The Odd Truth, April 1, 2003

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The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

Follow That Butterfly!

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Biologists want the public's help in watching for thousands of monarch butterflies bearing tiny tags that may reveal the mystery of where the colorful insects spend their summers.

Biologists tagged more than 20,000 monarchs between November and February, when they clustered in wintering grounds in coastal Marin, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties.

The white, round tags are attached to the hind wing of the butterflies. Each is imprinted with an identification number and a toll-free telephone number - (877) 897-7740 - that anyone spotting the tagged insect is asked to call with details of the sighting.

The tags weigh between 1 percent and 2 percent as much as a butterfly itself.

The purpose of Project Monarch Alert is to track the butterflies as they head east and north during the spring and summer, said Dennis Frey, a professor of biological sciences at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. The university is leading the project with the Ventana Wilderness Society.

Monarchs winter in tight clusters in more than 300 known locations along the California coast. During the summer, the butterflies fan out, making them more difficult to track.

Swaying Air Traffic Tower

STOCKHOLM - Forget the air sickness bags on Swedish airliners, it's the air traffic controllers who are feeling queasy. It seems the recently opened tower at the Stockholm airport sways in the wind. Lead controller Pia Johansson says her colleagues in the nearly 300 foot tower are getting sick to their stomachs. A plan to stabilize the tower with water tanks was shelved because of a more than $100,000 price tag. So, now when the tower starts rocking, Johansson says queasy controllers are sent downstairs until their stomachs settle.

Where's The 'Nude Beach' Clause?

KELOWNA, British Columbia - House buyers beware - you can't back out of a purchase just because there's a nude beach nearby.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld a lower-court ruling that a Kelowna couple must surrender a $100,000 deposit on a failed house deal.

Ron and Marlene Allen had stopped payment on their deposit check when they found out a nude beach was one lot over from the waterfront house on Okanagan Lake.

Neighbours told the Allens that naked people often frolicked in front of the house.

But a judge ruled the presence of parading nudes in front one's house may or may not be a defect, calling it a subjective decision.

The judge also ruled the house sellers were not required to disclose the existence of the nude beach to prospective buyers.

Burglar Hits Wrong House

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. - An officer walking out of the police department couldn't miss a woman shouting for someone to stop a fleeing man.

As the man ran around a corner and in front of the police station, the officer jogged along the ramps at the entrance, met the man at the end of a ramp and took him into custody, Police Chief Joe Coughlin said.

The 41-year-old man was held on suspicion of burglary after Thursday's incident.

According to the police report, the man claimed that someone owed him money and he went to a residence to get it, but he entered the wrong residence and left with some candy and costume jewelry.

Suffering Succotash Ice Cream

FREDONIA, N.Y. - An ice cream maker is inviting April fools to line up for a taste of his newest flavor: suffering succotash.

Scott Aldrich mixed corn and lima beans with vanilla ice cream and threw in pimentos for color.

The concoction continues his 20-year tradition of making a bizarre flavor in honor of April Fools' Day.

"I don't know how we came up with it, we just picked it," he said.

With 35 gallons on hand, Aldrich Beef and Ice Cream Parlor, about 40 miles southwest of Buffalo, is offering free samples beginning first thing Tuesday.

Past flavors have incorporated, among other things, sauerkraut, bacon and eggs, creamed corn, pork and beans and beef gravy.

High Rollers

DENTON, Texas - There wasn't much air in the tires of a pickup truck Denton County deputies stopped.

But they say there was plenty of marijuana.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reports 27-year-old Dora Valdez and 21-year-old Michael Navarette - both of El Paso - have been charged with felony marijuana possession.

Authorities say they found more than 80 pounds of marijuana packed in metal boxes welded around the wheels inside the tires. A drug dog alerted to the three tires on the ground and a spare.

Agents valued the cargo at more than $64,000.

Deputy Armin Melo tells the newspaper that he became suspicious after the two became very nervous after the truck was stopped for speeding south of Denton.

Railroad Town Loses Railroad Sound

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. - Unsuspecting travelers are no longer startled from their motel beds. TV sets now stay at the same volume through an entire show. Outdoor conversations aren't interrupted.

For the first time since North Platte was founded by the Union Pacific Railroad 136 years ago, trains have stopped blasting their horns while traveling over the tracks that bisect this town.

Generations of local residents have grown accustomed to the clanks, whistles and rumbles of the trains as background noise to their daily lives. The community, after all, was built around the railroad.

Thanks to the completion of an extensive system of bridges, the city no longer has a railroad crossing. As a result, the 1,064 daily train whistles within the city aren't required.

"No one has said 'Thanks' yet," Mayor Jim Whitaker said. "I don't know if it's dawned on them."

The change is obvious to residents who live or work near the busy Poplar Street crossing, where the racket and long waits for motorists have ended.

Paul Huebner, whose family has operated a greenhouse a block from the crossing since 1951, said he doesn't miss the more than 20 million horns he tolerated for decades.

"It's made a big difference," he said. A passing train "still rattles the buildings a little," he noted.