This Week in Weird: Oct. 17

Staff reports

Squirrel roughs up Iraq veteran

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Frank Garren is tough guy. The 6-foot, 4-inch former Army sergeant was awarded a Purple Heart after surviving a roadside bomb while deployed in Iraq in 2004. He knows about combat and quick reactions.

An angry squirrel is another matter, said Garren, who reported just such a run-in recently.

“You might expect a mugging in the park, but not to be attacked by a tree rodent,” the 34-year-old Springfield resident said. “I never thought a squirrel could kick my (behind).”

He said the animal, which Garren estimated weighed 2 to 3 pounds, pounced on his head after he simulated a squirrel call to get its attention last Sunday afternoon.

Garren walked away with several scratches on his face and head, and a newfound respect for a squirrel’s agility.

He said he’s not exactly sure what provoked the attack.

He and his girlfriend, Amy Stone, frequently go to the park. The Sunday afternoon outing allowed Garren to work on an assignment for his biology class at Lincoln Land Community College.

The couple were on the west side of the park near one of the ponds when Garren spotted an “enormous” male fox squirrel on a tree branch. Garren has hunted squirrels before, and said he’s never seen one that size before.

“He was as fat as a softball,” he said, adding that the squirrel appeared 2 feet long.

Garren said he made a squirrel call to get the animal’s attention, thinking it would impress Stone.

“Whatever I said in squirrel language must have made him mad,” Garren said. The squirrel latched onto Garren’s head and face with its claws before running off.

The couple said Stone was “rolling on the ground laughing” until she realized Garren was bleeding.

Is it art or a dead animal?

ALFRED, N.Y. -- Some people are disgusted by dead animals, other people frame them and call them art.

A student at Alfred University apparently is one of those who thinks a dead animal – in this case, a cat – is art, but it didn’t go over so well with the school.

An AU student who wishes to remain unnamed was able to provide a description of the controversial piece: It was a dead feline depicted to look like it was being electrocuted, and it had an appliance cord coming from its body and was mounted on a piece of wood and framed. The cat’s body was not a fresh cadaver; much of its skeleton was showing and it appeared to have been aged. Before displaying it, the student had discussed the appropriateness of the artwork during an art class where many students said they were upset about it.

A school official confirmed the piece had been removed from the student-operated Moka Joka coffee shop.

“It was removed out of concern for the safety of students because it was in a place where food is served,” AU spokesperson Sue Goetschius said.

Cherise Haas, AU environmental health and safety coordinator, removed the piece of art and will be meeting with the student who constructed it to determine what will happen to it, according to Goetschius.

Car wash lets drivers show support for their candidate

YORKVILLE, N.Y. -- This was the first time Melissa Platt had strong feelings about the car wash lane she’d picked.

“I’m in this lane for the right reason,” Platt said before she entered the left bay at a car wash in this upstate New York town.

The car wash chain -- Express Mart -- is offering drivers a chance to express their political preference this fall and is keeping track of the “votes.” If drivers follow the sign to the left bay, the store employees notch a tally for Sen. Barack Obama. Head to the right, and you’re expressing support for Sen. John McCain.

The results of the poll – which includes the Yorkville store and four other Express Mart locations in upstate New York – will be posted at

So far, Obama is in the lead, said Andrea Waldman, marketing specialist for Express Mart Convenience Stores.

Those inclined to laugh off the results as the whims of disinterested car washers might want to think again. Express Mart did the poll in 2004 and had President Bush defeating Sen. John Kerry 51 to 49 percent, Waldman said.

50,000-pound equipment stolen from construction site

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. -- Police are on the lookout for an extremely large piece of equipment weighing about 50,000 pounds that was stolen from an Osage Beach construction site nearly a week ago.

The equipment was listed as a yellow 1996 Komatsu PC220LC-6. It operates on tracks, not wheels, and has large grapples on the arm.

The equipment was reported stolen Oct. 6. It apparently disappeared from the site where crews have been working to make room for the Osage Beach expressway project.

The 50,000-pound piece of equipment would have required a semi-style truck with flatbed trailer to be able to move it from the job site.

Mom sentenced for having gun in stroller

UTICA, N.Y. -- An Oneida County Court judge Thursday encouraged a Utica woman who stashed a sawed-off shotgun in her child’s stroller to get mental health counseling during the time she spends in prison.

Judge Michael L. Dwyer sentenced Stephanie Wilson, 29, to 1 ½ to three years in prison after she previously pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Wilson was arrested July 1 after she pulled a knife from her baby stroller, followed by a 23-inch shotgun, during a dispute over money with another woman. Police later found several knives and a box cutter within the carriage.

Because Wilson has underlying mental issues that likely played a role in her recklessness that day, Wilson’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Mark Curley, thanked prosecutor Robert Bauer for taking that into account when considering Wilson’s punishment.

Wilson hadn’t been taking her medication at the time, and she feared that people were going to harm her the day of the incident, Curley said. Nevertheless, Wilson has acknowledged that she reacted to her fear in the wrong way.

GateHouse News Service