Mark Twain was not from Michigan, but a quote of his makes him at least an honorary Michigander. “In the Spring, I have counted one hundred thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of twenty-four hours.” 


While we all wait for the slightest hint of a spring thaw,  it's a good time to stock up on some interesting facts to toss into conversations on the off chance lake effect snow won't derail July picnics. It's fun to show others that while they have been slacking off all winter, you have been hard at work to ensure your brilliance enshrines you as the life of the party. 


For instance, people may be surprised to learn what company owns the most supermarkets in Mexico. “When it comes to supermarkets in Mexico, no single company comes close to matching the reach of Walmart. Walmart has over 2,700 stores in the country.” 


The U.S. has 5,000 Walmart stores, but there's a bit more to the story. “On a per capita basis, there is about one Walmart store per 47,000 Mexicans, compared to one per 62,000 for Americans.” (


For contrast, remember Kmart? One closed in New Jersey last week, which left just three Kmarts still remaining in the entire country. “The number of Kmarts in the US—once well over 2,000—will be down to three last holdouts.” Those stores are in Westwood, New Jersey; Bridgehampton, on New York’s Long Island; and Miami. (


If the decline of Kmart marks a sad milestone, a more upbeat milestone was recently recorded according to the U.S. Energy Information Association. On Tuesday, March 29, wind turbines in the lower forty-eight states produced 2,017 gigawatthours of electricity, making wind the second-largest source of electric generation for the day, only behind natural gas. Daily wind-powered electricity had surpassed coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation separately on other days earlier this year but had not surpassed both sources on a single day.” (


If you do get to have a picnic, snacks will be an important commodity. For teens, there is a clear favorite – Goldfish. “Goldfish are American teens’ most preferred snack, with eleven percent listing them as their favorite in the latest Piper Sandler survey. Not only are they teens’ fave snack, but seventy-two percent of respondents who listed Goldfish as their top choice said they plan to eat at least the same amount or more in the next six months.” Stock up! (


Goldfish could be a safe menu choice, but you might want to opt out of another possibility – bat meat. “US Customs and Border Protection officers inspecting luggage at Washington Dulles International Airport recently discovered an unusual find: three and a half pounds of bat meat. Bat meat can carry infectious diseases, and is therefore prohibited from entering the United States. Bats in particular, have been suggested as one possible source of the COVID-19 pandemic.” If you have a hankering for a bat meat burger, fine and dandy. You go first. I'll hold your beer. (


Everyone is open to new employment opportunities, so a somewhat odd profession might be of interest – certified car smeller. This involves checking vehicles for that “new car smell.” It's a real thing. 


“For most cars, it’s a complex olfactory chorus of odors that elicits an emotional response. At car companies there are professionals part of whose job is to sniff carefully and ensure every new car has the that unique new car smell. Smells in the front seat can be vastly different from smells in the back seat. Even though all the components in the car have been pre-smelled before being installed in a prototype vehicle, there are still surprises.” 


This effort to achieve the optimum “new car smell” is pretty much just a North American thing. “Car buyers in Europe and Asia prefer no smell at all.” (


While that picnic is going on, it might be a good idea to give the kidlings something to keep them occupied. There's an activity that pairs nature with the internet, so that could be the ticket. A project called “Journey North” tracks the migration patterns of all sorts of animals. As you might guess, birds are a big part of this: robins, songbirds, eagles, orioles, the list goes on. If a spotter sees a particular animal, they can report their finding which then is added to a database. Sigh up at:


Finally, if you want to regale your listeners with some local knowledge, there is a wealth of nifty notes that are easily accessed. The “Historical Marker Database” says it offers “Bite-Size Bits of Local History.” 


For example, it's pretty cool that the KISS Monument on Chestnut Street is now listed (with six photos) in the historical database: “In October of 1975, Cadillac High School in Cadillac, Michigan made Rock ‘n’ Roll history when KISS played at their homecoming.”


In addition, there are eight more Cadillac historical markers listed at: Better yet, there's a process by which you can make a submission for a local marker to be added to the list. Now that's really cool!


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and