, is blooming all over London. It's been a favorite in the city for a couple of centuries now.

Wisteria Sinensis was unknown in Europe before 1816, when several agents of the East India Company working in China sent cuttings back to England.[3] A 200 year-old vine, growing at Griffin's Brewery in Chiswick, London, planted that same year, is often cited as England's oldest living wisteria plant.[4][5] Over the next several decades the plant became, and remains, one of the quintessential ornamental vines in English gardens. The white-flowering form, Wisteria Sinensis Alba, was discovered in a garden by Botanist Robert Fortune in 1844, from whence he took cuttings for the Royal Horticultural Society.[6] It is most commonly trained along garden walls, along the exterior of buildings, or over a pergola to create avenues of overhanging blossoms during bloom.



The Londonist has a roundup of Instagram pictures of London's lovely wisteria in bloom from just the past week or so. If you want to see more, unrestricted by date or location, check out #wisteria at Instagram.  -via Nag on the Lake


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Far Alamo

(vimeo link)

One thing we don't have enough of is Western movies with giant monsters. There's Valley of the Gwangi (1969), and uh, that's about it. But now Fabrice Mathieu (previously at Neatorama) brings us a mashup with gunslingers defending the Alamo from a swarm of giant mutant insects! Far Alamo stars John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner, Richard Widmark, James Coburn, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, Lee Van Cleef, and a host other actors you'd expect in a classic Western. This shoot-em-up was pieced together from a dozen different films, listed at the vimeo page. -Thanks, Fabrice!


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What’s A Weird Thing Your Family Did That You Thought Was Normal Till You Moved Out?

It all started with this tweet by podcaster Georgia Hardstark, who asked her Twitter followers what weird thing their family did that they thought were completely normal, until they learned otherwise. "We kept birthday candles in the freezer," Hardstark added.

More than 2,000 tweets answered her questions, including these gems:

Continue reading

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Insulated Shorts

Ever seen an insulated vest and thought to yourself, there has to be a pants-equivalent to that thing? Well, wonder no more: insulated shorts do exist. But ... why? Are they meant to keep only the upper half of your legs warm?

Via Gear Patrol


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Sidewalk Graffiti

The Salem (Illinois) Police Department posted a courtesy alert for its citizens at Facebook.  

This message was written on one of our city sidewalks today with sidewalk chalk. As a courtesy, we want to keep our citizens informed. Please, if you have satin sheets or pillowcases, keep them under lock and key as someone apparently wants to worship them!

This is your periodic reminder that if you want to strike fear into the hearts of your fellow men, it helps if you know how to spell. (via reddit)


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Back to the Future, a Children's Picture Book by Kim Smith

2

Great Scott! Someone actually created a children’s book based on the Back To The Future Movie written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. I’m in heaven and so will anyone else who is proud to have been raised in the 80’s.

I admit it! I am totally biased when it comes to this book. I am a huge, huge Back To The Future fan. When this book came into our office I practically became giddy.

The book is about 40 pages long and goes through essentially the entire Back To The Future Story line. It starts out by introducing us to Marty McFly who is appropriately gliding around Hill Valley on his skateboard. We meet Doc Brown and Marty’s family. Of course we also meet Biff.

Continue reading

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Simon's Cat in Stretched Out

(YouTube link)

Cats who have human servants know they can dillydally as much as they want. They flaunt their superior position by taking their own sweet time. Why should they be in any hurry for a mere human? And so it is with Simon's Cat. My big tomcat will interrupt work and demand to be let outside, but then after I get up, it takes him forever to actually make it to the back door. He's just asserting his dominion over me, I am sure. -via Tastefully Offensive


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Six of the Oldest Human Remains Found in the U.S.

Archaeological discoveries of ancient humans keep pushing our knowledge about our species further back in time. The Americas haven't been populated by people as long as other parts of the world, but exactly how long they've been here and how they got here are open subjects we still have a lot to learn about. Occasionally, a skeleton or a skull is found that dates back to the beginnings of their settlement. Real Clear Science give us a list of some of the biggest such discoveries.   

Kennewick Man, perhaps the best known and most controversial ancient human remains in the United States, was found jutting from a patch of eroded dirt along the Columbia River near Kennewick Washington just 22 years ago. In life, roughly 9,000 years in the past, he spent much of his time moving around by water, hunting and eating marine animals and drinking glacial meltwater. In death, his remains were constantly the focus of lawsuits between indigenous peoples who sought to bury the remains and archaeologists who sought to learn from them. After DNA tests confirmed that Kennewick Man was closely related to modern day Native Americans, his remains were returned and reburied at an undisclosed location.

