Extraordinary Stories

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The "Icing Covers All Evils" Story

The Gingerbread display at RLPS Architects.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the midst of the Adirondack Mountains trying to find my favorite cliff side house and waterfront house.  And, it's a tough job!  The big difference between these houses is that they are all made of pretzels.  Real pretzels .... and plenty of icing.  40 gallons of icing to be exact.  That and 120 sheets if 12" x 12" sheets if Gingerbread, 15 pounds of salt, 50 pounds of assorted candies and 20 pounds of Rock Candy.  This unusual combination stands in Adiron Deck The Halls Village inside RLPS Architects in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  It is the annual Gingerbread display that has been an annual custom since 1998.  One of my former high school students, Jim, is an architect at the business and has been my host for many years.  I have had the chance to see the majority of the displays, since RLPS Architects was at the top of the hill from my house on Harrington Drive.  Three years ago the company relocated to a newly designed building about a mile from my house so I need to drive instead of walk to visit the yearly display.  The display is built by the employees of the business and takes a few weeks to complete.  This year it consists of 17 houses, 652 trees, more than 2,400 miniature lights and a multitude of miniature people, animals and accessories.  I spent close to an hour visiting the business today with Jim and I'm sure I saw only half of what there was to see.  There are a few rules for all the employees and this year they consisted of: (1) All buildings, features and accessories must adhere to the style of the Adirondack Mountains; (2) The display will be set at the turn of the century, 1900-1930; (3) Models will be at a scale of 3/8" = 1' [making normal people roughly 2" tall]; (4) All visible materials [other than windows, roof structure and lighting] must be EDIBLE; (5) Buildings shall be a single structure, no more that 100 square inches at the base after ALL candy has been applied; (6) Roofs will be shingled with nuts [almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.] OR cereal [Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Crispix, Life and Cinnamon Toast Crunch]; (7) No more than 30% of the roof may be covered in icing as snow; (8) Decorating the roof edge is allowed and encouraged, but must conform to the "lumberjack plaid" color palate; (9) Moving parts are encouraged; and the biggest rule of all this year is (10) 75-100% of exterior walls should be composed of pretzels.  And, there are over 30 shapes of pretzels that I found while taking photos of the unbelievable gingerbread display.  So, follow along as I take you on a culinary journey of the Adirodack Mountains as they are made of Gingerbread and Pretzels!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - click on photo to enlarge.
This waterfront home was judged as the best house.
The many trees were created with wire that was covered in icing and decorated.
This house is titled Honeymoon Cottage and has a neat blue truck in front of it.
Two figures are in a boat made of pasta.
The lodge is on the right with the waterfall made of tinsel that has a fan above it that blows the tinsel so it moves and looks as if the water is actually moving.
A dogsled is moving through the snow. 
Another neat house that has a chimney made of candy pieces.
This is a cabin under construction.  One of the workers on the roof is dressed in Amish garb.
A waterfront house.  In front of it is a bank made of Gingerbread and at the edge of the water is supposed to be ice built up that is lit with blue lights to make it look very realistic. 
This is a BBQ store along the waterfront.  The water is made of foil much like wrapping paper.
The Moose Lodge is a fantastic building.
High up on the hills is this really neat house that is reached by walking across the bridge.
Another small house showing walls of pretzel sticks.
These figures are part of the Polar Bear Plunge.  The detail on all the fondant figures is remarkable.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The "Percy Platypus and Friends Show" Story

