2002.12.24 Yugos and other beasts end year of strange news

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I can’t believe 2002 is almost over. There’s just so many unusual stories still left to share.  I’d better get started….

The first story concerns Kevin O’Callaghan, an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. As a project, he decided to have his students turn old Yugo automobiles into works of art.

According to Stuff magazine, O’Callaghan placed a newspaper ad making a modest solicitation for “Yugos, wanted dead or alive.” I’m guessing every Yugo owner who saw the ad jumped at the chance to rid their life of the piece of rusty Cold War nostalgia because O’Callaghan was able to purchase a fleet of 39 Yugos for a grand total of only $3,600, just over $92 per car.

With a supply of sort-of-mobile canvases assembled, O’Callaghan put his students to work. Some of the results were pretty remarkable, including a Yugo shower, Yugo fireplace and Yugo game table. Then there was the Yugo phone. The car was fitted with an appropriately-large sized receiver mounted on its roof. An oversize phone jack replaced the gas filler door and a giant phone cord was plugged in. The entire thing was painted bright yellow, then giant white buttons were mounted on the hood to complete the project.

Equally well-done was the Yugo toaster. The interior of the car was gutted and replaced with heating coils, while two large slots were cut in the roof to allow the entry of gigantic, realistic-looking bread slices. A large button mounted on the rear window allowed the bread to be lowered into the toaster.

I’m still not sure what I’m most impressed by, the creativity of the students or O’Callaghan managing to rid the country of 39 Yugos.

The next story doesn’t have such a happy ending. Not all loose dogs become a mere footnote in a police report, some are taken down in a hail of gunfire.

In October, a schnauzer was killed by airport police at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. According to wire service reports, the dog had escaped from a kennel box and headed for a runway where several jets were lined up for takeoff, waiting for tower clearance.

An airport spokesman said rather than risk the chance that the schnauzer could be sucked into the engine of a departing plane, police used a shotgun to eliminate the threat.

I wonder if the Tennessee breeder who owned the dog has insurance that would cover such a contingency. If not, this could make one interesting lawsuit. How much is a schnauzer worth anyway? In another story, the value of a famous dead horse has been established.

After the death last year of Dale Evans, widow of singing cowboy/actor Roy Rogers, the estate received an IRS inheritance tax bill in the multi-million dollar range. In order to make a settlement, Roy Jr. needed to have everything in his father’s museum appraised, including the stuffed remains of his dad’s horse, Trigger. The appraised value of a long-dead stuffed horse? $400,000. And while I’m thinking about it, whatever happened to Mr. Ed?

Finally, San Jose, Calif., residents are plagued by loose animals, not dogs but roving bands of wild pigs, or in the words of The New York Times, “Abundant bands of pigs that enjoy nothing more than gouging the succulent lawns and, when stuffed, making more pigs.”

Pigs have run wild in California since the time of the Gold Rush of the 1840s. Some got loose from prospectors and they were joined by Russian wild boars, imported for hunting on ranches by William Randolph Hearst and others in the 1920’s and ‘30s.

“There was interbreeding, and now we have these pigs in almost every county in California,” Dave Fox of California’s Department of Fish and Game said.

The pigs are believed to have moved in closer to towns due to a dry summer and fall which reduced the number of acorns dropped by oak trees, one of the wild pig’s basic foods. Now the pigs, many outweighing the homeowners, are invading suburban lawns looking for a meal.

I think it’s time the people of San Jose call in Kevin O’Callaghan for a consultation. After all, if his students can do something creative with a pig of a car like the Yugo, imagine what they could do with a real pig.

    –Dec. 24, 2002 
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