2005.12.27 Coffin racing and radio for pets

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

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

 

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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