Marijane Landis
It was an ordinary day.  Checked out the online forum titled "The Lancastrian" and found that one of my favorite TV personalities had died.  The long time NBC WGAL Channel 8 personality and woman's TV pioneer, Marijane Landis had died at the age of 87.  Marijane joined the crew at Channel 8 in Lancaster, PA in October of 1952.  She had been working in theater work for some time when she was asked to join the TV lineup.  She became one of the TV's first generation of on-air talent, doing commercials, hosting game and variety shows for Channel 8.  What I remember her most for though is her part in "The Percy Platypus and His Friends" show on Saturday mornings.  
Jim Freed and Marijane Landis who worked
on Per-Ki Place.  Jim operated the puppet
while Marijane talked to the kids at home.
The black and white TV show began in 1954 as a 15-minute children's show, but in 1955, when I was 11 years old, it expanded to a 30-minute show.   Per-Ki Place was fun to watch, even for an 11 year-old.  Marijane talked to the puppets as if they were real and at times I actually thought they were real.  The show was known at that time as Slapstick Theater.  She was on that show until 1974 when she created and produced Sunshine Corners which lasted for 5 years.  She worked 41 years at Channel 8 appearing as one of the station's weather girls for many years.  In 1978 she became WGAL's community service manager and personnel director.  She retired from her full-time duties in 1993, working one day a week for some time after.  She won numerous awards during her broadcasting career and then worked in charity and civic work.  Marijane was inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Famne in 1990; the first woman to have that honor.  She will certainly be missed.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Percy Platypus and Marijane Landis.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The "Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House" Story

123 North Prince Street is listed on National Register of Historical
Places.  Built in 1787, it was scheduled for demolition in 1962, but
survived and was restored to it's original condition 35 years ago.
Notice the brick ledge, about waist high, around the bottom of the
house.  It was a water table which was meant to deflect water away
from the foundation of the home.  Does it work?   Who knows. 
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in front of the Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House on North Prince Street in historical downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Heading to Central Market about a half-block away.  Market day and parking is at a premium at times so I took the first space I found rather than parking in a paid lot and having to pay more than a metered spot.  Grabbed my camera for a few shots of the house that was built in 1787 by German surveyor, mathematician, astronomer, woodworker and builder Gottlieb Sehner.  He lived in the house with his wife, his widowed mother, an unmarried brother and his children.  
The rear garden and entrance.  The door
to the right, next to the ivy on the wall,
is the entrance to the Historic Trust.
When Gottlieb died, his widow rented the house to Andrew Ellicott who then occupied the home from 1754 to 1820.  While living in the house at 123 North Prince Street, Ellicott was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to teach Meriwether Lewis surveying techiniques to help him, along with William Clark, in his exploration of the Louisiana Purchase.   Ellicott was well prepared having surveyed Washington, D.C. boundaries, helping map the Mason-Dixon Line and helped define the line between the Colonies and the Spanish territories in what would become Florida.  Ellicott would become the first United States Surveyor General from 1801 to 1813.  The house was used as a home for about 100 years after Ellicott moved out, serving as The Otters Lodge social club at one point.  
An historical sign telling the story of
Andrew Ellicott who lived in the home.
In 1962 the house was scheduled to be demolished along with the entire northern first block of downtown Lancaster, but a citizen's group was started who formed the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, which saved the house.  The house was then purchased by the Louise Steinman von Hess Foundation and restored from 1978 to 1981 and became the headquarters of the Historic Preservation Trust.  A sign that hangs in front of the house says that it also is the headquarters for State Senator Lloyd K. Smucker.  After snapping a few photos of the house, I put my camera back in the car and headed to market to buy a fat ..... cream-filled long john.  And boy was it good!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Photo of the Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House years ago before restoration.


