Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Two-ring circus," Sept. 6, 2008

Surprised by Smith

She might not be the fastest draw in Pennsylvania, but 85-year-old Leda Smith proved she isn't a great-grandmother to be trifled with. A 17-year-old burglar broke into Smith's Lake Lynn home on Aug. 18. But the boy awoke Smith, who then grabbed for the .22-caliber revolver near her bedside. Only when the intruder heard the sound of the pistol cocking did he realize Smith had a bead on him. "I had the gun on him before he turned around and said, 'you've had it,'" Smith told a local TV station. According to a police report, Smith then told the young man to dial 911 from her white slimline living room phone and report himself. "Don't attempt to throw the phone at me, or do anything bad or I'll just shoot you," Smith told him. State troopers arrived to find the boy spread-eagle on her living room floor with the 85-year-old perched over him with the gun.

Bread alone

James Sham isn't raising money to combat AIDS or cancer. And though he's a resident at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture near Toronto, he's not collecting funds for the arts. Sham's project is a bit tastier. He's gathering cash for a muffin-in perpetuity. In all, Sham collected $9,000, enough for him to set up a foundation that will provide enough residual cash for one 70-cent muffin every day for a customer at Empire Grill, a local eatery. Sham's mission statement: "Provide a muffin a day in perpetuity-as in forever." According to Sham, the Empire Grill wait staff gets to award one muffin to any customer and the foundation will pick up the bill off of income from the $9,000 investment.


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This wasn't the sort of pass out Texas country music singer Pat Green had anticipated. Yelling into a crowd gathered for a show at Michigan International Speedway, Green shouted into the audience, "Anyone got a beer?" Indeed, someone tossed one can of beer onto the stage. But another can quickly followed and hit Green squarely between the eyes. It knocked out Green.

Day tripper

By now, Silbestre Penaloza Menera should be a free man. Instead, he's a wanted man. With one day left in his five-day sentence for a mis­demeanor driving under the influence charge, the 32-year-old man escaped from the Stanislaus County Men's Honor Farm in Modesto, Calif., by running through a gate and disappearing into a cornfield on Aug. 7. Two weeks later, authorities still had not apprehended Menera, who had just over 24 hours until his release from the work camp. If found, Menera could face up to one year in state prison.

Meet the Robinsons

If your name is James Robinson, you might find it difficult to board a commercial jet as a passenger these days. Even if you are James Robinson, a commercial airline pilot authorized to carry a handgun onboard planes and also a retired Brigadier General in the Air National Guard. That's because Robinson the retired general has found himself on an FBI no-fly list designed to prevent suspected terrorists from boarding commercial planes. "Shocking's a good word; frustrating," Robinson told CNN. "I'm carrying a weapon, flying a multimillion-dollar jet with passengers, but I'm still screened as, you know, on the terrorist watch list." But Robinson the pilot isn't the only James Robinson that has trouble: A former U.S. Attorney in Detroit who also served as an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration finds himself on the FBI list, as does a California third-grader of the same name who has been designated by the FBI as a terrorism suspect since he was 5 years old. In a sad commentary on the effectiveness of the FBI's list, when the pilot and former general Robinson needs to fly commercial, he simply books himself as Jim Robinson or J.K. Robinson and encounters no difficulties.

Diamond in the rough

Two miracles for Tyler Jones: First, someone actually found the $3,000 diamond engagement ring he lost roadside in West Haven, Utah. Jones had left the black box containing the expensive ring on top of a vehicle just days before he planned on asking his girlfriend, Amanda Anderson, to marry him. Jones lost the box and ring as he drove away. But later, Monte Kirk spotted the box in the middle of the road while riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. "I opened the box and found a diamond ring inside," he said. "You don't find that every day." Knowing what losing such a valuable item might mean to him and his wife, Kirk decided to watch the local newspaper classifieds section for clues leading to the original owner. When Jones' classified ad hit the Standard-Examiner, Kirk called and arranged to return the engagement ring. Second miracle for Jones: Even after losing her ring, Anderson said yes when he proposed to her hours after getting the box back.


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