Far be it from me to declare any particular news item the strangest one of 2005, but I’ve collected a few contenders for the title.
The city of Elmore, Ohio, probably hit on a unique festival idea when they hosted their first Tombstone Derby in October, just before Halloween. The idea arose from a local legend involving a ghostly headless motorcycle rider who is said to appear each March 21. The race itself is for homemade vehicles resembling coffins.
Mike Smith of Wayne, Ohio, made an entry from his late wife’s car. Smith told a reporter, “After she passed away, I had an extra car and I said, ’What the heck? I don’t need this,’ so I cut it up.”
The only recognizable part of Sandy Smith’s 1995 Thunderbird remaining was the wheel covers. The rest was cut away, with the drive train serving as the base for a mobile casket. After all that work, Smith failed to win any of the urn-shaped trophies. Quite a tribute to his late wife, wouldn’t you say?
Out in Colorado, a man already serving a life sentence on a murder conviction was given three additional years for handing out cheese sandwiches.
While in jail awaiting trial on the murder charge, Douglas Wilson tried to give his extra sandwiches to fellow inmates. When he ignored a deputy’s order to stop, he was shocked with a stun gun. Wilson eventually pled guilty to possession of contraband and had three years added to his prison time.
In Wausau, Wisconsin, a man upset that city park workers blew grass clippings on him while mowing found an odd way to express his anger.
The unidentified man began sneaking into the parking lot at the city’s parks and recreation department at night, hanging women’s underwear from the mirrors of parked vehicles. Police said clothing had been left on several vehicles 30 to 50 times between May and October, usually one vehicle at a time, several times a week.
The parks department finally caught the man on videotape. Park director Bill Duncanson said he was concerned by the incidents because it looked unprofessional. No word on if the man was charged with anything, but it looks like he’ll have to find a new nighttime hobby.
Meanwhile, in Japan, where people drive on the left side of the road, Ford Motor Company plans to start selling its Explorer SUV with the steering wheel on the left.
Studies by Ford show that the Japanese regard vehicles with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side as status symbols and leaving the wheel where it is instead of modifying it for the Japanese market could enhance its popularity.
Ford considers the new, U.S.-style Explorer as the key to its growth strategy in the Japanese market. They’re probably correct. Just think how many will be sold to replace those destroyed in collisions by drivers sitting on the left side, but passing on the right, all in the name of status.
In California, a man has started DogCatRadio.com, an Internet radio station for pets only. It is said to help relieve the loneliness of pets while their owners are away. The station even has a “Spanish Hour,” to serve pets of the area’s burgeoning Hispanic community.
Station founder Adrian Martinez says he started the station because his cat, Snickers, “asked me to do it.” By the way, the favorite song of Snickers, a cat who apparently can talk, is Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight.”
Finally, animal lovers in Holland have made death threats against an exterminator who killed a domino-toppling sparrow. An Amsterdam television station attempting to set a world record by knocking down over 4.1 million dominos was slowed by a sparrow which felled over 23,000 tiles while the stunt was being constructed.
An exterminator with an air rifle was brought in to dispatch the bird, angering animal and bird protection groups. Over 5,000 people signed an Internet condolence register for the sparrow, and several more found the time to threaten the exterminator’s life.
I think that’s enough weirdness for now. If you don’t agree, just wait a bit. I’ve got a good feeling about 2006.- Dec. 27, 2005