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Strange But True, America: Weird Tales From All 50 States    by John Hafnor & Dale Crawford order for
Strange But True, America
by John Hafnor
Order:  USA  Can
Lone Pine, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Author John Hafnor went rummaging through America's history attic and discovered some offbeat, bizarre, and highly entertaining remnants of the country's past. After fashioning his findings into over fifty one page narratives, Hafnor enlisted artist Dale Crawford to create full page pen and ink drawings to accompany each story.

The result is this nifty picture book for adults that shares some of the lesser know facts about important events and iconic figures that don't make it into the more traditional history texts. Although he takes his task seriously, Hafnor presents his material in such a manner that it will very likely elicit a few smiles, if not outright boisterous guffaws.

In the introduction the author explains he devoted five years to researching this volume. 'I figured there must be at least one enormously entertaining historical tale from each of the states. I was wrong,' he writes. 'There are many such tales from each state. Thus, my biggest job became selecting that most compelling tale from your home state ... and every state.'

As stated, there was so much good stuff to draw from Hafnor that ends the book with Thumbing Through America's Weird Past, which offers a collection of 21 pages of short paragraphs about other regional oddities. For example, you'll learn that 'Louisiana was one of a handful of pre-Civil War states where blacks could own slaves. One census revealed that 735 'free people of color' owned 2,351 slaves.'

The full page stories range from the cautionary tale of a Texas bandito who, after being beheaded, was tied to his horse and sent packing into the badlands of the area between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers to a similar story about a rogue camel in Arizona with a dead man firmly strapped to its back.

You'll also read about a skinny-dipping American president who loved to submerge himself in the Potomac, a student who cut down the world's oldest tree, another president who was killed by his doctors, and a Pennsylvania community where an underground coal mine fire has continued to burn for decades.

Although this is a book that is easily read in bits and pieces over time, I imagine that, like the proverbial bag of peanuts, most readers will find it difficult to sample just one or two of these pieces and then stop. Once you start, my guess is you'll read the book from cover to cover and then pass it on to another family member.

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