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4 Presidents (and one VP) Humbled at National Parks

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BY BRIAN KEVIN
As soon as he became the first director of the National Park Service in 1917, millionaire borax magnate Stephen Mather promoted the parks as the ultimate social equalizers, places "accessible alike to the poor and to the rich." According to Mather, the Parks were places where identities were leveled, and visitors were equally humbled by nature. On occasion, this concept even extended to the nation's top office. Below, a few instances where executive privilege got checked at the park entrance gate.

1. John F. Kennedy's Public Petting Zoo

President Kennedy spent a single night in northern California's tiny Lassen Volcanic National Park during a natural resource tour in 1963, the last year of his presidency. A decade after Kennedy's assassination, Time presidential reporter Hugh Sidey recalled how the President was so excited at the prospect of feeding the deer outside his cabin (a no-no in any park today), he repeatedly sent his aides to find more food he could hold out to the animals.

The next morning, Kennedy was embarrassed when it was announced there would be no toast with breakfast, as the President had fed all available bread to the park's deer.

2. The Cranky Liar who Stopped Roosevelt from Seeing a Bear

aprez2.pngRough Rider and old-school conservationist Teddy Roosevelt toured Yellowstone National Park in April of 1903 alongside naturalist John Burroughs and a small crew of guides and Secret Service agents. Since much of the park was still undergoing winter thaw, Teddy was able to glimpse at large herds of bighorn sheep and elk grazing in the low country. But what the President wanted to see most of all were grizzly bears, so a scout was sent to the nearby Lake Hotel to find out whether any had yet emerged from hibernation.

The bears were indeed up and about, but the hotel's cranky winter keeper Bill Scales didn't want the hassles of a presidential entourage, so he lied about it and sent the scout away. Teddy left the park without encountering the animal that had adopted his nickname years earlier. Toward the end of his life, Scales wrote that he sloughed off the Prez because "I did not want to build fires and clean up the mess that a crowd would make."

3. Franklin Roosevelt Goes A-Begging

aprez4.pngDuring the build-up to the formation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Walker sisters were five unmarried Appalachian matrons living in a clapboard cabin in the vale of Little Greenbrier, Tennessee. The spinstery gang refused to sell their family's 122 acres to the government's land acquisition committee, whose members feared bad press if they were to turn five helpless old women out on their ears. When President Franklin Roosevelt came to Gatlinburg to dedicate the park in 1940, the Walkers were still holed up and holding out.

According to local legend (and Walker sisters biographer Bonnie Trentham Myers), Roosevelt surreptitiously escaped the ceremonies that day in order to personally intercede with the stubborn ladies. Citing an unnamed local deputy, Myers goes so far as to claim that a Roosevelt doppleganger rode away in the President's car that afternoon, while the real one was on his knees in a remote Appalachian shack. What we know is that the Walker sisters finally sold out just four months later, having somehow obtained from the government a rare lifetime lease.

4. Herbert Hoover Breaks the Dress Code

aprez5.pngThough he was still only Secretary of Commerce when he checked into Yosemite's brand new Ahwahnee Hotel in 1927, Herbert Hoover was one of the most well-known men in American politics and the leading contender to head the 1928 Republican presidential ticket. "The Great Engineer" was also a devout fly-fisherman, and he spent much of his trip wading the park's rivers and streams in search of lunker trout.

The decadent Ahwahnee had opened earlier that year, part of a plan to lure wealthy patrons to support the still-young park system (kind of skewing the whole egalitarian thing). The jacket-and-tie dress code helped keep out the hoi polloi. It also kept out Secretary Hoover, however, who was refused entry when he showed up at the front door wet, muddy, and clutching a basket of dead fish. The future Commander-in-Chief  had to sneak in a back door and dash for his room via the service elevator.

And a VP:  Dick Cheney Gets a Scolding

Okay, so technically Cheney was #2. Still, his White House credentials didn't protect him from the ire of locals around Jackson, Wyoming, who were miffed whenever the VP's security caravan of multiple Black Hawk helicopters buzzed the area during vice presidential fishing trips. During one of the devoted angler's many visits to Grand Teton National Park's Snake River, Cheney and his detail landed three choppers uncomfortably close to a protected bird sanctuary outside the park. In advance of another visit, two Black Hawks hovered at tree-top level to peer down on a group of rafters and fisherman, lingering low enough to send vegetation rippling and waterfowl into tailspin. That incident earned a stern rebuke from from the Park Service, whose spokesman scolded that a military-style "reconnaissance mission is not something to do in a national park."

Hopefully the former VP will be a better neighbor in retirement, as he owns a home outside Grand Teton, and at disclosed location, no less — the Teton Pines Country Club.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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