Daily Dirt: I still need to learn a lot about Illinois


Daily Dirt for Sunday, May 21, 2023

Dairy Queen or Nabisco … I’m not sure which one of those businesses are most important. Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 614 of The Daily Dirt.

1. For background’s sake, I moved to Illinois 25 years ago. Before arriving, I knew very little about the state, and I’m still learning. Here are some of the most recent items I have come across that proved enlightening:

  • Illinois is the birthplace of Dairy Queen, the beloved fast-food chain. Why had no one ever shared this with me? The first Dairy Queen location opened in 1940 in Joliet. The chain is known for its shakes and malts, but they weren’t added to the menu until 1949.
  • I had no idea until the other day that the largest bakery in the world is in Chicago. It’s a Nabisco plant nearly 2 million square feet in size. It takes 1,200 workers to keep that production chain running smoothly.
  • Illinois might be home to one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country in the form of Chicago, but the majority of the state is farmland. There are 72,000 farms in the state, covering 75 percent of its total area. On my first-ever drive to Quincy in the late 1990s, I think I passed most of that area between Decatur and Quincy.
  • I have mentioned my infatuation with the the large number of vanity license plates in Illinois. I even have a regular weekly feature in this space  (“The Great Plate Debate”) marveling at the ingenuity of some of the car owners in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri. What I recently found out, though, was that 640,000 vanity plates are on file in Illinois, which represents 6 percent of all registered vehicles.
  • This item really surprised me. As part of the Union, Illinois was deeply involved in the Civil War — yet not a single battle was fought in the state. Instead of being the site of actual fighting, Illinois was the location of several important supply bases. Of course, the state also supplied its fair share of soldiers, including General Ulysses S. Grant.

Illinois may be my home, but I obviously still have a lot to learn.

2. Here are three other medal-worthy things I have learned in recent days:

  • Gold medal: The human body’s veins can stretch up to 60 miles.
  • Silver medal: A camel can drink 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes.
  • Bronze medal: Babe Ruth was the first athlete to earn more than the president. In 1930, Ruth was given an $80,000 salary by the Yankees, which was $5,000 more than President Herbert Hoover would earn. 

3. Fun fact: The wettest day of the year? Alaska-based climatologist Brian Brettschneer analyzed 30 years of data that found June — and not April — is the wettest month of the year on average in the contiguous U.S. Brettschneider also calculated June 7 was the wettest day overall on the average. His studies show the majority of the nation averages 3.5 to 5 inches of rainfall every June 7.

It seems June is the time of year when hot and humid conditions stream north from the Gulf of Mexico. Those summerlike air masses can make it all the way to the Canadian border, causing the juiced-up atmosphere to spill (literally) across the Northeast, the Plains and the upper Midwest.

Steve Thought O’ The Day
I tip my hat to a German gentleman named Kevin Shelley, who may possess the most powerful forehead in history. Shelley used that cranium to establish the world record for most wooden toilet seats broken with the head in one minute. It’s a record that has stood for close to 16 years. Shelley shattered 46 wooden toiled seats with his forehead over the course of just 60 seconds back on Sept. 1, 2007. He is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. Maybe more amazing than Shelley’s record for breaking toilet seats with his head is the fact that Steve decided it was important to look it up.

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