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Nicker Stories is a free monthly ezine. It comes out around the first of each month. It might seem to be for children, and it does have that concentration, but is also for parents, grandparents, teachers … and anyone who likes to have fun. Each NEW issue comes out around the first of the month. The front page, including the calendar, disappears with the next month. Inside, however, many of the features remain. For example, the Story Archive has last month’s story, and the one from the month before, and the month before. To go through the entire site is going to require many hours of good times, for yourself and with the children. There is a LOT here.
NOTE: Some features, such as “Your Page,”and “Your Pets” are temporarily on hold. You are still encouraged to send things to Nicker – drawings, photos, jokes, letters, comments, etc. If enough come in, we will make that part of the rebuilding of the website a priority.
Be sure to tell your friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. about Nicker Stories. We count on you to help spread the word.


Format Change

The calendar will still be here. Print one for your room, another for the kitchen and maybe a few more to hand out. Now, however, there will be just a handful selected. The rest will be yours to search out. For example, June 19 is Garfield the Cat Day and is also Juneteenth. If either interests you, do a search and learn more. (You probably know who Garfield is, but … what is Juneteenth? If you don’t know, this is a good time to learn.)
There used to be some popular features in Nicker’s Newsletter, such as the puzzles and jokes. Those are being moved to the Home Page of Nicker Stories – at least for now. If we get a good response from you, our readers, those will stay.

Independence Day
Almost every country on Earth has some form of independence day, and sometimes more than one. For America that is the Fourth of July. As a start, days of independence for other countries can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_day (among many other places)
The “new land” was settled by people from other countries. One of these was Great Britain, now known as the United Kingdom. It was ruled by King George III. Many didn’t like him or the way he ruled. In the American colonies, they felt that King George was abusing his power. Mostly they were against being taxed then taxed again, and again. Parliament over in England would pass the taxes, and the American colonists had nothing to say about it. They were merely expected to pay … or else!
Not everyone agreed, and few wanted – or even expected – war. That happened anyway. King George was already having trouble with France, Spain, the Netherlands and other countries. These countries were only too happy to send supplies and weapons to the colonists. In April 1775, patriots of the colonies and British regulars (the “redcoats”) met in battle at Lexington and Concord.  The Revolutionary War had begun for real!
The thirteen colonies got together at a meeting called the Second Constitutional Congress. In June, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed that the colonies tell the king that he no longer ruled the colonies – that they were independent and ruled themselves. This was July 2, 1776. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence began to get some important signatures, such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. It took until August 2 before enough signatures were gathered that it became official. (Although the first actual battles of the war took place more than a year earlier, many think of July Fourth as the beginning of the Revolutionary War. This isn’t true. The Declaration of Independence is what said, “We are at war, and this is why.”)
King George didn’t much like this. He was determined to put down this revolution. He and his generals looked down on the American patriots. These people were often simple farmers, not trained soldiers. The British expected an easy victory. It didn’t turn out that way. With the help of the French and Spanish, the British began to lose more and more battles to the Americans.
In 1781, American forces attacked Yorktown and defeated the British. After that, battles were small and limited. By 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war. Britain accepted that America was America, not part of Britain. It took six more years before America formed an actual federal government.
Independence Day was celebrated for the first time on July 4, 1777 when Rhode Island fired thirteen shots into the air – one for each colony – in the morning, and again in the evening. 13-gun salutes were also given in places like Philadelphia, along with speeches, picnics, parades and even fireworks. By 1781, Massachusetts said it was a state celebration. In 1870, it became an unpaid holiday for federal employees – then a paid holiday in 1938. It finally became an official national holiday in 1941 – just as World War II was heating up.
Today, fireworks, parades, picnics and other celebrations are held. City, state and federal government all honor the day, as do many private companies. It is one of the biggest – and noisiest – holidays of the year.
If you didn’t already know, the thirteen red and white stripes on the American flag are for the original thirteen colonies. Each of the stars represents a state. The first American flag had thirteen stars, one for each colony. The flag now has fifty stars, because there are now fifty states.