Monday, December 28, 2015

The "The Fastest Nun In The West" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished writing my story that I posted a few weeks ago that talked about Billy The Kid and his gang known as The Regulators.  While checking a few sites for information on Billy The Kid I came across another interesting person by the name of Rosa Maria Segale, better known as Sister Blandina Segale who was a Sister of Charity in the Catholic Church in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Seems that she was one of the very few people who had gained the respect of the outlaw Billy The Kid.  
Sister Blandina, the Fastest Nun in the West"
It was on September 13, 1866 that Sister Blandina entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and six years later was sent to work in the wild west, the newly acquired territories of the United States.  She first arrived in Trinidad, Colorado where she taught the poor.  Five years later she was transferred to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she co-founded the public as well as Catholic school in the city.  She also was given credit for starting hospitals in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  As well as completing all these feats, she taught, healed the immigrants, the marginalized, the poor and advocated for women and children.  She also challenged the military and government concerning the treatment of the Native Americans.  She was also given credit for aiding mistreated railroad workers, finding time to care for the sick while helping build orphanages, hospitals, schools and trade schools.  She was given credit for converting countless people to Christianity.  Now, I have read article after article about the virtues of Sister Blandina, who was born in Italy but immigrated to the United States at the age of four, and have found that everything I have written has been well documented.  Sister Blandina was an American wonder woman!  And, all this documentation will be needed, since on June 26 of last year, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico announced that the Vatican had agreed to open a cause for the sainthood of Sister Blandina Segale, a Sister of Charity who served in frontier towns founding and teaching in schools, starting hospitals and acting as a force for peace in the "Wild West."  The Archbishop of Santa Fe will oversee the preparation of the official case for sister Blandina's canonization which will then be presented to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  As far as Sister Blandina's encounters with one William Bonney, known as the famous western gang leader "Billy The Kid," it seems that in 1876 she provided care for one of Billy's henchmen, who had been shot during a quarrel with a fellow outlaw and left to die.  The town's four physicians didn't want anything to do with the injured while Sister Blandina visited him frequently over the next few weeks, offering him physical and spiritual comfort.  When Billy found out what had happened he planned to kill the doctors.  After meeting Sister Blandina, Billy offered to repay the favor and she asked him to spare the lives of the four physicians, which he did.  On another occasion, when Billy and his gang attempted to rob a covered wagon in which she was traveling, he looked inside and saw her.  After recognizing who it was, he tipped his hat and rode off in deference to her safety and the debt he owed her.  You may remember, as I did, the 1966 episode of the CBS series "Death Valley Days", which was titled The Fastest Nun in the West, which focused on her efforts to save a man from being hanged.  Sister Blandina was a legend in the Old West just as much as Billy The Kid was.  At the age of 81 she made a visit to Italy to see Pope Pius to plead the cause of Sister Elizabeth Seton to sainthood.  It is now the task of others to plead her cause to sainthood.  Sister Blandina Segale died on February 23, 1941 in Cincinnati, Ohio at the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity at the age of 91.  Her last words were Gesu e Madre (Mary, mother of Jesus).  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The "My Wife Hit A Homerun!" Story

Opening my Christmas gift as my daughter and granddaughters watch.
It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in our living room with my wife, three children, son-in-law and daughter-in-law and three grand- children.  The tree is aglow on this misty morning as we have our annual Christmas exchange of gifts around the Christmas tree.  The room is filled with excitement and voices fill the air with laughter and many "Thank You's".  Our oldest granddaughter just opened her box filled with Uggs and headed across the room to give Carol and me a big hug.  After about half an hour of excitement there was one very large box left.  And …. it had my name on it.  My daughter had brought it along with her on her trip from Maryland a few hours ago and had placed it on the coffee table, not saying a word about it until I was handed the gift.  Label on it said "To Larry from Carol".  Seems my wife didn't trust that I might open it ahead of time to see what might be in it.  Well, I opened the box wrapped in a Santa Claus paper to discover there was another box inside wrapped in a bright green paper.  
The Present!
Box after box followed until there was one small box remaining.  All eyes were on me as I opened the one final box in my lap.  I opened the red foil tissue paper and there they were …. two tickets to opening day at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to see my beloved Phils play the San Diego Padres.  My wife had really surprised me this year!!  Never went to an opening day game, but I'll be sitting in Section 201, Row 10, Seat 23 with her by my side in seat 24 on Monday, April 11, 2016.  Pretty neat gift!  And, next to my Schwinn Bike that my Aunt Doris gave to me when I was 10 years old and the brushed aluminum hubcaps that my parents bought me for my first car, a 1953 Henry J, the tickets were the most unexpected gift I ever received.  If you happen to be visiting the game on the 11th, stop to see me and say "Hello!"  I'll be the guy with the huge smile on my face.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The "Decorating A Triangle Of Land In Lititz" Story

