Monthly Archives: June 2011

Swept Away! – Flash Fiction

As Felicia bit down on the straw of her Camelback and sucked the lukewarm water into her parched throat, her legs pumped with relentless force pushing down as hard as she pulled in the tightly bound toe clips. With gloved hands she gripped the handlebars, engaging her upper torso in contracted energy. She noticed only a couple bikers on the mountain trail today. “Probably, due to the warnings,” she thought.

The first time she had gone out mountain biking with her boyfriend Jacob, Felicia fell in love with the sport. She filled her lungs with pine fragranced air, enjoying the exercise and time spent outdoors.

One morning, Felicia stopped over at Jacob’s to bring him blueberry muffins. She took out the key he had given her months before, slid it into the lock, and turned the knob.

“Jacob! I have a surprise for you.” Felicia strained her eyes in the darkened studio apartment and immediately became confused by the shapes formed under the sheets of her boyfriend’s bed. He wasn’t alone.

“You bastard!” Felicia screamed. She began pelting him with the warm missiles.

Jacob threw up his hands to protect his face as the pretty blond slid down under the covers. “Felicia! What are you doing here? Stop!”

With each word, she fired away. “How – could – you – do – this – to – me!” Felicia stormed out, but then turned and yelled, “Whore!” She threw the key at Jacob and hit him in the nose, slamming the door behind her.

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In the weeks that followed, she continued biking to clear her head and mend her broken heart.

The thick evergreens that lined the path and the tender wild flowers which bloomed in the understory in shades of purple, yellow and orange were swallowed up in darkness as the clouds above her gathered. She swerved to avoid the large rocks, but pulled up on the handlebars and hopped over the smaller ones utilizing the shock system of her bicycle and picked up the pace.

The rush of crashing water from the swollen river beside her thundered louder. Felicia felt a cool breeze at her back and the fine golden hair on her arms stood on end. Rain began to pour down on her helmet and she had to stop and take off her sunglasses to navigate the muddy trail. Her heart and mind raced, as the river overflowed its banks and water streamed across the trail. She pedaled to a rocky knoll jutting up from the forest floor, when she heard a man’s voice call out, “Over here!”

She rode to him and he reached out and pulled her by the hand up the steep embankment.

“We don’t have much time. C’mon!” He dragged her up rocky slope. They reached a shelter under an outcropping of rock as the rain pelted overhead as the river roared below.

“I’m Kevin.”

“Felicia.” She locked eyes with the handsome man with gentle brown eyes and curly hair that glistened, realizing she hadn’t let go of his hand.

500 words!

I am dusting off my “Rockhopper” to start mountain biking again. With all the tennis I play, it has been hard to find the time, but recently I learned that one of my knees may have to be replaced in the future if I don’t. My kneecap slid over when I twisted it thirty years ago in a skiing accident. It has been grinding the back of the cap ruining the meniscus. This is very common in women. In order to move it back into position, I need to build my thigh muscles. I will be out on the trails breathing in that pine scent in Colorado once again!

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Weiner – It’s All in a Name

The amount of media attention given to Congressman Anthony Weiner quickly “rose” this week when they “exposed” his lack of morality and decency, but the attention also took on a humorous slant. More than one chuckle has been made at his expense because of the irony of his name and the obvious correlations after his “wiener tweet.” Was he preoccupied with taking pictures of his privates because of his name? I don’t know what he said in his texts, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think that he too saw the double entendre. He became a successful Congressman and yet it took a sexting incident, to become infamous around the world.

I have often wondered if surnames predict careers. Is it a subconscious decision or deliberate? When I worked as an illustrator at the VA Hospital I observed many interesting parallels. I often heard their names called through the intercom system above my drawing board. “Dr. Bonebreak, Please come to orthopedics.” Yes. He was an orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Goodfriend continues to work as Chief of Medicine and has the role of flying across the country as a liaison for the hospital and in helping researchers apply for grants.

My favorite of all time is Dr. Bloodworth who was the Chief Pathologist and worked in autopsy down in the basement of the hospital where the morgue was located.

I have a friend who has a dermatologist named Dr. Boyle.

The ex-CEO of Krispy Kreme is Scott Livengood whom probably is; hence the “ex.”

In ancient times, it became common for a man to take the name of his profession as clans became towns that grew along with communities. People needed a way to distinguish themselves. Being a patriarchal society, families were handed down the surname of their father. We probably all know a Baker, a Gardener, or a Fisher, and everyone is familiar with Potter.

