MULLET OVER BY JAMES K. WHITE  |  March 23, 2016

Leave black mambas unchallenged

james k white

There exist more than 1300 distinct species of that leather-winged mammal known as a bat (Chiroptera).  Publishers and researchers at Science Magazine estimate that bats prevent agriculture losses of more than $3,700,000,000 every year by eating tons of crop-devouring insects each night.

The last surviving American Civil War veteran was Albert Henry Woolson (1850-1956).  Albert was a member of the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery (1864-1865) but was never in combat. James Albert Hard was the last surviving combat veteran (1843-1953). James Albert fought with the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment and saw action at the First battle of Bull Run (1861), Antietam (1862) and Chancellorsville (1863).

John C. Breckinridge was the youngest person to ever assume the position of vice president of the United States. He was 36 years old when he took his oath of office in 1857 (March 4). I was not nearly so accomplished at age 36 – or age 66.

The fastest crawling snake species in the world is the black mamba. These very poisonous reptiles have been recorded exceeding a speed of 12 mph. That is faster than most humans can run, although pursued humans likely gave excellent efforts if pursued by the Dendroaspis polyepsis. Until modern antivenins (AKA anti-venoms) were developed, black mamba bites were assumed to be 100% fatal for human victims.

There are no known large lead mines in Texas today. I say “known” because in the 1830’s, one James Goacher found a deposit of lead near what is now Giddings in Lee County. He made a lot of money selling his lead to settlers and store owners. The lead was used to make quality bullets to fend off attacking Indians. Try as they might, people spying on Goacher could never follow him to his secret repository. However, some Comanches soon figured out that Mr. Goacher was the source of lead used to kill off fellow tribesmen and apparently took offense. In 1835, a war party of Comanches attacked and killed James Goacher, his family and possibly some unfortunate visitors. No one was left alive who knew the mine’s location. It has not been rediscovered to this day.

There were a few (exact number unknown) U.S. 1943 copper wheat leaf pennies struck. Nearly all the American pennies minted that year were made of steel as more copper was needed for war efforts. If you happen to have one of those rare copper coins, it is likely worth between $60,000 and $100,000. A couple of caveats: the copper 43’s will have no mint mark and fakes outnumber the genuine article at an estimated ratio of 50:1. Well, I recommend leaving black mambas unchallenged and that you have a great week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at