News of the Weird

* The November Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, Alberta, featured very popular "Cowboy Poker" contests, in which four men sit at a table in the middle of the rodeo arena as if playing cards, and a particularly aggressive bull is turned loose. As the bull rushes the table, the last cowboy to leave his chair wins the pot, which totaled around $300. In one match, the bull reduced the table to splinters, but two cowboys remained in their chairs.

* The owners of Karma Farms in Marshall, Texas, came under severe criticism in November for having purposely bred a litter of deformed cats with short, slinky front legs (because part of a vital bone is missing) and six-toed back legs that allow the cat to stand up like a kangaroo. The first "Twisty Kat" (which was bred by accident), said owner Vickie Ives Spier, was "so admired" that she decided to breed more but denied that she intended to raise the Kats for sale. Several animal-rights groups howled, and Spier said she has received death threats.

* According to an October Houston Chronicle report, freelance advisers Roderick MacElwain, 47, and Neal Caldwell, 47, have set up a canopy in a park along the shore of White Rock Lake in downtown Dallas, nearly every Sunday for the past three years to offer passersby (according to their homemade sign) "Free Advice." They had 15 callers that first day and have progressed now to a point in which people queue up under a nearby tree for the opportunity to hear what they ought to be doing about relationships, neighbors, bosses, finances, home repair or nearly any other subject.

* In September, Don and Penny Karch set up a display of 28 toilets in their backyard in Pittsfield, Mass., to complain about an adjacent, restroomless convenience store, whose patrons in need occasionally relieve themselves behind the store, in full view of the Karches' kitchen window. And Edward Aragi dragged a dead deer into a Peoples Bank branch in Stamford, Conn., in November to get employees' attention about an alleged clerical error on a bounced check. And Levent Kirca, who is Turkey's Jay Leno, went on a hunger strike in November after the government sacked his TV show because he had made fun of an official who proudly proclaimed her virginity.

* These days, when a man in the news reveals for the first time that he is a transvestite, it seems not so much to shock as to provide newspapers with a chance to weave a fashion report into the story. In London in November, former financial fund manager Peter Young arrived in court after being indicted on massive fraud counts, which were not discussed by the press as much as his outfit was ("light brown jumper with a pattern of violet and blue pansies over a flowing white dress with red and orange floral prints," wrote the Daily Telegraph). And also in London, Falklands War hero Brian "Lynda" Waling's march in the Remembrance Day parade in November was duly noted (blue skirt, white handbag, floppy hat, all smartly set off by his military medals).

* Christine Bergmann, minister of women in the new Schroeder administration in Germany, said in November that she would soon submit a bill calling for health, retirement and unemployment benefits for prostitutes, as well as providing a legal right to sue johns who don't pay up. Also, she said, prostitutes should be able to retire, with full benefits, by age 60. And in a stark contrast to the strict no-prostitution policy of the Mao Tse-tung era, the city of Shen-yang, China, recently began acknowledging its estimated 100,000 prostitutes, by taxing them.

* In November, Roland Dougoud, age 105, received a letter from the local government in Echallens, Switzerland, demanding that he register for school, along with 65 kids whose birth year also is "'93." And the Rev. Jerry Falwell said in November that he welcomes the problems and shutdowns that might be caused by computers misprocessing the year 2000 because that "may be God's instrument to shake this nation" into a religious revival.

* Columbia, Tenn., police filed drug and evidence-tampering charges against Ginger Janet Osborne in November. She was spotted by police acting suspiciously in her car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. When ordered out of the car, Osborne allegedly dropped soggy pieces of seven $100 bills on which she had been chewing.

* Three days after the November election, someone called in a bomb threat to the Minnesota capital during governor-elect Jesse Ventura's visit, and police found a suspicious object taped to a tree on the grounds. The package was given full, serious bomb-squad treatment and very carefully driven to a disposal facility. Despite all the precautions, however, a wind gust blew the package out of the bomb-squad truck and onto the street, where it was run over by several cars.

* Jarold Sanchez, 23, shot himself in the face in November in Craig, Colo., after spotting an elk near a railroad track on a hunting trip. Sanchez had lain down, resting the barrel of his rifle on the near track, pointed at the elk and squeezed the trigger, but managed only to hit the other track two feet away, causing the bullet to bounce back and graze his cheek. Sanchez said he knows now that the barrel is lower than the sight.

* In November, in the final moments of West Virginia's 35-28 football win at home over Syracuse, state troopers attempted to protect the WVU marching band from fans who were celebrating so boisterously that they posed physical threats to the band members and their musical instruments. Troopers fired Mace to disperse the unruly fans, but a gust of wind blew the Mace directly onto the marching band, causing widespread vomiting and sending six members to the hospital.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or [email protected].

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