Recent photograph of the triangle of land in the Lititz Square.
It was an ordinary day.  Just passing through the town of Lititz, PA and had to stop to take a photo of their creche that they have on a tiny triangle of land in their square at the corner of Main and Broad Streets.  Wrote a story about the creche last year telling that someone had filed a law suit in 1993 against the city for allowing the creche to be placed on public land.  
A photograph of the same piece of land taken in 1915.
Found out through research that the triangle of land actually belonged to the Moravian Church down the street from the property, so it was allowed to remain.  Well, this year is the 100th anniversary of the Christmas display in the square.  It was in 1915 that four gentlemen decorated the four trees that filled the triangle.  The trees were illuminated with 50 electric colored lights with more strung  from tree to tree.  Very festive mood was established that first year of decorations which have continued since then.  The trees eventually came down with the creche being added, but the festive atmosphere still remains.  The city of Lititz can be proud of their little spit of land in the middle of their square that carries the Christmas tradition from year to year.  Good job, well done!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The "Christmas Greeting" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Christmas Day 2015 and Carol and I wish all a Merry Christmas!  Another year will soon close as we remember the birth of our Savior once again.  I have posted a photograph of the Creche we display this time of year.  I'm sure most Christians have one similar.  Carol's friend Margaret made the figurines out of dough, painted them and presented them to Carol as a gift many years ago. 

A few days ago we received a Christmas card from a friend whom I taught with in the room next to mine for many years.  The front of the card was a painting from my friend Neil while on the rear was a poem written by Henry Vaughan which reads:


"My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
There above noise and danger
Sweet peace sits crowned with smiles,
And one born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files."

It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary day.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The "Other Wise Man" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished reading for the second time a small book I bought over a year ago at Shupp's Grove, a large outdoor flea and antique market between Lancaster and Reading, Pennsylvania.  The book that I found on one of the many outdoor tables is titled "The Story of the OTHER WISE MAN" written by Henry Van Dyke.  Inside the 4"x7" cover of the book was a hand-written note that read: To Dorothy From Aunt Mary. Christmas 1944.  Seeing this note which featured my birth date, I knew I had to pay the $2.00 for the book.  The book carried a copyright date of 1895 by Harper and Brothers.  Little did I know how profound the story of Artaban the Majian, who was said to be friends with the other Magi, Caspar, Melchoir and Balthazar, would be as I read it.  I know the story was a figment of the imagination of Mr. Van Dyke, but it almost felt as if the story could have been true.  As I read the 75 page book for the second time, I made a few notes to share with you so you can see the story of the OTHER WISE MAN as written by Henry Van Dyke.  

