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The Quick 10: Pre-Presidential Professions

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You already know that Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild before he was President of the United States, and I bet you recall a joke or two about Jimmy Carter being a peanut farmer. Here are a few ways other future presidents paid the bills before they started signing bills.

1. Harry Truman, haberdasher. But not a good one. Truman opened a haberdashery (Truman & Jacobson) with his friend Edward Jacobson in 1919, but after three pretty dismal years, they declared bankruptcy. Truman worked to pay off debts incurred from the store for more than 10 years.

2. Andrew Johnson, tailor. And he loved being a tailor. Even when he started to rise in the world of politics, Johnson still had a soft spot for a spool of thread. When he was governor of Tennessee, he made a suit for the governor of Kentucky, just for fun.

3. Ulysses S. Grant, bill collector. You probably remember him for his military career, but between the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, Ulysses struggled to support his growing family. Among other things, he tried bill collecting, farming and selling leather goods and saddles.

4. Woodrow Wilson, football coach. Before he was the President of Princeton, Wilson had an academic appointment at Wesleyan University, where he also coached the football team for two years and founded the debate team.

5. Grover Cleveland, sheriff. As the sheriff of Erie County, New York, Cleveland personally hanged two convicted murderers. He had the option to hire someone else to do the physical work, but both times chose to do the deed himself.

6. Teddy Roosevelt, deputy sheriff. While TR was ranching in North Dakota, he took his appointment as Billings County Deputy Sheriff very seriously. In fact, when some thieves stole his boat right out from under his nose at the ranch, he and two cohorts spent days tracking them down and capturing them. He detailed the account in his 1888 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.

7. Millard Fillmore, clothmaker. At the tender age of 14, Fillmore’s dad “apprenticed” him (it was indentured servitude) to a cloth maker more than 100 miles away from his hometown and his eight siblings. Fillmore hated it so much it’s said that he walked the entire way home after four months. He found a similar position much closer and worked there for a few years until deciding to pursue a career in law.

8. James Garfield, preacher. “Preacher President” isn’t just a clever nickname – he really was a preacher, the only POTUS to count that among his former professions.

9. Warren G. Harding, journalist. He tried selling insurance for a while, but when one of the three newspapers in Marion, Ohio, was threatening to fold, Harding raised $300 and purchased it. The burden took its toll, though, and he nearly suffered a nervous breakdown at the ripe old age of 24. The effort paid off though – later in life he sold it for a profit of what would be millions of dollars in today’s money.

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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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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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