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Wide World of Weird

A weekly roundup of unusual stories from Times wire services:

April 03, 1998

Skunk Contest: Skunk lovers from across the country showed their stripes in Georgia last weekend, hoping their critters would win such titles as friendliest or most talented skunk at the 11th annual National Skunk Show. Black, white, brown, striped and nonstriped skunks--even one with three legs--were included in the show. Because the animals are bred for pets, all were odorless.

Dam It!: Michigan environmental officials got an embarrassing surprise when they sent a cease-and-desist notice to a Spring Pond landowner for dams on his property. When told a permit was required for dam-building, the property owner replied: "Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond beavers or do you require all dam beavers in the state to conform to said request?"

Excerpts of the letters were published by the Wall Street Journal. Michigan official Ken Silfven said the case was prompted by a complaint from a neighbor worried about flooding. After the department discovered beavers were to blame, it dropped the case. Said Silfven: "It probably would have been a good idea to do the inspection before we sent the notice."

Double Prom: Students at Montana's Hamilton High worked so hard preparing their prom this year that they decided the decorations should see double duty. So they arranged for a Senior Citizens Prom the day before their dance. They set up transportation, paired a few couples and made sure there was plenty of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller playing. "I think it was a wonderful idea," said Eva Mortensen, whose last prom was 66 years ago.

Nag Your Way to Riches: A new survey says up to 45% of toy, food and movie ticket sales to children occur because they have "nagged" a parent for it. The study, conducted for an L.A. marketing firm, said such sales depended on the quality of the nag. A persistent whining demand of "I want it" didn't work. A more reasoned approach was needed, such as "Mom, Barbie needs a dream house so she can build a family."

Clinton Snubbed in Iowa: There's someone missing from this year's group picture of the Iowa Senate's pages--President Clinton. The high school students who serve as pages voted to remove Clinton's portrait from its usual background spot because of the scandal surrounding his alleged sex scandals.

Pavlov Would Be Proud: Thirty-two dairy cows ate themselves to death in Washington after one shook loose a pipe on an automatic feeding machine and spilled tons of grain.

Quick Hits:

* A Unitarian church in Florida plans to hold a memorial service for the 1,500 people who died on the Titanic, citing renewed sadness about the deaths since the movie came out.

* Southern China's Guangzhou city will start making coffins from paper instead of wood to save timber. In China, where cremation is encouraged because of a shortage of farmland, timber from 12,500 acres of forest is burned as coffins every year.

* An unemployed Turkish man wielding a grenade-shaped cigarette lighter staged an unsuccessful bid to hijack a Turkish Cypriot airliner to Germany, police said.

* The owner of a London curry restaurant spent $170,000 brightening up his establishment only to be told the bricks were too clean and out of step with the neighbors. A council said he should blacken the bricks with soot to make the building blend in.

* A woman who has been in a coma for the past six months shed a tear shortly after giving birth to a baby girl, Italian media said.

* A Chicago man is suing a tow-truck company for $3 million after it hauled his Corvette away from a grocery store parking lot with his elderly mother sitting in the front seat.

* Wide World of Weird is published every Friday. Off-Kilter appears Monday through Thursday.

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