Letters to the Pea Green Answer Man

Dear Pea Green the Answer Man

Do cows sweat?

Prairie, Gunnison

Dear Prairie

Cows do sweat.  Perspiration in cattle, however, is not so noticeable as in horses and some other animals.  In the case of the horse the sweat glands are distributed widely over the skin and the animal sweats freely all over the body.  But in the ox sweat glands are less abundant and are most completely developed on the muzzle.  Consequently a cow will sweat freely on the end of her nose, while what perspiration appears on her body is usually slight and almost imperceptible.


Dear Pea Green the Answer Man

Where are the eyes of the horsefly located?

Chris, Montrose

Dear Chris

  The large compound eyes of the horsefly are located conspicuously on the head.  Many people believe that the eyes of this insect consist of small yellowish specks or scales on tiny stems under the wings.  This, it is said, is proved by the fact that when these club-like appendages are removed the horsefly loses its equilibrium and flies abnormally.  As a matter of fact, these specks or scales represent aborted underwings.  Entomologists call them calypters or squamce.  Naturally, the removal of the calyptras affects the flight of the fly because they are intimately related to the wings proper.  Similar phenomena occur in other insects.


Dear Pea Green the Answer Man

What is the harvest moon?

Meadow, Paonia

Dear Meadow,

Harvest moon is the popular name given in northern temperate latitudes to the full moon that occurs about harvest time.  Astronomers usually regard the full moon nearest in date to the autumnal equinox as the harvest moon.  This is, roughly speaking, between the 15th and 20th of September.  Country people however are more likely to regard the next full moon as the harvest moon; namely, the full moon which occurs about the middle of October.  At this season the path of the moon, especially in high latitudes, passes quite closely above and below the horizon at the time of the full moon, causing it to rise merely at sunset for several nights in succession.  Thus the harvest moon prolongs the natural twilight and permits tardy farmers, so it is said, to complete their belated harvesting before the coming of frost and winter.  In south temperate latitudes this phenomenon occurs in late March or early April.  The moon which follows the harvest moon and which has similar characteristics is called the hunter’s moon.


Dear Pea Green the Answer Man

Why is a horse called a dobbin?

Jack, Ouray

Dear Jack

Dobbin is a general or familiar name for any horse, especially an ordinary draft or farm horse.  The name Dobbin was so widely used in England as a pet name for horses that it became a general nickname for the entire equine species.  It was a familiar name for a horse already in the time of Shakespeare.  In the Merchant of Venice, which was first printed in 1596, Old Gobo says to Lancelot: “Thou hast got more hair on thy chin, the Dobbin my philhorse has on his taile.”  Dobbin is a diminutive of the proper name Dob, which is a variation of Robin and Rob, which in turn are variations for the proper name Robert.


Dear Pea Green the Answer Man

What is meant by a pig in a poke?

Frank, Crested Butte Colorado

Poke is an old word meaning a bag, pouch or sack.  Our word pocket is a diminutive of poke.  A pig in a poke is a blind bargain, something purchased without examination, or any goods bought and paid for without knowing their quality or value.  The expression is said to have reference to an old trick pulled off on English market days.  Pigs were often taken to market in pokes or sacks.  Frequently shrewd countrymen would try to palm off on a greenhorn or cat for a sucking pig.  If the buyer opened the poke he let the cat out of the bag and the trick was disclosed.  Whether or not anybody was ever fool enough to buy a pig in a bag without looking at it, it is probable that the expression pig in a pike refers to the old custom of taking pigs to market in a sack.

Filed Under: Hard News


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