The beauty pageant each April at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, requires traditional skills including interview poise, evening-gown fashion and talent, but also some ability and inclination to milk and skin rattlers. High school senior Kyndra Vaught won this year's Miss Snake Charmer, wearing jeweled boots one night for her country-western ballad, then Kevlar boots and camouflage chaps the next as she took on dozens of rattlers in the wooden snake pit. Vaught expertly held up one serpent, offered its tail-end rattles for a baby to touch, then helped hold, measure, milk and skin a buzzing, slithery serpent. A Los Angeles Times dispatch noted that Vaught hoped to be on her way soon to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. [Los Angeles Times, 4-12-2013]
The Continuing Crisis
-- That there are flea "circuses" is bizarre enough, but in March a cold spell in Germany wiped out an entire troupe of "performing" fleas, requiring the flea whisperer to secure replacements (because, of course, the show must go on). Trainer Robert Birk reached out to a university near Mechernich-Kommern for 50 substitutes, which he apparently worked into the act over one weekend. (Fleas, with or without training, can pull up to 160,000 times their own weight and leap to 100 times their own height.)
-- The owner of a restaurant in southern Sweden told authorities in March that the former owner had assured him that "everything had been approved," apparently including the appliance the restaurant used for mixing salad dressings and sauces -- which was a table-model cement mixer. When health officials told the owner that it certainly was not "approved," he immediately bought another, "rust-free," mixer. (Health authorities had come to the restaurant on a complaint that a screw had turned up in a customer's kabob.)
-- Chad Pregracke, 38, a Mississippi River legend, spends nine months a year hauling heavy-duty litter out of waterways with his crew of 12. He told CNN in March that he has yanked up 218 washing machines, 19 tractors, four pianos and nearly 1,000 refrigerators -- totaling over 3,500 tons of trash -- and has collected the world's largest array of bottles with messages inside (63).
-- Eliel Santos fishes the grates of New York City seven days a week, reeling in enough bounty to sustain him for the last eight years, he told the New York Post in April. The "fishing line" Santos, 38, uses is dental floss, with electrician's tape and Blue-Touch mouse glue -- equipment that "he controls with the precision of an archer," the Post reported. His biggest catch ever was a $1,800 (pawned value) gold and diamond bracelet, but the most popular current items are iPhones, which texting-on-the-move pedestrians apparently have trouble hanging onto.
-- Tyshekka Collier, 36, was arrested in Spartanburg in March after she had rushed to her son's elementary school after a call that he was suspended. As she burst into the office, angry at her son for getting into trouble, she saw a pouting boy with his head down and slapped him, thinking he was hers. He wasn't. (After apologizing, she then managed to locate her son and promptly slapped him around).
-- When Evan Ebel was killed in a roadside shootout in March, it was clear that he was the man who had days earlier gunned down the head of the Colorado prison system (and his wife) at the front door of their home and then fled (and killed another man while on the lam). Ebel should not even have been free at the time, having been accidentally released from prison in January only because a judge's assistant had mistakenly marked Ebel's multiple prison terms to be served "concurrently" instead of one following the other ("consecutively"). (The supervising judge "extend(ed) condolences" to the families of Ebel's victims.)
-- Apparently feeling feisty after a successful stint in February hosting the Bassmaster Classic, local officials in Tulsa, Okla., announced in April that they were considering preparing a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. (The Winter Games sometimes get awarded to small venues, but never the Summer Games.)
-- The Discovery Channel announced a new survival show to debut this summer, "Naked and Afraid," dropping off a man and a woman (strangers), without tools or clothes, to fend for themselves on an isolated Maldives island. Among the previews: Ms. Kellie Nightlinger, 38, a self-described "ultimate survivalist," finally thought after two weeks of nearly starving that she could attract fish close enough to be snatched up (as a New York Daily News reporter put it) "us(ing) her ladyparts as bait to catch fish between her legs." Said a Discovery Channel executive: "Survival shows are so common now that it's gotten more and more difficult to convince the audience that what they're watching is something extreme."
Location, Location, Location: The New Delhi, India, neighborhood of Lutyens' Delhi houses some of the richest people in the country in comparatively modest mansions, with the city's real estate bubble inflating prices into nine figures, though home sales are rare, according to a March New York Times dispatch. In the similarly wealthy city of Hong Kong, in the "gritty, working-class West Kowloon neighborhood" where the laborers serving the rich live, about 100,000 dwell in pitiable housing, including the increasing number who rent what are basically stacks of wire sleep cages, measuring about 16 square feet each (and offering no protection against bedbugs). An Associated Press reporter found one tenant paying the equivalent of about $167 a month for his mesh digs.
People With Issues
Finally, Herson Torres was freed. As Bloomberg Business Week reported step-by-step in April, Torres was recruited by a "Defense Intelligence Agency operative" to rob a Virginia bank in order to test first-responder reaction times. If caught, Torres's arrest would be removed, said "Theo," the operative. The skeptical Torres asked advice of various authority figures, including two bemused lawyers, but "Theo" was able to calm them all with a dazzling display of CIA jargon and procedures. Torres was indeed arrested, and "Theo" indeed sprang him (but with a judicial order that was forged). Ultimately, "Theo" was revealed to be frustrated computer-techie Matthew Brady, 26, who lives with his mother and grandmother in Matoaca, Va., and despite his obviously world-class bluffing skill, he pleaded guilty in May and was ordered treated for his paranoid schizophrenia and delusional disorder.
No Longer Weird
Even the editor of News of the Weird gets bored: (1) A man in his 70s in Burnaby, British Columbia, was rescued in January after being pinned for three days under fallen debris inside his seriously cluttered home (with "ceiling-high mounds of garbage," wrote the Canadian Press). (Ho-hum.) (2) In Lianjiang City, China, in January, Peng Xinhua, 101, joined a long line of returns-from-the-dead. Following a fall, she had become stiff and without a heartbeat, her two daughters said, and burial was scheduled. Just before the funeral, as relatives and friends were washing her body, Peng opened her eyes and calmly greeted them.
(1) A 5-year-old boy in rural Cumberland County, Ky., accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister in April, firing his own .22-caliber rifle. The weapon (a "Crickett") is marketed as "My First Rifle" by the Keystone Sporting Arms company. (2) Henry Gribbohm, 30, admitted in April that he had blown his $2,600 life savings trying to win an Xbox at a rigged ball-toss game at a Manchester, N.H., carnival, lamenting to WBZ-TV, "For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker." (Gribbohm complained to the operator, but was given only a large stuffed banana as consolation. However, when news broke, a Web site took up a collection and purchased the banana from him for $2,600.)
Visit Chuck Sehpherd daily at NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com.