Ms. Sierra Stiles, age 8, was credited with the first bear kill in Maryland in the limited October hunting season, downing a 211-pounder from 50 yards away with her .243-caliber rifle. (She had won one of the lottery-awarded permits and then aced the safety test.) And according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer profile in January, Aidan Gold, age 8, of Bothell, Wash., recently climbed a 20,300-foot peak on Mount Everest in the Himalayas with his dad, adding to his previous climbs in the Cascades and the Alps. Aidan said the last part of the Everest climb (a 45-degree stretch of rock and ice) was "the (hardest) 3,000 feet I've ever done."
-- Katie's Pet Depot in La Verne, Calif., is one of the few grooming salons in the country for rats, according to an October Associated Press report. A special $10 treatment includes lustrous-coat shampooing, claw-clipping and flea and mite treatment, and employee Karri Garrison said the claw-clipping is the hardest: "They have very small feet."
-- Opportunities in Toilet Paper: (1) Rev. Rick Oliver of the First Church of God in Pendleton, Ore., decided last fall that the church's new fund-raising campaign would involve sales of toilet paper, specifically the upscale brand Angel Soft. (2) The Portuguese paper producer Renova introduced black toilet paper in France last fall (and expect to introduce it in the U.S. soon). A Renova statement called the tissue "elegant, rebellious, alternative and eternally fashionable."
-- In October in Louisburg, Kan., and January in Eau Claire, Wis., cats went missing after hiding behind drywall being installed in houses, eventually getting sealed in. The unnamed Kansas cat was in for three weeks before workers returned and heard an intrawall shuffling noise, and "Mary Poppins" in Wisconsin moved between walls and ceiling for five days before homeowners tracked her down with thermal imaging equipment.
-- China's Xinhua news agency reported in October that Ai Ai, the veteran chimp at the safari park in Shaanxi province, who is 27 years old and who started smoking cigarette butts at age 11 when her first mate died, has finally kicked her nicotine habit. Zoo officials attributed her success to distractions such as exercise, music (via a Walkman "borrowed" from a keeper), and better food, such as fried dishes and dumplings.
-- Pigs Fighting for Respect: Pigs' personalities are distributed much like humans', according to patiently observant British researcher Niamh O'Connell (interviewed for a November story in London's Daily Telegraph). Except for the largest ones, pigs are of two types: pushy ones that always fight for food and choice sleeping space, and meek ones that avoid confrontations. According to O'Connell, the aggressive ones have higher stress levels and make poorer parents, and besides, they ultimately lose out when they challenge the alpha pigs.
(1) Mike Bolognue opened what he believes is the only alcohol-free "sports bar" in America, in Plain Township, Ohio, near Akron. It was unintentional. He had already invested $560,000 in the bar before he realized that it was located in a dry district. (However, voters can un-dry the district on a ballot question in May.) (2) And in December, a typist for the Japanese bank Mizuho Securities hit the wrong keys and sold about 600,000 shares of an expensive stock that Mizuho owned only 1 share of, making the firm liable for the equivalent of more than $225 million. (The Tokyo Stock Exchange pressured some company buyers to cancel their purchases, but individuals got to sell their purchases back to Mizuho at a huge profit.)
(1) In a company employee style manual issued in late 2005 by Commonwealth Bank in Queensland state in Australia, workers were advised with great specificity how to groom themselves and practice good hygiene. Among the areas covered were proper brands of underwear, shapes for women's eyebrows, and frequency for shaving and for moisturizing one's hands. (In December, a Commonwealth executive issued an "if" apology, i.e., an apology "if" the bank had offended anyone.) (2) In October, Tony Price, managing director of the British firm WStore UK, reportedly threatened to give each of his 80 employees first a DNA test, and then when reaction to that went poorly, a lie detector test, after he accidentally got someone's discarded chewing gum on his trousers.
(1) Lucella Bridget Gorman pleaded guilty in Brisbane, Australia, in December to two counts of theft, the first count for stealing things from a department store and the second count for stealing the mugshot camera while police were booking her for the department-store theft. (2) FEMA subcontractor Frank Tanner, 47, was charged with looting in Slidell, La., in January after he walked out the front door of Darin LeBlanc's home with an armful of electronic equipment. LeBlanc was standing in his front yard at the time, but Tanner, in the hubbub surrounding cleanup efforts, apparently thought LeBlanc was just another contractor.
-- Selina Valdez, 28, was arrested in January and her suspected partner, Daniel Marquez, 41, was sought by police, on counterfeiting charges in Pueblo, Colo., after police walked into their foul-smelling home. No hoarded animals were present, but according to police, about a week before the arrest, officers had called on the couple, who had then hurriedly flushed the bogus bills down the toilet. After questioning them, police left, but the toilet clogged, and since then, the couple have been relieving themselves into plastic bags that police found strewn about the home.
-- Readers' Choice: Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, was arrested in December in Memphis, Tenn., and charged with hiring a hit man to help her kill four people so she could steal a brick of what turned out to be queso fresco cheese. According to police, Booth had seen the large block of crumbly, white, Mexican-cuisine cheese on a table at an acquaintance's home, thought it was a big pile of cocaine, and devised an elaborate plot to return later, steal it, and kill anyone in the house old enough to testify against her.
Arrested recently and awaiting trial for murder: Jeremy Wayne Hopkins, 22 (Denton, Texas, November); Reginald Wayne Thomas, 23 (Houston, November); Matthew Wayne Almand, 18 (Melbourne, Fla., November); John Wayne Surratt Jr., 28 (Stanly County, N.C., December; escaped and recaptured, January); Curtis Wayne Campbell, 25 (Norman, Okla., January). Convicted of murder: Roy Wayne Russell, 45 (Vancouver, Wash., January). Sentenced for murder: Douglas Wayne Pepper, 44 (Greensboro, N.C., November). Executed for murder: Melvin Wayne White, 55 (Huntsville, Texas, November). Committed Suicide While Suspected of Murder: Don Wayne Moody, 26 (Laredo, Texas, December).
In 2003, News of the Weird reported on the grand design of Bill Martin to build a Christian-themed nudist park, Natura, in Florida's Pasco County (already the home of five nudist camps). (He argues that nakedness is more Christianlike than the expensive, garish clothes worn by worshipers at mega-churches' Sunday galas.) Martin plans to open later in 2006, despite legal challenges such as the one over the frank guidelines on Natura's Web site. Perhaps the most controversial is an essay reassuring men and boys that spontaneous erections seldom occur and should not discourage them from visiting. Though Christian organizations, and even the more staid nudist organizations, have objected to Martin's candor, he stood fast: "Erections," he said, "have got to be addressed."
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)