Originally created 09/04/01

Odds and ends



PITTSBURGH -- After a month of prowling the city, a 42-pound cheetah-like cat was caught and returned to its owner.

It wasn't the first time Mr. Bigglesworth, an African serval cat, escaped from Mark Nernberg. It was the third breakout in two years.

"I'd been advised servals are very hard to recover once they escape," Nernberg said. "Their nature is that of an escape artist and they're very, very smart cats."

Mr. Bigglesworth was trapped on Sunday in a steak-baited cage near a cemetery, where he'd been spotted off and on for the past month.

"I knew it was a one-time, good luck catch," said Deborah-Ann Milette, an exotic cat expert from Queensbury, N.Y., who caught the serval.

"I hoped and prayed it was going to work, and I pulled the wire," she said. "I turned around just in time to see the serval slammed into the cage."

Milette said Mr. Bigglesworth was slightly undernourished after a monthlong diet of pigeons, rodents and other small animals.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission fined Nernberg $300 plus court costs for not having a permit for the serval.

ST. CHARLES, Mich. -- An enormous sunflower should be able to beat its rivals by a head. Several heads, in fact.

Melvin A. Hemker may have a record on his hands after growing a sunflower that has 856 heads and requires three wooden braces to support it.

A 2001 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records listed a sunflower from Romania with 61 heads. In February, a 129-headed plant owned by a family in Waterford Township, also in Michigan, was accepted for the 2002 edition.

Heads are the brown, seed-filled centers of sunflowers.

"The first plant just came up on its own," Hemker said. "I counted 202 heads when it got at its biggest, but I didn't think nothing of it."

The next year, some plants reached 11 feet and had more than 300 heads. Hemker, 82, counts the heads with and without yellow petals.

Hemker's 9-year-old granddaughter, Shelby, brought a copy of the records book to his attention.

"I thought they were very peculiar, but I never imagined they could set records," he told The Saginaw News for a story Wednesday.

Hemker's son, David, e-mailed information about his father's plant to Guinness, but had yet to receive a response.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Fourth Avenue bridge is badly damaged and slated for demolition, but a lot of folks in Olympia still want to hold on to the landmark - or at least a piece of it.

Much to the chagrin of local officials, people are grabbing pieces of the bridge, which was crippled in an earthquake on Feb. 28.

The 1920 bridge is lined with decorative balusters shaped like giant chess pieces. The earthquake knocked the balusters loose, and now souvenir seekers are scavenging them on the sly.

"More and more pieces disappear from the bridge on a day-to-day basis," said Olympia bridge project engineer Jay Burney. "It is an unsafe area, and the city would be appreciative of people ... not removing pieces from the bridge."

The bridge has been closed to traffic since the 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the region. It is being replaced by a new bridge.

In an effort to discourage scavengers, the city is raffling off 100 of the old balusters. Raffle entries are free. They're also organizing a "Farewell to the 4th Celebration" to honor the bridge on Oct. 22.

BALTIMORE -- A man who applied for a job as a police officer suddenly found himself on the wrong side of the law.

When asked on the job application if he had ever committed a crime, Edwin V. Gaynor checked the box marked yes. When questioned, he told officers he had carjacked a woman and robbed five people in Texas, police Maj. George Klein said. He was promptly arrested, Klein said.

"I've never seen anything like this," Klein said. "I guess something spooked him and he wanted to clear his conscience."

Gaynor, 21, gave police detailed descriptions of the crimes Thursday, including the fact that he wore a green-and-white bandanna and used a chrome-plated handgun.

Police in Killeen, Texas, confirmed that the woman who was carjacked reported the carjacker had the two items.

Gaynor's house, his mother's house and a storage facility were searched after his arrest. The bandanna and chrome-plated handgun were found along with several other weapons.

Gaynor was charged with carjacking, but has not been charged with robbery pending further investigation by Killeen police, Klein said.