  • Chapter 1: The Sign in the Sky - Artaban the Medium lived in the city of Ecbatana among the mountains of Persia.  Artaban told his friends that "it has been shown to him and his three companions among the Magi that they saw two of the greatest stars in the sky draw near together in the sign of the Fish.  They also saw a new star there which shone for one night and then vanished.  His companions were presently in Babylonia and if the star was revealed once again they would wait ten days for him at the Temple of the Seven Spheres before they set out to Jerusalem to see and worship the promised one.  When the star was seen, Artaban sold his house and belongings and purchased 3 jewels - a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl - to carry to the new King.
  • Chapter 2: By The Waters of Babylon - Artaban rode Vasda, the swiftest of his horses, toward Babylon to meet the other Magi.  Many days passed until finally he knew he had about a three hour journey left.  The horse approached a dark figure in the shadow of a palm tree.  Artaban dismounted and found an old man, nearing death.  He told the old man of his journey then gave him water and a potion for health.  The old man thanked him with the message that he should search for the Messiah in Bethlehem rather than Jerusalem.  When Artaban arrived at the Temple he found a note from under a pile of bricks from his friends telling him to follow them across the desert.  He knew he had not only the strength, but the supplies needed for the trip across the desert so he sold the sapphire and bought provisions for the crossing.
  • Chapter 3: For the Sake of a Little Child - He followed the remarks of the old man and headed toward Bethlehem.  He had arrived three days after the other Maji who offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The Maji had moved on, but he was drawn to the voice of a woman tending her child.  She told of the three Maji from the East who were headed to Egypt.  The woman's child touched him as he ate some food the woman had given him.  A noise in the streets showed Herod's soldiers were near and searching for children so as to kill them.  They stopped at the door of the woman and Artaban answered the door.  He knew what was to happen so he offered the soldier his second jewel, the ruby, in return for his leaving, and the troops left.  
  • Chapter 4: In the Hidden Way of Sorrow - Artaban searched and searched for his King.  One told him: Remember, the King whom you are seeking is not to be found in a palace nor among the rich and powerful.  He spent many years on his search while feeding the hungry and helping the poor.  
  • Chapter 5: A Pearl of Great Price - Three and thirty years of the life of Artaban's search had passed and he was still a pilgrim and a seeker.  His hair was now white and his eyes dull as he came once again into Jerusalem.  Today the sky was veiled with a portentous gloom and an excitement in the crowd.  He followed the crowd outside the city to a place known as Golgatha.  Two robbers and another known as Jesus of Nazareth were to be executed.  A young woman broke free of her tormentors who were selling her as a slave to pay for her father's debts.  She grabbed the leg of Artaban, telling him of her plight and he reached into his bag, taking the Pearl and placing it in her hand so she could pay for her release.  Just then the earth shook and the darkness thickened.  A roof tile fell onto Artaban and knocked him to the ground.  The young woman bent down when a voice broke through the twilight.  Artaban answered: Thirty three years I have searched, but never seen your face.  The voice returned saying: Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.  The face of Artaban brightened and one final breath of relief exhaled from his lips.  His journey was ended.  The OTHER WISEMAN had found his King.
Truth or Fiction?  Certainly an interesting story which has no historical truth to it.  But, as I sing "We Three Kings" during our Christmas service I will be thinking of Artaban the Majian and his quest after seeing the star in the sky on Christmas Eve.  Much like the star high above our altar.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The "A Few Deer For My Dear" Story

My wife's reindeer collection as seen in our living room.
It was an ordinary day.  Picking up a few reindeer for my wife's Christmas collection.  For years Carol has been collecting miniature deer from all over the world.  Her collection numbers about 20 with perhaps one added every year to the collection.  
One of the many display cases at Strawberry & Company
that display items from around the world.
Well, this year she is going to be adding two new deer to her collection.  In the center of Lancaster, PA is a neat little store known as Strawberry & Company. Wayne, the owner, has some of the most unusual finds within the walls of his shop which is located next to Lancaster's historic Central Market house.  
The two new additions I am giving to Carol for Christmas.
He has been selling my altered Polaroids for years and I have made many visits to his store with replace- ment photos.  Recently, while looking through the cases he has lining the walls, I discovered two small deer that I knew I just had to have for gifts for Carol on Christmas day.  One small deer was made from pressed wood that was made in Germany.  It is approximately three inches long and two inches high and extremely thin.  The other deer is known as brushed art and came from the Philipines.  It is about five inches long and perhaps 3 inches high.  They will both be welcome additions for her collection which graces the coffee table in our living room.  I'm anxious to give them to her on Christmas Day.  If you're wondering if she will find out about the gifts before Christmas, I'm not worried, since she has lived through just about all my extraordinary days with me and doesn't bother to read about them again.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