A Few Patriotic Songs
There are hundreds of patriotic songs – thousands! America’s National Anthem is “The Star Spangled Banner.” It comes from a poem titled, "Defence of Fort M'Henry" written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. It was written after he saw British ships firing their cannons at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. It became the national anthem in 1931. As a somewhat unusual side note, another very popular song – and many mistake it for the national anthem – is “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” This song has the exact same tune as the anthem of the United Kingdom, “God Save the Queen.”
How many patriotic songs do you know? Here are a few you can look up, learn and even sing along with.

The Star-Spangled Banner

America the Beautiful

God Bless America

This Land is Your Land

You're a Grand Old Flag


Pledge of Allegiance

If you live in America, do you say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of class?
When America began, there was no Pledge of Allegiance. It was finally written in 1892, then adopted officially by Congress in 1942. It was used for many years as the standard way to begin the school day. During the Cold War, when America was fighting the growth of communism, two words were added – and the Pledge became “one nation, under God.”
There were people who didn’t like this and want “under God” taken out. To this day, there are those who want the Pledge to be taken out of schools entirely, and “In God We Trust” taken off our money. In 1960, a comedian named Red Skelton had his own protest but in reverse. He strongly supported the Pledge. Click on his photo to listen and watch.

Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance

What Else is Up for July?
In the northern hemisphere, July is  usually the hottest of the year. For most, by August the temperature usually begins to cool a bit, and by September it is obvious that Fall is coming. (The opposite is true for the southern hemisphere.)
Most of us use what is called the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Before these came along, there was no July. (It was called Quintilis.) When the calendar was changed, July was added – named after Julius Caesar. Also added was August – after Augustus Caesar.
July has 31 days. The birthstone is the ruby. The birth flower is the larkspur. Those born earlier in the month are of the sign Cancer. Those later in the month are born under the sign of Leo.

Make prints of the July calendar – for your room, the kitchen, and some to give to friends. Look through the various holidays and celebrations. A few of them are given in more detail here (just below). Other dates might be of special interest. The Teddy Bear Picnic Day might be fun for you. It also has an interesting history. Look it up!

July is Hot Dog Month

There are many versions of how hot dogs came about. No one knows for sure which story is the most accurate. The history includes sausages of various kinds, usually grilled or boiled, and usually served with some kind of bread or roll. They can also be wrapped in biscuit dough (pig in a blanket), or perhaps in a tortilla (Chuco dog – see Lunch With Nicker). Hot dogs are also used in many kinds of casseroles. Another favorite is beanie weenies, also called beans ‘n’ franks. In fact, July 13 is Beans ‘n’ Franks Day. The most common toppings are ketchup and mustard. Other things used are relish, sauerkraut, onion, cheese, chili, mayonnaise … well, the list goes on and on.
One of the problems of discovering the origin is that you then have to look into the history of sausages. Then you have to try to figure out when someone first got the idea of putting it on bread or in a bun. Complicating it, what are the differences – if any – between a hot dog, a frankfurter, a weiner, bratwurst, and again … on and on and on. It gets worse yet depending on where you live because many places consider a version of it “our own, and the only REAL thing.” A hot dog in Chicago isn’t much like the hot dog in Minneapolis which is different  from a hot dog in California.
Oh, and don’t forget that you can put a corn bread dough on the outside and deep fry it to make a corn dog. Mmmmmm!
July is a great month for picnics – and hot dogs are great for picnics. They’re also good on the back porch, at the kitchen or dining table, the beach, State Fair, or wherever you happen to be.

