The Odd Truth, March 31, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum.

The Odd Truth is moving! Beginning Monday, April 5, you can find the Odd Truth in the "Features" box that appears in the lower right-hand corner of the CBSNews.com home page, and in the upper right-hand corner of each news section, National, World, Health, etc.

Joe's Gotta Go

RACINE, Wis. - Jeremy Peterson sure was glad when his pet, Joe, came home - until health officials told the teenager the duck had to go.

A city ordinance prevents homeowners from keeping "livestock" within city limits. That includes Joe, a white Pekin duck.

Joe ventured through an open gate onto the street near his home on March 11. His owners then put an ad in The Journal Times of Racine, which read: "LOST: White Pekin Duck (looks like AFLAC duck), Joe. Last seen 1400 block of Hayes Avenue."

A man found Joe on the street and took him to his friend, who saw the ad and brought the duck home.

The happy ending was told in The Journal Times - which was how health officials found out about Joe.

Jeremy, 13, and his mother, Teresa Schultz-Huissen, are now looking for a new home for their feathered friend.

They want a country setting and a pond, "with endless visitation rights," Schultz-Huissen said. Jeremy said a home with other ducks would be good, too.

"He's kind of getting feisty because he doesn't have another duck to play with," Jeremy said.

Rocket Prank Backfires

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Shannon Kramer's plans to fire a rocket toward his girlfriend went awry when the firework ricocheted inside his car and dived between his legs, bursting in a display that burned hair and skin from his feet to his groin, police said.

Kramer, 35, told The Florida Times-Union he lit a fuse on the 6-inch-rocket, but wasn't able to get it out the window of his Ford Mustang before it went off.

Seconds later, after the rocket blasted around inside the car, Kramer was burned and temporarily blinded.

"I thought I was dead," he said. "I couldn't see, I couldn't hear. I went to stand up and I couldn't walk."

Kramer said he suffered second-degree burns and a cut on one leg. His eyelashes and a lot of body hair are gone and an outline of his sandals is burned onto his feet.

Jacksonville police were called to the explosion about 9:30 p.m. Sunday and were told a man who had been threatening his girlfriend with a bomb had a mishap.

Kramer said he was only playing a prank and was intending to fire the rocket out the window as he passed.

Police referred the case to the State Attorney's Office, but prosecutors declined to charge Kramer, police spokesman Ken Jefferson said.

Kramer said the rocket, which resembled a bottle rocket, was the diameter of a golf ball.

"I had a couple but this was the biggest," he said. "No more of those."

Man Charged With Beer-For-Vote Bribe

LUDLOW, Ky. - Police have charged a northern Kentucky man with trying to buy a vote with a 12-pack of beer.

Edward Lucas offered the beer to an 18-year-old student at Ludlow High School in exchange for a no vote on a proposed increase in school property taxes, Ludlow police officer James Tucker said in an affidavit.

Lucas, 40, denied the charge.

"I don't know the boy, and that's not exactly what was said," Lucas said. "I said, 'I hope it doesn't go through and if it doesn't, I'm going to have a big beer party."'

Lucas was arrested Friday and released on bond Saturday.

Police dispute his version of the exchange, but declined to give specifics.

The tax increase was on the ballot Tuesday and lost. It would have generated about $75,000 a year for school construction projects.

Utah Politics Go To Japan

WASHINGTON TERRACE, Utah - A slice of local politics is making it all the way to Japan - thanks to an obscure Utah rule that allowed deadlocked mayoral candidates to roll the dice to see who wins.

Mark Allen and Robert Garside both finished with 724 votes in this town's Nov. 4 race for mayor.

Under Utah law, tie votes must be decided by drawing lots, which can mean anything from flipping a coin to drawing a name out of a hat, or, in this case, a toss of the dice.

The unusual political gamble caught the attention of Japan's Fuji TV, which decided to recreate the contest for an April broadcast of "Fountain of Trivia," a variety show, said Hide Miyauchi, a Fuji TV production manager.

The real dice roll took place Nov. 14. With quick flicks of the wrist, Allen rolled a 4 and a 1 for the top score while Garside rolled a pair of 2's. That gave Allen a third term in office.

