Originally created 01/24/04

Odds and Ends



PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Gary Cox jumps into his pickup and rushes along the runway, honking his horn to scare the elk out of the path of incoming planes.

Cox is manager of the Big Sandy Regional Airport, and scaring away the animals is part of his job.

The huge animals that have been reintroduced in the mountain region now outnumber planes around some airports, creating a new danger for air travelers in eastern Kentucky.

"I'm 100 percent for the elk," Cox said. "But I'm also 100 percent for having fences that will keep them away from airports."

Although no plane-elk collisions have yet been reported in the region, Cox said the likelihood is too great to be ignored. With the elk population estimated at more than 2,000, airports have begun seeking funding to build fences.

Pilot Randy Hunsucker whose plane has struck two deer on runways in eastern Kentucky, said he worries he might one day hit an elk, some of which can weigh up to 800 pounds.

A collision with a deer at the Pikeville airport in October did around $50,000 worth of damage to his plane.

"If it had been an elk, I don't know that we would have necessarily been injured or killed, but it would have been more damaging than it was," Hunsucker said. "At night, you just don't know where they're going to be. The elk just stand there and look at you."

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MADISON, Wis. -- The high-pitched sound of the piccolo is not unreasonably loud as far as Madison's concerned.

That's the ruling from a jury, which found street musician Tom Ryan not guilty of violating a city ordinance that bans such noises.

Ryan told the jury he played the piccolo for a living, making $15 to $20 on a good day at the State Street Mall near the University of Wisconsin campus.

Ryan, known for wearing orange clothing while performing, wore a gray suit in court - and a pair of orange socks.

The city issued Ryan a ticket last year after nearby vendors complained that two to three hours of the piccolo every day was too much. Two vendors testified at the trial Wednesday that the piccolo sound was irritating, but a third said he didn't mind it.

UW physics Professor Robert March, who said he sometimes stops to listen to Ryan's playing, conducted tests for the defense showing the piccolo sound has a greater decibel rating than conversation, but lower than such area sounds as passing trucks.

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PORTLAND, Maine -- Merle Beane was just months from graduating when he walked out of Portland High School for the last time 64 years ago. Now, he has his diploma.

Afflicted by a condition that made his hands shake involuntarily, Beane struggled as he filled out an absentee form after missing school due to the flu in 1939.

A woman in the office told him, "'People like you shouldn't be in school,"' Beane recalled. "I don't know who it was. It could have been a parent, but still, to this day, I just don't know."

Decades later, Beane sent an audiotape recounting the event to Portland High's principal and said he wished to have his diploma.

Principal Michael Johnson, who was moved to tears by the story, pulled Beane's transcript. The records showed Beane was on track for graduation and confirmed he had later gotten an equivalency diploma.

Johnson visited Beane, who's confined to his bed because of medical problems, and brought a diploma along. Johnson said Beane was speechless at first, but the words finally came.

"He must have said thank you a hundred times," Johnson said.

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HOUSTON -- A man convicted of slapping his wife has been sentenced to yoga classes.

Judge Larry Standley said yoga should help James Lee Cross with his anger management. Cross was ordered to take the class as part of his yearlong probation.

The judge said Cross' case is unique and prosecutors agreed.

Cross claimed he hit his wife during a New Year's Eve argument about her drinking problem. Cross said he hopes the yoga will also help him lose weight.

Standley, who is known for his creative sentencing, has in the past ordered dozens of people convicted of drunken driving to collect newspaper clippings about the crime.