It's time again for everyone who hasn't filed their taxes to start freaking out about how much work they've left to the last minute. Fortunately, people have been up against much more uncomfortable walls with much less time to spare. And they've done some pretty mind-blowing things ...
#8. Macedonia Plants 6 Million Trees in One Day
Of all the troubling statistics that hippies shout at us as we pretend to be on our phone to avoid signing their petitions, the ones about how much rain forest is cut or burned down each day are always some of the most troubling. In 2008, after two summers of wildfires laid waste to their forests, the citizens of Macedonia didn't need anyone to tell them their forests were in trouble. And so they decided to put all those trees back ... in one day. The simplistic plan must have been the laughingstock of the green movement. Everyone knows you have to get Bono to attend one of your parties before your nonprofit is taken seriously.
"Remember to budget the $300 per hour for the lady who points at the word 'strategy' all day."
Not realizing that they hadn't done any of that, on November 19, 2008, the citizens of Macedonia got together and planted a total of 6 million trees -- three trees for every human in the country. Thousands of people were bused around the country to planting sites. "Just as we take care of our homes, we should take care of our planet," said one of the citizens who took part in the planting, and then "I don't know what you're talking about" when asked which ad agency had come up with that slogan.
By the way, here's how big Macedonia is compared to a chunk of the United States:
The next year, when the fires took their toll again, Macedonians had another planting day, where they put down another 6 million trees. They did it again last year, when they put down 7 million. By November 2011, they had planted 44 million new trees (with only two days of planting a year).
Macedonia: Now buried beneath three layers of trees.
In addition to helping out their homeland, the organizers were hoping to send the world a message about how much you can do to fight global warming if you put just a little effort into it. You have to admit that a tiny country of 2 million people planting 6 million trees in a single day makes that point a lot better than some hippie shaming you with buzzwords.
#7. George Washington Builds a Frozen City in the Night Like It Ain't a Thing
One of the key battles of the Revolutionary War was won not by fighting but by pushing a lot of heavy things around in the middle of the night. George Washington's army was moving on British-occupied Boston, but with the British well-defended and able to see them coming, they needed some kind of edge.
Well, yes, this is obvious to us now, but remember that they had much smaller brains back then.
Washington went with what we will call the "instant fort" plan, where the British would go to bed to an empty hillside and wake up in the shadow of a fortified bank of cannons pointing down at them. This involved sneaking over 60 cannons up a hill right in front of the town, as well as all the materials for fortifications.
On March 4, 1776, they wrapped their wagon wheels with straw to deaden the sound, put hay bales between whatever they were moving and the city and did the impossible, just like Washington asked.
Stealth equipment in the 1700s was not as cool-looking as it is today.
By morning, there was an impressive fortification staring down on the city, stirring British general William Howe to say, "The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month." Which implies that either the Revolutionary Army had accomplished an extraordinary feat or that the British Army was mostly worthless.
Howe's first plan was to attack, but a sudden storm gave him some time to think about it, as well as giving Washington some time to keep building his fortifications. By the time the storm cleared up, Washington's instant fort was impressive enough that Howe decided to head out. Washington had basically managed to take a city with the military equivalent of flexing his muscles.
"You think this is nonchalant? I can get at least 15 percent more nonchalant than this."
#6. Empty Lot of Land Becomes Guthrie, Oklahoma, in One Day
April 22, 1889 marked the astonishing one-day transformation of an empty expanse of prairie land into a town of 10,000, all between noon and sundown. It also marked the last time anyone was anxious to get into Oklahoma.
You see, due to a perfect conjunction of laws and stealing land from Indians, there was suddenly a ton of free land to be had in Oklahoma for anyone who could get there and put a tent on it first. But the law said that nobody could cross the border until noon on April 22 for some reason. In the days prior to the 22nd, hordes of land-hungry carpetbaggers began to pile up on the border, waiting to pour through the gates like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday.
Like this, only with a lot more horse carts and dysentery.
Unlike Black Friday, there aren't any records of anyone being trampled to death, but there were quite a few people illegally camping out inside the territory, which is basically like going into Walmart the day before Thanksgiving and hiding yourself in a display of Pepsi cans, and then popping out at 4 a.m. on Black Friday and shouting, "First!"
These people were called "sooners," and Oklahomans are apparently proud of this behavior, because it's their state nickname (the Sooner State) and the Oklahoma University team name.
John Silks via Wikimedia Commons
"Whoooo! We like cutting in line!"
When the clock struck noon on the 22nd, the crowds piled onto trains and went racing into the territory, many of them getting off at the first station -- Guthrie -- at 1:25 p.m., where they found a handful of sooners already staking their claims. Seeing that they weren't the first to get there, and noticing that lots of the people on the train were as impatient as they were, the campers sprang into action, and the town went from 0 to 10,000 in the course of an afternoon. And since this was back when elbow grease was America's number one export, tire axle lubricant and preferred soup base, the sudden citizens had already laid out the streets, staked out lots and started forming a government by the time midnight rolled around.
"Dibs on Minister of Rocking Out!"
Four months later, the town was pretty well built out, with the directory listing "six banks, 16 barbers, 16 blacksmiths, 17 carpenters, two cigar manufacturers, five newspapers, seven hardware stores, 15 hotels, 19 pharmacists, 22 lumber companies, 39 doctors, 40 restaurants" and, of course, 81 lawyers.
#5. U.S. Navy Delivers Aircraft-Carrier-Shaped Magic Trick
In World War II's Battle of the Coral Sea, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown had a hole ripped through its flight deck by a Japanese bomb, which penetrated several decks and exploded inside the ship, killing or seriously injuring 66 men. Despite its gaping wound, the Yorktown was able to make it back to the Pearl Harbor naval yard for repairs, forever proving that the Titanic was a wimp.
"We're going to need four, maybe five tubes of caulk."
The bomb damage, plus all the other damage sustained in the battle, was expected to take three months to repair, although crews estimated that they could get her just barely patched up enough in two weeks to return to the U.S. mainland for serious repairs. Admiral Nimitz, channeling his best Captain Kirk, told them they had three days -- and not just to get the ship limping back to the mainland, but to send her out to fight.
Soon after that order, his shirt ripped open.
Several sleepless days later, the USS Yorktown was on her way to Midway like a freaking magic trick. The sheer impossibility of the Yorktown being afloat, let alone ready to fight, led the Japanese to assume they must be looking at a new carrier. The Yorktown took down four Japanese carriers before doing what it did best and was shot to pieces. This time, the ship sank like a stone, but the Americans who went down with it had done their damage, and the battle where the U.S. Navy made Japan think they were being attacked by a freaking ghost ship ended up being one of the keys to turning the tide of the war. The battle put the Japanese behind in terms of ships and manpower, and they never caught up.
The ragtag team of hot female mechanics that we like to imagine fixed the ship.