With the holidays here, songs about Santa and his reindeer are filling the air. I'm writing to talk about reindeer antlers. Reindeer are unique because they are the only members of the deer family in which both genders have antlers, which are made of bone and grown annually.
In the summer and fall, you cannot identify a reindeer as a "he" or a "she" without further investigation. In late December, however, only the females still have their antlers.
During the summer months, the males use their antlers to attract females and defend their harem (anywhere from five to 15 females) from other males. When they are no longer "looking for love," the males lose their antlers. The females, on the other hand, keep theirs through the winter and into the spring, and use them to compete for food and to protect their young.
The only reindeer with antlers at Christmastime are the girls, Abby. So Rudolph would have been appropriately named "Rudolphia," and the other reindeer would have been laughing and calling her names until the glow from her nose guided Santa's sleigh that foggy Christmas Eve.
- Joyce Campbell, Ph.D.
DEAR DR. CAMPBELL: Fascinating. This clearly explains why Santa doesn't get lost at Christmas. Females are never reluctant to ask for directions . . . ho, ho, ho.
DEAR ABBY: I demonstrate products in a supermarket. It isn't easy, and sometimes I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place.
Will you please tell parents that if we do not give their children samples of food, it is for their own good. We don't know what kind of food allergies their children may have. The company I work for will fire us if we give samples to children without a parent first giving permission.
- Trying Hard in Tulsa, Okla.
DEAR TRYING HARD: You have my sympathy, and I'm pleased to pass along your message. I recently read that food allergies among children are on the rise, and that 4 percent of kids today suffer from one. The policy your company is enforcing is for everyone's protection and should not be misinterpreted. It's in place so that no one's little angel gets sick or has an allergic reaction.
DEAR ABBY: A few months ago, my husband and I were visiting a remote area in the mountains. We were on a narrow, winding road with no shoulder and a guardrail on one side. There was traffic in both directions. As we ambled along, we heard a siren. An ambulance came up behind us and rode our tail, blasting the horn, obviously urging us to let him by.
Although we looked and looked, we could not find a safe place to pull over for several minutes. When we finally did find a space to pull into, the crew threw us dirty looks as they drove by.
I hate to think we endangered someone's life or made the EMTs' job more difficult, but it seemed equally dangerous for us to move into a lane of oncoming traffic. What is the proper etiquette for this type of situation?
- Rachael in Atlanta
DEAR RACHAEL: When approached by a vehicle with a siren and a flashing red light, a driver should pull as far to the right as possible and stop. Because there was no place for you to pull over, you should have done exactly what you did - which was to proceed at a safe rate of speed until you found one.