 My friend Johanna remembers working at a very large company called GTE with Carl Engineer and Firoz Doctor. Their names made it very confusing for a temporary secretary who happened to answer the phone one day when Carl wanted to speak to Firoz.

“Is Firoz Doctor there?” asked Carl.

“Wait. Doctor who?” asked the secretary.

“Firoz Doctor.”

“Which doctor did you want to speak to?

“I told you already. Firoz Doctor.”

“You mean Dr. Firoz?” asked the secretary.

“No! Not Dr. Firoz. Firoz Doctor.”

“I am sorry sir, but I don’t know who Firo’s Doctor is. Maybe you should ask Mr. Firo.”

“Just look up his name in the directory. F I R O Z  Doctor,” said Carl. He was more than a bit exasperated at this point.

“Oh! Here he is!”

“Just tell him it’s Mr. Engineer.”

In fact, Carl was an electrical engineer.

Here in Boulder we have our own Dr. Weiner. He practices urology and specializes in vasectomies. He prefers the pronunciation Winer.

I bet you know someone who practices the profession of their last name.

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Constant Longing

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Constance knew the second she opened the letter, before she even read it, her life would never be the same. She had just returned from the Post Office and had climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She walked over to the paned glass window and drew back the yellow calico curtain with a delicate hand. The ruby ring on her finger caught the slanting afternoon sun’s rays transforming it into a burning coal. Constance scanned the horizon and could see Jack the wrangler riding back to the ranch on his chestnut mare. His faded denim shirt billowed in the breeze. Looking beyond her property, the rolling hills looked like a patchwork in the golden light. With her left hand she rubbed the fastened top button of her white lace blouse. This nervous habit had started many years before.

She turned away and walked back through the French antique laden bedroom. Constance couldn’t bear to read what he had to say just yet. Slipping the letter back into envelope, she set it on her nightstand. She hitched up her long cornflower blue flowing skirt and walked back down the stairs.

“Connie! Are you there?”

Constance recognized the voice of her younger brother Hank and the back screen door slamming shut. She turned a corner on the landing and walked into the kitchen. He had been working with the beef cattle out in the fields and kicked the mud off his boots onto a red braided rug.

“Can’t you do that outside?” asked Constance.

Hank ignored her and stomped into the kitchen where he started working the pump in the sink. Up and down and up and down and all the while squeaking until a thin stream of water spurted forth. He grabbed a tin cup from the table and caught the fresh water.

“That stupid Heifer got stuck in the mud again.”

“It looks like you did too.”

Hank pulled out a red bandana, dunked it in the enamel pan sitting on the wooden side board and wiped his sun burned face. “Did you hear from him?” Hank’s piercing blue eyes seemed to look right through her.

Constance felt her cheeks grow hot. He knew. “Yes I did.”

“What did he say?”

“I, I haven’t read it yet,” Constance replied and played with the top button.

“What? Well where is it? I’ll read it,” Hank replied.

Constance stormed out of the room and paced towards the stairs. With every step she took up the staircase, her heart beat faster. Beads of sweat broke out under her covered arms. She clung to the rail her father had planed and sanded then polished over thirty years ago. As she gripped it her throat closed up. She still couldn’t believe they were gone. Her parents had claimed this fertile land years ago and had worked hard to build a successful cattle ranch. This house was the first two-story in the region and her father had built it himself with her Uncle Robert. It was all she had known and it could be gone. What would she do?

She walked into her bedroom and her hand shook as she picked up the letter she had laid next to her feather bed. Tears welled up in her eyes as she descended from the steep stairway. Her mind raced. Hank would be a college student in Richmond and she would have to move to town. And do what? Laundry? Sewing? Become a maid? A tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away along with a blonde ringlet.

She walked across the pine floor and slid the letter out a second time. This time she unfolded the thick vellum and recognized the neatly quilled penmanship. She took the letter in both hands and read aloud.

“Dear Constance and Henry,

I am happy to inform you that the sale of your parent’s ranch has proceeded much better than expected. You will be relieved to know that not only did it sell and make a profit, but a handsome one at that.”

 Constance was visibly shaking now and a smile appeared on her face as she looked up at Hank and said, “Oh my heavens!” Hank reached over, grabbed her by the forearms, and gasped.

“There has always been some suspicion that oil may exist on the property, so the mineral rights ended up being more fruitful than the 250 head of cattle and the 500 acres of land.”

Constance looked up at her brother who was only 18 months younger but taller by almost a foot.

“And? And? What does he say? How much do we get?” Hank was practically jumping up and down now.