Read the stories of five other people who lived thousands of years ago in what is now the United States at Real Clear Science.

(Image credit: Ghedoghedo)


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Tasha Does Not Want to Come In


(Facebook link)

Turn the sound on before you watch this. Tasha is playing hide-and-seek because she doesn't want to go inside, and she's found the perfect hiding place! Tasha is pretty smart for a dog. She understands that her man's viewpoint is different from her own. She's a little fuzzy on the concept of glass doors, though. -via Bits and Pieces

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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The Grand Canyon’s Most Famous Burro

Burros, or donkeys, are descended from the African wild ass. They are not indigenous to North America, but were imported by the Spanish. Burros proved to be the most useful beast of burden for the Grand Canyon area, where unsuccessful prospectors would sometimes abandon their animals, which led to a feral population of burros. That's how the burro named Brighty found himself living in the Grand Canyon.

Brighty himself, who lived from about 1882 to 1922, was first seen in the Canyon near an abandoned miner’s tent, sitting vigil as if expecting the tent’s occupant to return. The burro appreciated occasional human companionship, especially when pancakes were involved. He spent summers on the cooler North Rim, hanging out with the game warden Jim Owens or the McKee family, who managed the first tourist facility on the North Rim, which opened in 1917. Brighty came and went as he pleased, toting water for the McKees’ young son, but scraping off any loads he deemed unworthy of his efforts. For instance, if a hunter caught Brighty and tried to make him pack his gear, Brighty would sneak away, rubbing the pack against trees until the lashing loosened and the load fell off.

It was along the North Rim that early Canyon tourists first met Brighty, probably between 1917 and 1922. Wills writes, “Vacationers struggling to interpret, or connect with, the immense scale of the Canyon (John Muir called it an ‘unearthly’ place), appreciated the presence of a familiar creature.”

But Brighty’s hybrid existence—not exactly wild, but not domesticated enough to be consistently useful—would count against him and his kind when the park service decided in the early 20th century that it should restore the Canyon to a pre-Columbian state of virgin splendor. Having arrived with the Spaniards, the burro was not native to Arizona.

The National Park Service's plan for ridding the canyon of invasive species meant shooting the feral burros. Brightly had already passed on, but his story made him the face of the effort to save the burros. Animal lovers did not want them shot, and others wanted to maintain the feral burros for their part in US history. Others believed the canyon should be returned to its pre-settlement ecosystem. The controversy went on for decades. Read about Brighty and his legacy at Atlas Obscura.


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Lego Breakfast Machine

(YouTube link)

Yes, it would be nice to have a machine that makes breakfast, but then you remember that making bacon and eggs is about the easiest thing there is to do in the kitchen. But this machine is impressive! There are two LEGO contraptions here. One is a huge scaffolding that delivers bacon and eggs to the frying pan, and even cracks the eggs open. The other is a vehicle which can move things around as needed and flip and serve the food with a spatula. YouTuber The Brick Wall (previously at Neatorama) built this set up for his father, who makes breakfast every weekend. He worked an entire week just to get the egg cracking unit right.  -via Digg  


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Catzillas

We love cats, and we love monster movies. What's even better? Cats starring in monster movies! Thrill to the spectacle of a 50-foot cat stomping through Tokyo or some other urban area, blocking traffic and knocking things over (as they do). Indonesian digital artist Fransdita Muafidin imagines these scenarios in photo mashups, with fluffy kittens threatening society with their incredible mutant mass and their adorableness. See 17 of his photo collages in a roundup at at Sad and Useless, and more at Muafidin's Instagram gallery. -via Everlasting Blort

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Policeman Channels His Inner Drum Major

(YouTube link)

Marching band geeks have a lot of fun in high school, but afterward, you realize that those skills aren't exactly in high demand in the outside world. You have to find some other way to make a living. Then that day comes, maybe years down the road, where you pull out your old skills to impress your co-workers. That happened to Officer Pennington of the Sacramento Police Department when the Kings' drum line approached, and suddenly a flashback caused his billy club to become a baton! Those years of practice weren't for naught after all.  -via TYWKIWDBI

Check out more amazing talents over at our Mad Skills blog

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