Dog Days – July 3 to August 11
In much of the northern hemisphere, July is hot and muggy. The air seems to stand still, with no breeze to help cool things. Ponds and lakes might develop a green scum. Yeuch! Because of this, people have come to call these the dog days. Some believe that this name comes because “not even a dog would go into the lake to cool off.” But, that’s not how it came about.
The ancient Romans called this time diēs caniculārēs (dee-us can-i-cue-lahr-ees). We get our word canine, for dog, from the Roman word canis … uh, for dog. And we get our word day from the Roman dies (dee-us, for days). So, diēs caniculārēs means dog days. But, it has nothing to do with dogs, it has to do with a star named Sirius – which isn’t up in the sky much during this time.
Sirius is also called the dog star. This is because it is the brightest part of the constellation canis major. (Did you remember that canis means dog?) This constellation follows behind the constellation Orion – the hunter. That doesn’t happen now because of the way things in space have moved around over the thousands of years. In ancient days, however, there were times that Sirius could be seen just above the horizon just as the coming up for another hot day. For whatever reason, it wasn’t the sun that got the blame for the heat. After all, the sun comes up every day, even in the cold winter months. Therefore, the cause of all that heat MUST be that star taking a quick peek at dawn.
The ancient Greeks had similar ideas. They called this brightest star Seirios, which means glowing or burning. In Egypt it was called Sopdet and was used to create their calendar. For them, Sirius showing up at dawn marked when the Nile River would begin to flood. Farther south, such as in the Pacific islands, at this time of year Sirius became important for navigation. In China, Sirius is referred to as the “celestial wolf,” and to many American Indians it was the “wolf star” or “coyote star.”

July 4 – Independence Day
This issue began with all sorts of things about America’s Fourth of July. If you missed all of that, go back to the start of this Home Page.

July 3-6 – Roswell UFO Days
UFO stands for unidentified flying object. If you see something flying in the sky, and you don’t know what it is … it’s a UFO. Most are really IFOs – identified flying objects. What looks to you as a mysterious light moving among the cloud, to someone else is … “Are you blind? That’s a 737, probably on its way to Phoenix.”
People have been seeing lights in the sky since … well, since there have been people. It’s fun to think that some of those unknown lights might be spaceships from other worlds with aliens onboard. That could be true! If you believe, you are one of millions who also believe.
One of the most famous  UFO incidents took place near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Actually, it happened closer to the town of Corona, but the investigation was first handled by the Roswell Army Air Field. There was a crash of some kind. Just what crashed is still a mystery. As stories do, it also grew over the years.

A rancher found and reported strange debris on his land. Originally he described it as “made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks.” Shortly after, the public information officer for the military gave a press release that said they’d recovered a “flying disk.” That same day, the commanding officer of the base said that it was a top secret military balloon. Shown was what was said to be the actual wreckage (foil, rubber, wood, etc.).
This story went back and forth. In one version, the rancher had found the disk and put it in his barn because he didn’t have a telephone. In another, more details about the “spy balloon” were released to include construction and how it worked. Soon the story came out that alien bodies had been recovered and taken to the military base where autopsies were performed. Film of this came out but was shown to be fake.
Whatever happened back in 1947, the town of Roswell has made good use of it. Each year the weekend nearest the historical date when the story was first released is Roswell UFO Days. People come from all over to share their stories, and to just have a good time.
Here are a couple of links you can use to learn and see more.

Hmmm – what do you think an alien looks like? Where do they come from? Get out your paints, pencils, pens and crayons. Show us and tell us your ideas. What do you think? Why would aliens come to our planet?
And what do THEY think about US?
You might enjoy Toy From the Stars from the story archives of Nicker Stories. (Click on the highlighted title and you will be taken to the story.)