“As part of sole beneficiaries of the estate, you will each receive a check for $65,000. I hope you will find this a sum to your liking. I know your parents would be proud of what they accomplished.

The new owners would like to offer employment to your ranch hands.

Henry will be attending Richmond University in the fall. I have taken the liberty to enroll Constance in Miss Judy’s Finishing School.

More information will be forth coming.

Sincerely yours,

Uncle Robert”

The siblings hooted and hollered and danced around the kitchen.

Hank ran back outside to inform the men and quiet any of their fears. They would be able to stay on if they liked.

Constance walked out onto the veranda and lifted her hand to gaze at the ruby ring which glinted in the sunlight. She knew that her dream could now come true.

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Road Trip to Wisconsin – An Appetizing Adventure

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There is something about a road trip that conjures up memories of the non-air conditioned family station wagon with windows that could only be cranked halfway down in the back seat, a map the size of the entire dash board, getting lost, and drive-thru restaurants. Last week when our family traveled from Colorado to Wisconsin, we still found ourselves ordering burgers and greasy fries on the road, but it was in a 2009 Toyota Highlander complete with air conditioning and GPS. I have made this trip so many times before that it never occurred to me to use this new map feature. It didn’t seem as though much had changed along the highway since we traveled by car two years ago. Danny had driven the shift across Nebraska and I offered to drive the rest of the way. My son Kelly and I discussed music in the front seat, taking in the Illinois landscape. I had giggled at the turn offs for Waco, Wahoo, and What Cheer, so when I glimpsed the sign for Normal, I laughed as we drove by it. When I saw the road sign for Naperville and the looming downtown Chicago skyline, I realized I had missed the exit and driven 45 miles too far. Some things never change on family road trips! After the 90 mile mistake, we arrived in at my parent’s house in Evansville, a bit later than expected, but very happy.

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Both of our families love to cook and eat so I had looked forward to a week of get-togethers where we would indulge in delicious meals, picnics, and a few restaurants. We started our vacation the next day by driving to Madison where we met up with Danny’s brother’s family to water ski. The two car loads of Lindaus, drove to a tree lined dock and slid the motor boat off the trailer into the placid lake. As we loaded it with coolers and towels, rain drops began pattering on the smooth surface. Then the skies opened up and it down-poured. Instead of toughing it out in the rain, we drove to one of my old high school haunts; Schwoegler’s Bowling Alley.  I smiled with relief when I realized the lanes are all computerized now and you don’t have to spend your time concentrating on your mathematical skills. After two competitive games filled with a few strikes, (two in fact which is the most I have ever had in one game!), a couple spares, and more than a few gutter balls, we drove downtown to Paisan’s Restaurant. It had moved to a location just off the Capitol square where it now overlooks Lake Monona. The alluring aroma of Italian sauces wafted out of the glass door to greet us. I thought I would pace myself since it was early in the week, so I ordered a Chicken Caesar salad sprinkled with olives and hard boiled eggs. Everyone else had the classic pizza they are famous for.

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Complete with bowling shirts! 

On Memorial Day we enjoyed an afternoon gathering of family and friends. My parents live in a one hundred year old Victorian home. There always seems to be a slight breeze on their classic wrap around porch no matter how hot it gets, so it was the perfect location for the party. While we chatted each of us found a white wicker chair to relax in. We feasted on fragrant Wisconsin cheeses and savory dips then washed our appetizers down with icy cold Leinenkugels beer. After snacking, we sat down to a roasted turkey, my sister-in-law Dawn’s Blue Cheese Cole Slaw, and Grandmama Mary’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I gawked at the rolls and said, “Only in Wisconsin!”

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Friends and McCartan family on the porch

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My brother Joe and his wife Dawn 

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Grandmama, Danny, Courtney, and Kelly

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Rolls from the bakery 

Boating is a Wisconsin pastime. Waterskiing is considered antiquated now that the popular sport of wakeboarding has taken over. A couple years ago I was delighted to still be able to get up on one ski and slalom through the cold waves. Proudly, I climbed back into the boat, but instead of receiving congratulations from my two children, I was greeted with eye rolls. “Mom. You should try wakeboarding,” Kelly said. When I tried to get up on the wakeboard, I struggled to plane over the water from the perpendicular starting point. It looked so easy when the kids and husbands did it! This year I didn’t even dip my big toe into the 55 degree water. Despite the temperature, my son Kelly and his cousin Eli had no trouble motivating themselves into the icy lake. Kelly’s blue lips and shivering hypothermic body deterred any notions I had about jumping in and trying the new sport once again. After a day of fresh air on the bright blue water, we worked up a hardy appetite. Danny’s brother Jamie and his wife Karen hosted a backyard barbecue complete with succulent steaks grilled by their son Eli who is an engineering student at Boise State University. He used a meat thermometer to check each one so they were cooked to perfection. They were served with fresh fruit, sweet corn, and salad.

