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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Slight Misunderstanding

Dr. George Engelmann (1809 – 1884) was a German-American botanist who traveled through Arkansas in the 1830s in search of specimens. From an obituary:
He departed on his scientific tour through Arkansas and the western bank of the Mississippi. Upon this trip he had a large, heavy knife, made like a huge bowie-knife, which has accompanied him ever since upon all his botanical excursions, serving to dig out roots, to cut down saplings and vines. Whilst resting one night in an Arkansas farm house, he was cleaning the blade which had served to dig out roots and some specimens. This rather stirred up the old trapper, who stood watching him. Finally, the backwoodsman could not longer conceal his annoyance, and tapping Dr. Engelmann on the shoulder, said, in the belief that it was a piece of bravado to draw him out: "I say, stranger, this is a mighty big knife, but I have got one as good, and if you like, we will just try knives."

It was with some trouble that the man was pacified and made to understand that it was a scientific instrument and not an Arkansas tooth-pick.

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