July 11 – Cow Appreciation

The next time you drink a big glass of milk or eat a cheeseburger, think about where it came from.  The second Friday in July is the day to appreciate what cows do for us.
Cows are female cattle. (The males are bulls; the young are calves.) They have been kept by people for more than 10,000 years to be used in all sorts of ways. Cows give milk, which can also be made into cheese. Cows and bulls both are used for meat. After this, the hide is tanned to make leather.  Meanwhile, the “droppings” – called dung, manure or sometimes cow pies – can be used as fertilizer. If dried it can be burned as fuel.
Some don’t like that last part. You see, there are more than a billion cattle on our planet. That comes out to be one for every six people. That’s a LOT of cows, and a LOT of manure. As the manure decays, it puts off a gas called methane. Methane is a possibly dangerous greenhouse gas that might be adding to global warming. (At least some people say that it does.)
Although the project has been abandoned, Arizona Dairies of Arizona found one solution for several problems. They were the largest in the state, so they had a LOT of cows that ate a LOT of food and made a LOT of manure. A problem right away was what to do with all that manure. Meanwhile, operating a large dairy needs a LOT of electricity, which costs a LOT of money. Then the foreman got an idea. The manure was scooped up with tractors to keep the dairy yards and pens clean, same as usual. But it was put into a series of pits and mixed with water. The pits were covered with thick tarps. As the manure in the pits decayed, the methane was set free. It collected under the tarps. The tarps expanded like huge balloons, with the methane inside. This methane was then pumped to be burned by a generator. No methane escaped into the atmosphere. Instead it was used. You see, methane is almost exactly like the natural gas you might burn in your stove. So, the dairy now had a way to get rid of all the manure, then used it to power a generator so they got free electricity. (Well, almost free.) What little manure was left could be spread out over a field to dry and then bagged to work as a concentrated fertilizer.
If you want to learn more about this, look up terms such as “bio mass,” “bio fuel” and “bio generator.”

In many parts of the world cattle is used to do work. They can carry or pull heavy heavy loads. Especially in Asia, it’s not unusual to see an ox plowing in a field, and then later being loaded down with the harvest, or pulling a heavy cart.
Chick-fil-A, famous for their chicken sandwiches, is the company that started Cow Appreciation Day. Perhaps, in a way, it was to give a break to all those chickens being eaten? In any case, on this day they give out free food and other prizes to those who come dressed as cows.

July 20 – Moon Day

In July, 1969 a Saturn V rocket was wheeled out to the launch pad. This was to be the fifth manned mission of the Apollo project … and the first to have man walk on the moon. On July 16, the rocket roared into the sky with the lunar spacecraft on top, and in it three men – Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. On July 20th, the landing module (Eagle) separated from the orbiting module (Columbia). Aboard were Armstrong and Aldrin, while Collins remained in orbit. Shortly after, Armstrong announced to the world, “The Eagle has landed.” For the first time in history, man was on the moon.
This isn’t at all like going outside to play. To set foot on the moon means hours to get ready. It took six hours this time. Finally, they opened the hatch, Armstrong went down the ladder … and made the first human footprint in the dusty surface of the moon. He sent back to a waiting Earth, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
Armstrong and Aldrin spent a couple of hours on the surface. They set up tests, gathered 47 ½ pounds of samples – and of course goofed off a bit. Then it was time to get back into the Eagle. After a little less than a day on the moon, it was time to head for home.
Armstrong and Aldrin squeezed into the top part of the lunar module and lifted off from the moon to hook up with the command module in orbit. (The lower part of the lunar module was left behind because of the weight.) The three splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on July 24th.
If you can, on the night of July 20, look at the moon and imagine what it would have been like to be one of those three astronauts. Or, just imagine being here on the ground … looking up at the moon, knowing that those men are up there.

July 25-27 – Garlic Festival

Garlic is a close relative to the onion, although the taste is very different. People have been using it for at least 7000 years to season foods, and as a medicine. Garlic is sometimes planted to keep garden pests away. That includes rabbits and moles. The biggest producer of garlic is China, but it is grown almost everywhere in the world. The part most people know is the bulb. This grows beneath the ground as bulbs. (The upper part can also be eaten.) Inside the bulbs are (usually) separate pieces called cloves. They are used whole, sliced, diced and crushed. Most of the time, the “paper skin” is taken off and thrown away. That skin can be peeled away to get a whole clove. A common trick for removing the skin when the clove will be cut or crushed anyway is to put a flat knife blade over the top and give it a whack. Even then, care is needed. Also, garlic can be very sticky – and your fingers will smell of garlic for quite some while. It can also make you and your breath smell of garlic, sometimes for days. That sticky juice has been used as a glue to make repairs to things like fine glass.
Although garlic can be grown just about anywhere, and even grows wild, in America the “garlic capital” is Gilroy, California. There are also garlic festivals in various places, but the largest is in Gilroy. In fact, this festival is one of the largest food festivals of any kind in the United States.
It takes place over the last weekend of July. The idea of garlic French fries may not sound odd, but … how about a bowl of garlic ice cream? You can find it in Gilroy! You can also find things like garlic jelly and garlic chocolate.
Click to visit the *Gilroy Garlic Festival.* Youtube has other clips.