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Eli, Kyia, Courtney, and Kelly 

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Kelly catching some air 

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Courtney, Grandma Marilyn and Kyia

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The Lindau families 

One night we visited Danny’s sister Lori who lives with her husband Steve in a downtown high rise with stunning views of Lake Monona. We enjoyed their modern condo and deck while visiting with the relatives and eating tasty lasagna and salad. We lingered over her mouth-watering Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownies telling stories of college days. Danny couldn’t believe it had been 25 years already. “Danny. It was 35 years ago, not 25,” I said. Danny’s jaw dropped.

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Danny’s sister Lori and Steve host the gang 

On our last day in town I met my best friend Ann, from college days, at a gym where she instructs a body sculpting and tone class. The timing of this anaerobic session couldn’t have been more perfect. It was after a week of eating fabulous dishes and the day before I would sit in a car for 15 hours. I followed the class through the crowded space into the torture chamber rooms to obtain the weights, bar, mat, bench, and balls for the next hour of grueling exercise. Wisconsin people are the friendliest in the world and they made me feel very welcome. One of the ladies said, “I enjoyed working out with you today.” Nice! After her challenging class, we drove to a nearby café. I had no trouble rationalizing the gooey sticky cinnamon roll I would dunk into a cup of steaming black coffee. After I ordered some extra scones, donuts, and rolls for the trip home, Ann and I picked up where we left off many years ago. We laughed about the old boyfriends, parties, and a trip we took to California.

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Forever friends! 

After several hours of catching up with my good friend, I gave her a hug with a promise to stay in touch and drove down to the UW Memorial Union. I met my parents, children, and Danny in a crowd of people sitting on the terrace enjoying a live band and the view of Lake Mendota. I pulled up a metal chair to their turquoise table and Danny poured me a cup of beer from his college roommate’s brewery called Ale Asylum. We sat, relaxed, and enjoyed the jazz music being played as several different wedding parties walked by to have their pictures taken on the oversized orange chair in the center of the enormous patio. I gazed at several piers jutting into the lake full of young college students sunning themselves. The brave dove into the cold crystal clear water. I walked through the crowds and poked my head into the Rathskeller which is a gathering place for students. I was relieved it hadn’t changed a bit since my college years. The same murals graced the walls. A line formed at the same bar where I had ordered beer 30 years ago as a student at the UW.

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Courtney and me

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Grandmama and Granddad 

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Kelly and Danny

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Kelly and Courtney in the big chair 

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The Rathskeller 

We returned to Evansville and packed the car. At 5:30 AM the next morning we hit the road. This time we turned on the GPS to get back on I-85 and didn’t miss the turn!

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The last mile 

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We made it!

Dawn’s Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

Low fat mayo and reconstituted lemon juice can be substituted for the ingredients below.  

Ingredients:
1 16 oz. package of shredded cole slaw mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sugar

Place the cole slaw mix in a large bowl and toss to separate.  In a medium bowl mix together the remaining ingredients.  Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the slaw mix.  Toss well to coat completely.  Let rest for 5 minutes and toss again.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Grandmama Mary’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

8 – 10 medium potatoes

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

1 – 2 T of fresh chives, chopped

2 T butter

Garlic salt and pepper

Paprika

(Milk to thin, if needed)

Boil potatoes until tender and drain. Peel and dice them, then blend in a large mixer. Set aside. Blend cream cheese and sour cream. Add hot potatoes and beat until light and fluffy. Add milk to thin if needed. Add chives. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture into a baking dish. Dot the top of potato mixture with butter and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 1 hour.

Can be made ahead covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

 

Lori’s Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownies

Brownie Base

1 box (10.25 oz.) fudge brownie mix

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 T Irish cream liqueur

2 eggs

Irish Cream Topping

1 carton (8 oz.) whipping cream (1 cup)

¼ cup milk

¼ cup instant vanilla pudding and pie filling mix. (1/2 of 3.4 oz. box)

3 T Irish cream liqueur

2 – 3 bars (1.4 oz.) chocolate covered toffee candy, crushed. (Heath bars)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 8-inch square pan with shortening. (Can use a 9 x 13 pan for a brownie that is less thick.) In large bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, 2 tablespoons liqueur and eggs with spoon about 50 strokes or until blended. Spread batter into pan.