Producers didn't want anything to get lost in translation.

Crews asked Allen and Garside to re-enact the dice roll with a 2-foot-wide die. The candidates were asked to glare at each other, then roll the oversized die several times.

"They wanted us to act really serious," Garside said.

Garside rolled a pair of ones, while Allen's rolls included a six and a four.

"I lost again," Garside said, laughing.

Baby Accidentally Locked In Safe

KEARNEY, Neb. - A 14-month-old boy spent about an hour locked in an enormous safe that his parents had converted into his nursery.

"It seemed like five hours," said the boy's mother Elizabeth Bond. "I was panicked."

She said her son, CeJay, was crying on the other side of the door.

Dustin and Elizabeth Bond moved their family into the house two months ago. The house, about five miles east of Kearney, was formerly a business.

The Bonds said when they bought the house, they were told the safe's lock was disabled.

The 8-foot by 10-foot safe has a ventilation system and the lights are controlled from the outside.

In a stroke of luck, locksmith Lee Rowedder got the door open using a combination that is commonly coded into safes like the one in the Bonds house.

She said that after her son was freed, her panic turned to anger because she felt the previous owners had misled her about the lock being disabled.

Before leaving, Rowedder disabled the lock as Dustin Bond watched. Just to be sure, the Bonds asked Rowedder to remove the safe door.

Hand Grenade Hullabaloo

MOSCOW, Idaho - Some deputies in Idaho have a tip for would-be Good Samaritans - don't bring explosives to the sheriff's office. According to Latah County deputies, Kenneth Faunce thought he was doing a good deed, by turning in a live hand grenade. He found the explosive device in an old farmhouse. Rather than calling for help, authorities say Faunce drove the grenade to the sheriff's department. Deputies roped-off their own parking lot and waited for an Air Force bomb squad to arrive. Now, deputies are urging anyone else who finds explosives not to touch anything and call 911.

Paddling Police Chief Suspended

WARREN, Ohio - A part-time police chief has been suspended after a lawsuit accused him of assaulting a teenager by paddling the boy as part of a crime diversion program for a speeding ticket.

Carol Woolf of Vienna said she initially agreed to let her 16-year-old son be paddled, then refused to have him return for 14 more sessions because of the welts he suffered.

"This child is traumatized," Woolf said.

James Martin was suspended as part-time police chief of Fowler Township and also as a full-time police officer in nearby Howland Township, pending investigations by state officials and the FBI. No charges have been filed.

Howland Township disciplined the officer more than a decade ago after he admitted paddling about 20 juveniles. The townships are suburbs of Warren, about 70 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Woolf said Martin told her that her son Richard's participation in a juvenile diversion program that included paddling would make his speeding ticket "go away."

She said Martin told her the program involved 23 rules that her son had to follow and that there would be 15 paddling sessions.

She said that during the first session in January, at the police station, her son was struck three times on the bare buttocks with a wooden paddle.

"When Ritchie came out, he was hysterical," Woolf said Tuesday. "Never have I seen that child cry like he cried."

There was no immediate comment from Martin. His attorney, Randall Weltman, said Martin wanted to let the investigation take its course.

Township trustees didn't immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Nine-Year-Olds Steal Car

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. - A pair of 9-year-old boys broke into several cars Tuesday morning before stealing a pickup truck and driving it to the local Wal-Mart Super Center, Kirksville police said.

One of the boys apparently sat in the drivers' seat to steer the half-ton Chevrolet pickup while the other manned the gas pedal and brake, Sgt. Steve Farnsworth said.

Police arrested the juveniles around 9:30 a.m. after getting a call from a tractor-trailer driver who spotted the stolen pickup weaving down U.S. 63 in Kirksville.

Authorities believe the two boys decided to skip school Tuesday and then stole a BB gun pistol, a pack of cigarettes and two lighters from vehicles in the Kirksville High School and Vo-Tech parking lots.

When the pair found a truck with keys in the ignition, they drove about two miles to Wal-Mart, Farnsworth said.

"Although there is some humor to the story," Farnsworth said, "this could have turned into a serious tragedy."