September 9, 2000

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The continuation of last week's script on Hale's Tours has been DELAYED. If United Airlines can do it, so can I. Actually I'm taking time out this week for a special report. You're probably aware by now that the World Canal Society is holding their annual conference here in Rochester this coming week. Besides conference sessions throughout, there's a flotilla tomorrow morning and other public events downtown throughout the day, such as a canal antiques appraisal. As I often tell my dog, "Go see!"

In keeping with the theme of the upcoming week, and for the edification of visiting canal persons, we'll take a look at a local phenomenon - the creature from Bushnell's Basin. The Viking sagas tell us (or was it in Hagar the Horrible?) that when Lief Ericsson set out for the New World, armed with maps from the AAA (American Adventurer Association), he had three stowaways aboard. Apparently even fierce Vikings have mothers, and Lief is no exception. Not wanting her boy to miss the finer things of life on his voyage, she arranges for a barrel of her special recipe, home-style pickles to reach the ship before he sails. What she doesn't realize is, that just before the lid was nailed on, three of the ship's salamanders had fallen into the pickle brine. Where they settle in for a little R and R, and soon are feeling no pain. Off the coast of Scotland Lief feels a bit peckish and sends the cabin boy to fetch a pickle. The lad's a bit surprised when the first pickle wriggles out of his hand and plops over the side. So he grabs another and takes it to Lief. Now the North Atlantic turns stormy and no one's too interested in pickles for some weeks. To make a shaggy story short, the other amphibians make their landing (yes, that's where the military term comes from) in the New World at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. One makes his way into Lake Champlain and the other down to Lake Ontario, and from there into the Oswego River.

Now there's something about the combination of salamander and pickle juice that causes the critters to slowly begin getting larger and larger. Centuries into the future, they've grown as large as politicians' egos, and one, last seen headed for Scotland, picks up the nom de flume of Nessie. Beastie two just says, "You can call me Champ". And the third? Well, soon as they build Clinton's Ditch, he slips quietly inside and heads for Rochester. Finds himself a nice, mossy lock, #32 maybe, and digs out a cave behind the wall. Comes out mostly at night, shaves with a zebra mussel shell, wriggles over to Richardson's Canal House in Bushnell's Basin, because that's where the really good table scraps are to be found, and settles in. Canalside dwellers begin to get glimpses of the creature, who soon gains his fifteen decades of fame, known far and wide as the Lock Moss Nester. Eyewitness descriptions, taken from actual transcripts which I had in my possession, include, "green, slimy, stinky with big eyes, "covered with green lichens", "likes gumdrops", and "ugly enough to make a train take a dirt road."

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, with tongue firmly in cheek, this is David Minor

© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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