Bake 23 to 26 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In medium bowl, beat whipping cream, milk, pudding mix, and 3 tablespoons liqueur with electric mixer on high speed 4 to 6 minutes or until soft peaks form. Spread mixture over cooled brownies. Sprinkle with crushed candy. Cover, refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into squares. Store in refrigerator.

Enjoy your Foodie Tuesday! 

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Hunger Strike

He awoke with a start from a deep sleep. Blinking his eyes, he looked around the cramped chamber to regain his bearings. The early morning light cast shadows across the dirt floor and a damp earthy smell filled his nose. He stretched out to revive his somewhat paralyzed body caused from slumbering so long. As he craned himself forward to loosen up his bones, he detected a sound from above. It sent shivers down his loosening spine. He extricated himself from the bed he had made, and went out to explore.

The sun shone brightly and stung his eyes with its intensity. He stared at the moving clouds and the red tailed hawk gliding above.  Again he heard its warning call, but he forged ahead. The pangs in his stomach outweighed the fear of his enemy.

He scanned the horizon with the drive of hunger urging him forward into the open. The warmth of the sun limbered up his tight body and raised his spirits. He headed towards the viburnum bushes on the edge of the lawn. This location had provided for him before. He silently stalked the hiding places that had once revealed his prey. He stopped and listened so intensely he felt he could have detected a heartbeat. He dove into the dead leaves and twigs searching for unsuspecting life but he came up empty. His stomach grumbled in complaint.

On his way to the next familiar haunt, a dog’s bark startled him. It came from behind and sent him ducking for cover. Where could he hide? The rapid pace of his heart matched the explosion of power which triggered every muscle. The need to escape thrust him forward into the thicket of shrubs and winter creeper. He vaguely remembered an old rabbit burrow under the dense branches of the juniper. It was right where he remembered. Narrowly escaping, he slipped down inside and found himself in a vacant warren filled with fur and leaves. Above him, the dog snuffled with his nose, but found her body too big to dive in after him. The dog dug at the hole for several minutes, desperate to follow him inside, but a human voice called her away. The smell of kits and recent rancid droppings filled him with craving and hope. He continued down the dark passageway, driven by curiosity and starvation.

After twisting and turning through the tunnel, the pungent and gamey scent of another familiar quarry caused saliva to pour into his mouth. A mouse family had taken up residence in the recently vacated rabbit hole. He turned a corner and muted light from above replaced the profound darkness that had surrounded him. He crept silently towards the sound of mewings emanating from the pink mouselets. He gazed through the shadows at the four babies which had been temporarily abandoned. The blind pups cried out for their mother who would nurse them when she returned. Three of them stayed close together providing warmth in their combined body heat. The fourth had tumbled from the group and struggled back on feeble legs.

He slithered towards the isolated mouse. Raising his head, he wound his body into a tight coil and slowly unhinged his jaw. He couldn’t keep himself from flicking out his tongue to savor the aroma and assess his victim before striking. He retracted his tongue and inserted it into his Jacobson’s organ, located inside his mouth. The evaluation sent his stomach aching with the expectation of dinner. Although he tried to still himself, his heart felt as though it would leap out of his body. Just as the baby attempted to crawl back to his nest, he lunged headlong and snapped!

Snakes have noses as well as the Jacobson’s organ which helps them smell and define their prey. The reptile records information by flicking its tongue out of its mouth to collect particles in the air expelled by its prey. This organ is activated when the snake retracts its filled tongue and inserts it into two pits inside the roof of its mouth to analyze the data. This is why snakes have forked tongues. Most reptiles have this capability. Turtles use it to smell under water.

In mammals such as dogs, goats, deer, primates, mice, rats, elephants, cattle, and pigs, the Jacobson’s organ is used to identify pheromones during mating season, aggression in other animals, and to detect other particles in the air. Elephants trigger it by using their trunk like a finger to apply pressure to the sensitive tissue located on the roof of their mouths.

The cat family and hooved mammals wrinkle their noses to activate this heightened olfactory sense. They are known to lift their heads and aren’t able to breath while they take in the moisture laden particles. Horses have the same ability, but don’t have to wrinkle their noses.

There is a belief that when women are pregnant, the Jacobson’s organ is activated causing a intensified sense of smell. Scientists are still working to prove this theory.

Who knew?
 

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