Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Summer Books 2005," July 2, 2005

Canine court

A Newton, Mass., dog received a court summons in June demanding it appear to answer charges of being walked without a leash. Steven Dean was supposed to get the summons. Instead, the court sent it to Murphy, Mr. Dean's 3-year-old Golden Retriever. Mr. Dean played along, saying, since Murphy is a dog, he couldn't actually sign the summons-so Mr. Dean signed it for him.

Hard target

Folks in Charleston, W.Va., swear they've been seeing something rather strange in their backyards early in the morning. "People will call in and say, 'I swear I'm not drunk or on drugs, but I just saw a kangaroo,'" explains state conservation officer Clyde Armstead. Officials cornered the animal in June, but it got away. "There was no way to catch him, it was like chasing a deer," Mr. Armstead said. "And even if we did get him, I don't know what we would have done with our bare hands. They can kick pretty hard."

Bomb away

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News of a missing nuclear ordnance may make for more movie plots than terrorist plots. Or perhaps, more movie plots about terrorist plots. Whatever the case, Air Force officials say there's nothing to worry about, even though they can't locate a lost nuclear bomb. Air Force search teams concluded an investigation on June 17 of waters off the coast of Georgia where a damaged B-47 jettisoned a nuke in 1958 after colliding with another plane during training exercises. The Air Force says the nuke, a Mark-15, contains an undisclosed amount of uranium, but no plutonium capsule, crucial to trigger the weapon. Officials say the bomb is probably buried under up to 40 feet of water and up to 15 feet of mud and sand.

I'll fly away

Who says there's nothing to do in Fort Payne, Ala.? A 14-year-old Rainsville boy found trouble in the sleepy Northeastern Alabama town when he stole his mother's van and drove five miles to Ft. Payne's small private airport. There the boy hopped in an unlocked Cessna 152, began a taxi joyride and eventually took off. Authorities say the boy, who apparently had no flying experience, was in the air for about 30 minutes, somehow avoiding nearby Lookout Mountain and the summer camps thereon, while buzzing the town. On his second landing attempt, the boy touched down roughly and was soon arrested. The boy was charged with theft and thrown in the juvenile lockup.

Crash course

If John P. Renfer ever leaves the sanitation business, he might have a future in racing. Witnesses say Mr. Renfer's control of a Blue Ribbon Sanitation truck was nothing short of heroic and amazing once the massive vehicle lost its brakes. The malfunction occurred while Mr. Renfer and a passenger were driving down a steep grade outside Syracuse, N.Y. Once the brakes failed, Mr. Renfer managed to steer the runaway truck down the slope, through a construction zone, around sharp curves at 55 mph, past workers, pedestrians, and oncoming cars, before safely crashing into a hair salon. Mr. Renfer suffered only minor injuries. No one else was hurt.

Southwest flavor

A little bit of West Texas has arrived in Sri Lanka. In the wake of the devastating tsunamis that hit the Pacific island nation at the end of 2004, ecologists have discovered that prickly pear cactus and mesquite trees have begun to grow on Sri Lanka. Both plants would be commonly found in the American Southwest, but on an island off the coast of India? Scientists say that seeds floating about in the Pacific Ocean were pushed inland by walls of water that throttled the island just after Christmas. But scientists say they have no clue how the seeds got halfway around the globe.

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