26. The Skipping Slugs
Who forgot it? Surely nobody! Although, as a lot of people claim the results of this story to be their own invention, maybe it’s not present in everybody’s mind today. Because what started as a pest resulted in today’s animal rights movement and the sport of baseball. Sounds unbelievable? Well, so let’s go back to the beginning of this amazing chain of events.
The Nineteenth Century still was pretty young – in fact it wouldn’t even have gone to school, if human – when at the Falls of the Ohio in the summer of 1803, William Clark received a letter. Clark was an American discoverer, soldier, and Indian agent, exploring the unknown parts of North America.
And the letter was from Meriwether Lewis, another American explorer, soldier, politician, and public administrator. In his letter he invited Clark to help command an expedition to explore the Louisiana territory:
“Believe me there is no man on earth with whom I should feel equal pleasure in sharing them as with yourself.” Lewis also asked Clark to “find out and engage some good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried men, accustomed to the woods, and capable of bearing bodily fatigue in a pretty considerable degree: should any young men answering this description be found in your neighborhood I would thank you to give information of them on my arrival at the falls of the Ohio. Especially we need a person well known in all the animals and plants which might encounter us. I was thinking of our old friend Speedos Apathios, Master and Doctor of Sciences from the University of Anestetica in Greece.”
Legendary: William Clark meets Meriwether Lewis. Speedos Apathios arrived one day later
And here began the historic partnership of Lewis, Clark, and Apathios, and the birth of the “Corps of Discovery.” On October 14, 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark met in Louisville, Kentucky. Unfortunately, Apathios is often forgotten, because he arrived two days later due to strikes of the Union of Public Toilet Cleaners in Marseille, France – but that’s another story and too long to be explained here.
But Apathios will be one, if not the, most important part of the story which followed. Because two days after his arrival Apathios started to explore the forests and meadows of the region surrounding the Ohio Falls. As he was specialized in the subject of snails and slugs he intensively checked the fields of todays’ Louisville.
At one big meadow, east of the Ohio river, his search was successful. Beautiful snail shells in hundreds of colors and patterns. Blue, green, red, purple, yellow, pink, in spirals, stripes, or mosaic, and checkered patterns. For the Greek biologist it was a pure delight. Accompanied by his two Turkish servants he started to add specimens to his already extensive collection.
Then, the crickets were chirping in the mild and warm autumn breeze of Kentucky – then Virginia – a scared cry from the fatter of his two servants teared the peaceful silence on the meadow into pieces. “What happened?”, Apathios asked himself. And “What happened?”, the not so fat servant asked himself. Both thought, that it would be best to walk over to the fatter servant to find out.
But already on the way to the fatter servant both of them were attacked too. They felt wet slashes on their faces and on their bare forearms and on all naked parts of their bodies. So, on their faces and their bare forearms, as everything else was covered in clothes.
Apathios and the not so fat servant were scared when they realized, what attacked them: Slugs! Big, dark brownish slugs of about four inches long. And the fascinating fact, Speedos Apathios could see immediately: They could jump! They could jump distances, which even a frog would have made envious. Later experiments showed, that 15 feet on level ground were no problem at all for the slimy worms. But back to the no longer so peaceful meadow at the river Ohio.
After first exams of the ugly creatures, which fortunately didn’t bite due to a lack of teeth, Apathios decided to report to William Clark and Meriwether Lewis immediately. They talked more than two hours about the matter. “They can’t harm us really,” Speedos told William and Meriwether, “but imagine how these sudden ‘attacks’ distract all of the horses, mules, and Indians carrying all our stuff!”
But what to do? Burn them? No chance in the wet meadows to get them all and holding a match to each of them would have taken quite some hours if not years. Catch them with tooth picks? Failed due to the lack of tooth picks, caused too by the strikes of the Union of Public Toilet Cleaners in Marseille, France – but that’s another story again and too long to be explained here. Lure them away? Ok, but with what.
Experienced slave owner William Clark finally had the idea, which should revolutionize the world: “Let’s take some clubs and kill these beasts, before they disturb our successful expedition.” “But we can’t be so cruel,” Meriwether and Speedos remarked, “they are animals with feelings and we can’t hurt them. Especially as they are just disgusting and not harmful to us.” Hmmm. They thought about this idea for two Minutes and twenty Seconds. Then they decided unanimously to do so.
They and all the members of the expedition went with their clubs to the slugs and started smashing them. What needed some practice, because as mentioned the skipping slugs were quite jumpy. Often, they had to be hit when in midair. To say, that the men didn’t find joy in this game, would be a lie. To remember this exciting day of fun, to honor the dead skipping slugs and the meadow where it took place, Lewis, Clark, and Apathios named the meadow “Slugger Field”. A name, the location still has today.
And after all that was accomplished, history followed its path: On October 26, 1803, Lewis and Clark, together with the nucleus of the Corps of Discovery including biologist Speedos Apathios, set off down the Ohio River from Clarksville, Indiana, on a journey that would take them to the Pacific Ocean and back. Some members of the expedition were left back at the Falls of the Ohio to guard the base camp of the expedition, commonly just called “The Base”. Some of them were from Clark’s team, some friends of animal lover Meriwether Lewis.
What happened at the expedition’s starting point? It became also a starting point for two major movements of humankind.
Today, the "Slugger Field" is home of the Minor League Team "Louisville Bats" - From smashing slugs to swinging bats...
The first was, that the remaining team members enjoyed the beating of the slugs so much, that they didn’t want to stop even after the last of the skipping slugs from Slugger field was dead. First, they switched from slugs to snails, which because of their shells were even more fun to hit than the slimy slugs.
And eventually one of the sluggers at “The Base” of Lewis, Clark, & Apathios, a young man named Baby Ruthless, had the idea to beat balls instead of snail shells. Big advantage: They could be used several times in contrast to the snails. And already within a few weeks, the first rules of a new game emerged on Louisville’s Slugger field, which got the name Baseball and conquered the world.
Also, another movement started here. Team members from Lewis, who didn’t take part in the slug slugging at all, because they loved the animals, were completely disgusted by the behavior of the baseball players. They decided to start a movement to protect the animals and plants of the planet, and joined in a group. A name was found very fast, because to express their wish to give peace to the animals they chose the color of the skipping slugs and called themselves “Darkishbrownpeace.”
But because all skipping slugs had become extinct due to the culling in fall 1803, there were no slugs left to be remembered, and therefore the name of the group changed several times over the next two Centuries, but in the end, it became the biggest environmental group of the early 21st Century.
As you have seen, a meadow close to the Falls of the Ohio in today’s city of Louisville was the point of origin for two major movements of our time: Baseball and Animal Rights.
© Mig Phönix 2017