Just in Time for the Holidays, Some Strange News

    20 December, 2019

    A camel, cow and donkey were recently found walking together along a road in the U.S. state of Kansas. That might not seem unusual in some parts of the world, but camels are rarely seen in the United States.

    Still, the camel is not the most unusual part of the story: Camels, cows and donkeys are also found together in Nativity scenes.

    In the Christian tradition, a Nativity scene is a special display representing the birth of Jesus Christ. As the story goes, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, a shelter for animals.

    Nativity scenes are common during the Christmas season. And so, the three uncommon animal friends in Kansas appeared just in time for the holiday.

    In this Dec. 9, 2019, photo a 141-year-old fruitcake, baked by Fidelia Ford, sits in the home of Dorothy Ford. (David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)
    In this Dec. 9, 2019, photo a 141-year-old fruitcake, baked by Fidelia Ford, sits in the home of Dorothy Ford. (David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)

    The story of Sully the camel, Gus the donkey and Rufus the cow grew popular online in late November. At that time, police asked for help on the social media service Facebook. Officials wrote that if they couldn't find the owner, the animals would be "halfway toward a live Nativity scene this Christmas season."

    Officers later learned that the animals belonged to an employee of a wildlife park. They were booked to be in a local Nativity scene at a holiday event there. That information comes from The Wichita Eagle newspaper.

    The holiday event, called Happy Hoof-i-days, is a first-ever for the park, which normally is closed from mid-November through about mid-March.

    The animals appear to have walked about 24 kilometers before being stopped.

    141-year-old fruitcake is a Michigan family's treasure

    A few states northeast of Kansas, in Michigan, one family's tradition is also something you do not see every day.

    Some families pass jewelry, watches or even recipes down through the generations. But this family has a different kind of heirloom: a 141-year-old fruitcake.

    "It's a great thing," said Julie Ruttinger, the great great granddaughter of Fidelia Ford, who baked the cake in 1878. "It was tradition."

    The cake was kept to honor Ford. She used to bake a fruitcake every winter, let it age for a year, and serve it the following holiday season. But Ford died at age 65 before her 1878 cake could be eaten. When the holidays arrived, the family considered her work an heirloom, not food.

    The cake was in the care of Ruttinger's father, Morgan Ford, until his 2013 death. He stored it in a special glass dish high up in a china cabinet in his home — which is where it remains today.

    "He took care of it to the day he left the earth," Ruttinger said. "We knew it meant a lot to him."

    Unfortunately, Guinness World Records doesn't have an entry for the oldest fruitcake. The Guinness organization records the greatest human victories and extremes of the natural world.

    But as for cakes in general, the Ford fruitcake is nowhere near the world's oldest, The Detroit News reported.

    That honor goes to a 4,176-year-old cake that was found in an Egyptian tomb, notes the Guinness organization. It is on display in a food museum in Switzerland.

    During the decades that Morgan Ford took care of his family's fruitcake, he showed it at church and family gatherings and shared stories about its history with younger relatives. He even displayed the cake on television on "The Tonight Show" in December 2003. On the show, he took a bite with the presenter and said it tasted like thrashed wheat.

    "He enjoyed sharing the joy of the cake," said another of his daughters, Sue Durkee. "He took a lot of pride in it."

    I'm Alice Bryant.

    The Associated Press reported these stories. Alice Bryant adapted them for Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    display – n. n arrangement of objects intended to decorate, advertise, entertain, or inform people about something

    book – v. to schedule a performance or appearance by someone

    heirloom – n. a valuable object that is owned by a family for many years and passed from one generation to another

    recipe – n. a set of instructions for making food

    china cabinet – n. a piece of furniture, usually with glass fronts and sides, that holds and displays special dinnerware

    tomb – n. a building or chamber above or below the ground in which a dead body is kept

    thrashed (wheat) – adj. raw, unprocessed wheat

    pride – n. a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people