July 31-August 1 – Lughnassadh
Have you ever noticed how many holidays have something to do with either the weather, the harvest, or both? This is natural. It’s also natural that many of these holidays and celebrations are very, very old.
You’ve probably never heard of this one – Lughnassadh.  It’s the Gaelic (Irish and Scottish) “first harvest festival” and is pronounced a little like loo-NAS-ah. (A bit to the south, the Celts had a similar celebration called Lammas. This term comes to us from hlaf-maesse which means, “first loaf.”)
Planting and caring for the crops is hot and hard work. It’s not easy to leave things alone. If you begin the harvest too early, there will be nothing left for later. Far better is to let the crops continue to grow and get ripe.
As July ends and August begins, the northern hemisphere is in its Dog Days (see above). It’s hot and often very dry. However, Fall is coming. On this day, the world is still in a growth period. Soon, it will begin to change and get ready for Winter. The leaves change colors. The temperature cools. The crops are truly ready to be harvested and stored away for the cold Winter to come.
For now, though … people get impatient. Besides, the farmers need to make a test. Don’t they? C’mon now. Just a LITTLE test?
A big part of that was to carefully cut some wheat or other grain and make that into a loaf of bread. The early churches of the region would often bless those loaves, praying to have more of the same, or even better. Athletic games were held. In some areas, climbing a local mountain was part of it. Often it was also a time to settle future marriages. Fairs were held. Many of these centered on the various arts and crafts – with “crafts” including things like building. For example, you might see one person making a beautiful carved sculpture and nearby another showing how to make a sturdy door.
Decorations were often similar to those you would find at other harvest festivals all over the world. Sheaves of grain were made into wreaths and other shapes. There might be “corn dolls,” made from the husks of corn.

July Jokes

Does England have a 4th of July?
Yes. It comes after the 3rd of July and before the 5th of July

How did King George feel about the colonists?
He thought they were revolting

Why did the British soldiers wear red coats?
So they could hide in the tomatoes

What’s red, white, blue, and green?
A patriotic pickle

Why does the Statue of Liberty stand in New York Harbor?
Because she can’t sit down

What does a wasp do when it is hot?
She takes off her yellow jacket

It gets really hot in the Arizona summer. Once Danny got bread at the store and by the time he got home it was toast
It was so hot the chickens were laying hard-boiled eggs
So hot that the birds used pot holders to pull worms from the ground
So hot that the dog was chasing the cat … but both were walking

A day without sunshine is … uh … night?

What did the ocean say to the beach?
Nothing – it just waved


July Puzzles and Puzzlers
(answers are at the bottom of this Home Page)

  • Johnny ‘s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child‘s name?

  • Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the tallest mountain?

  • How much dirt is in a hole 2 feet wide, 3 feet long and 1 foot deep?



July Word List
What or Who Are They?

Use this list of words to solve puzzles like the jumble. Not every word in the list is used in a puzzle, but you can also “play” with the words. Can you find them in this issue of Nicker Stories? What do they mean? How are they important this month?

King George III


Word Scramble

LGCARI         YJLU       TPIRATOA           LRWOLSE             TAGSUU

RHTFO          RHTFUO               NAILE    SSIIRU   NBRTAII




Read: The Declaration of Independence

Click on the art to read the full Declaration of Independence.  http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

John Adams on the Fourth of July
"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore."

Puzzler Answers

 1 – His name is Johnny, just as it says in the first sentence.

2 – Before it was discovered, Mt. Everest was still there, and still the tallest mountain. (By the way, it is the tallest on the ground. There are taller mountains beneath the oceans.)

3 – None. It’s a HOLE! The dirt has been dug out of it.