A few of my favorites from Carol's collection.  This one is made from thistles.
This one is ceramic with wires as antlers that have bells and a bird nest on them.
This deer is polished aluminum.
Another ceramic deer with antlers. 
This is a metal deer with extremely long legs and antlers.  Just love it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The "Memories of Christmas' Past: Part II" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Posting the remainder of my photos I have selected from the  trip Carol and I had taken a few days ago to the National Christmas Center in Paradise, PA.  The tour we took was self-guided and lasted close to an hour and a half, but we could have taken more or less time if we so chose.   There is seating throughout the tour if you tire of walking and you do the tour at your own pace.  We arrived on a Monday and there was very few others in the building, but the parking lot is very large with spaces for tour buses if needed.  I imagine that if you arrive on a weekend orh during the summer months when people vacation in the Amish Country, the place would be very crowded and hard to maneuver through the displays.  Certainly would be harder to take video or photographs with a larger crowd.  We each paid $12.50 for the tour with children's tickets at $5.00 and 2 and under free.  Check their website to get the days they are closed during the year; there are very few days when the place isn't open.  I photographed what I thought to be interesting to me, while you may find many other Christmas memories that have more meaning than what I photographed.  The place is amazing and has fantastic reviews on the Internet.  You won't be disappointed in the fifteen galleries that give you a look at Christmas throughout the world.  Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on photos to see them better.

This is Father Christmas of the United Kingdom.  Father Christmas developed from various European legends of the Dutch St. Nicholas, but also has roots going all the way back to the Mumming Plays of the Middle Ages.  As a character in these plays he became associated with the not traditional customs of wassailing, mistletoe, and the burning of the Yule log.  
This features, behind Santa, the cotton wrapped tree.   In 1833 Gustave Koerner discovered that there were no evergreens growing on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Clair County, Illinois.  In order to keep the Christmas tradition of a tree going he used a sassafras tree, wrapped the stark branches in cotton strips to resemble snow, and trimmed it with apples, candy, ribbons, bright paper, as well as hazel and hickory nuts.  Eventually glass ornaments and lighted candles were added.  Now, that last addition puzzles me, since I can't imagine lit candles on a dry tree covered with cloth.
This scene pictures the Night before Christmas in the 1950's.  Greeting cards were displayed, Bing Crosby was dreaming of a white Christmas and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care.  The 5&10 was stocked with tree trimming material such as bubble lights, plastic ornaments and silver tinsel.  Here you can see Santa getting ready to head up the chimney after leaving gifts for the two young children by the tree.
This was a cast metal 1884 Nativity made in New York and displayed in a church in Canada.  It was found broken in a scrap yard and brought to the Christmas Center where it was restored back to health with missing parts fabricated to complete it.
These are figures manufactured by Byers Choice.  In the late 1960's Joyce Byers made the first figurines at the family's dining room table for friends and relatives.  Joyce was inspired to make these figures as she wanted to bring back the feeling of an old-fashioned Christmas.  These very collectible figures are still being manufactured and are fairly expensive to purchase.
The Creche is a popular custom of displaying a Nativity scene at Christmas and dates back to St. Francis of Assisi who resided in Italy in 1224.  One evening he saw shepherds asleep in the fields of nearby Greccio.  The image reminded him of the shepherds in the Christmas story.  He created a Nativity scene so that ordinary peasant folk could more fully understand the beauty and simplicity of the Holy Birth.  One of the displays at the Christmas Center features a stable structure from the 1880's.  I have added a few of the close to a hundred Nativity scenes that are on display in the Center.  Small signs tell you where they were made.

And this really neat Nativity which is on sale in the gift shop.  It features an Amish Nativity.
This photo and the following one are supposed to be a child's view of the Christmas Tree.  If you look above, it seems as if you are under a Christmas tree and the village and train yard in front of you would be the floor of a home.  Just so realistic and breathtaking.  Trains travel through the town and you can walk around the entire display just as you would if you were a child crawling under the tree.  What a wonderful gallery. 

There are quite a few display cases filled with toy trains of all gauges.  To go along with the trains are boxes and boxes of Plasticville buildings and miniature people.
This final photograph shows metal Cowboys and Indians.  I had a collection of close to 50 or more when I was a child.  A few of the boys in the neighborhood played in the dirt piles in our yard with them.  The samples on display are in perfect condition which mine certainly were not after years of playing Cowboys and Indians.