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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Horsing Around With Sticks

When a strain of equine herpes led to a temporary quarantine at horse farms in central Utah, the sponsors of the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest faced a dilemma. Instead of canceling the May competition, which typically features cowgirls demonstrating their skills on horseback, they decided to conduct the show with the girls riding stick ponies to earn style points. Former queen Savanna Steed told KSL-TV that the change would be good because it would provide a better test of riders' knowledge of the routines, in that they couldn't rely on their horses to make the moves.

Least Competent Gun-Handling


(1) In May, Jeffrey Frett, a former police sergeant in Camden, N.J., pleaded guilty to a scheme to qualify for early retirement by arranging to be shot in the leg. The idea was to attribute the wound to random street violence, but the plan deteriorated, police said, when Frett's wife (the designated shooter) missed his leg, merely ripping a hole in the pants of his uniform. A plainclothes officer nearby responded to the shot and arrested the “suspect.” (2) Ryan Martin, 29, and Erica Clayburn, 20, were charged with reckless endangerment in Derry Township, Pa., in April after Martin was shot in the jaw. The couple had been playing a game resembling "Marco Polo" with a loaded handgun, with an eyes-closed Clayburn firing when Martin shouted "Gun!" (Reportedly, Martin was supposed to duck out of the way before Clayburn pulled the trigger.)

Questionable Judgments


  • Principal Terry Eisenbarth apologized to parents and children at Washington Elementary School in Mount Vernon, Iowa, in May and promised to stop his ritual "whammies," in which he summons kids to his office on their birthdays, sings "Happy Birthday" and ceremonially spanks the child's backside with a cushioned hockey stick (with the number of whacks equaling the child's age).
  • The recent Memorial Day weekend was a time of reflection for New York residents of Long Island's Shelter Island, who were honoring a soldier from the neighborhood who had been killed in Afghanistan. The local American Legion had placed new, heavy-duty American flags on telephone poles along a parade route, but afterward was informed that the Long Island Power Authority, which owns the poles, is required by state law to charge a rental fee for the poles.

The Continuing Crisis

Making Out, Cyber-Style: Tokyo's Kajimoto Laboratory has created a tongue-kissing machine to enable lovers to suck face over the Internet, according to a May CNN report. At separate locations, two people place special straws in their mouths and mimic a deep kiss, which is recorded and transmitted to each other's straws. Researcher Nobuhiro Takahashi sees profit in "celebrity" tongue-kissing applications, but said more work is needed to establish individual taste, breathing and tongue moistness. (Another team of Japanese researchers, using a harness-type device, reported making similar advances in Internet "hugging," with sensors that mimic lovers' heartbeats and even spine "tingling" and stomach "butterflies.")



Creme de la Weird

In May, based on six women's complaints, police in Virginia Beach, Va., arrested restaurateur Henry Fitzsimmons, 54, for abduction and sexual assault. Allegedly, Fitzsimmons had harshly spanked the women as punishment for violating the terms of the "scholarship" he supposedly offered them. The women claim that Fitzsimmons is a devotee of the "Spencer Plan" of orderly discipline, in which contracting parties adhere to agreed-on roles that come with a cost of being physically disciplined if they fail to comply with the terms. Fitzsimmons acknowledged his fascination with the Spencer Plan, but denied the assaults. He claimed that he had fired one of the women and that the others were helping her to retaliate.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd