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The Odd Truth, Nov. 12, 2004

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

Pastor Outwits Robbers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Two men who robbed the pastor of a Kansas City church at gunpoint left behind two clues for the cops to check out: their names.

The Rev. Tony R. Caldwell was short of cash, so he offered to write each man a check for $150. The men agreed, making certain the pastor knew the correct spellings of their names.

The robbery happened Wednesday night when one of the men asked to speak to Caldwell after a Bible study at the Eternal Life Church. Caldwell invited the man to his upstairs office, where the man said he wanted another chance in a church program he had been kicked out of. The program provides food and shelter to men who are homeless or recently released from jail.

A second man, who also was kicked out of the program and banned from the building over theft allegations, walked into the office as they talked.

"I knew I had a problem at that point," Caldwell said. "They both smelled of liquor, and their eyes were all bloodshot."

The second man asked for money and said, "It's up to you. I mean, your congregation could get shot up or your church could burn down."

Worried about church members still downstairs, Caldwell offered to write the men checks.

"I wasn't going to push this issue," he said.

Rat Causes Traffic Accident

ARDMORE, Okla. - It's a nutty explanation, but a mechanic says a rat is to blame for a traffic accident.

Carol Windham was forced to run a red light Wednesday when her gas pedal stuck down after she hit the brakes. Pressing both feet on the pedal, she managed to get her 1984 Chevrolet van through the intersection unscathed and was able to stop it near a fast-food restaurant.

The van was towed to an auto repair shop, where mechanic Jeff Rutledge popped the hood and found a pile of pecans.

"There were probably 50 pecans," he said. "It looked like a wood rat had nested."

Apparently, when Windham depressed the brake pedal, one of the pecans fell and lodged next to the accelerator cable, causing the throttle to stick open.

Rutledge said rat problems are not uncommon this time of year.

"It makes about the third one we've had over the last two weeks," he said. "Rats can chew through fuel lines and electrical wires, too."

Windham checked the engine compartment of her other vehicle when she got home and found more pecans and half an apple.

"We put peanut butter on the rat trap, put it on one of the tires and tied it down," she said.

The next morning, Windham found the rat dead.

Cold-Blooded Parakeet Killer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A woman has been charged with animal cruelty for what police call a retaliatory killing of a parakeet.

Witnesses told police that Andrea Grantham brandished a knife during a weekend property dispute with a neighbor. Grantham then allegedly killed a pet parakeet that the neighbor had given her, police said.

Police found a dead parakeet in Grantham's back yard, "and she still had feathers in her hair when she spoke to police," Patrolman Scott Funkhouser said.

Grantham, 39, was arrested Wednesday and released on $500 bail.

Loaded Kimono

TOKYO - A 77-year-old Japanese woman mistakenly gave away a kimono containing $18,700 she had sewn into the garment, but the cash was returned about a month later, a police spokesman said Friday.

The unidentified woman, who lives in Yokosuka city near Tokyo, had forgotten about the cash until she read a newspaper article last month about a recycling shop owner who had discovered a wad of cash in a kimono, said a Yokosuka police spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Seventeen other people had tried to claim the cash.

The woman later proved the money was hers by describing how the cash was bundled in strips of paper with a date stamp showing when she had withdrawn it from a bank, the official said.

Police also found at her home another kimono in which cash had been sewn into the garment for safekeeping.

She told police that she had hidden the cash in her kimonos after a series of break-ins and thefts in her neighborhood in Yokosuka, located 28 miles southwest of Tokyo.

China Cracks Down On Cricket Fighting

SHANGHAI, China - Shanghai is cracking down on gamblers drawn to an ancient bloodsport forcing opponents into a gruesome battle to the death: cricket fighting.

Police detained 46 people and confiscated 39 pots containing the insect pugilists, together with $6,500 in wagers during a raid on a gambling den in the city's Pudong district, the Shanghai Daily reported Friday.

Two men, Ding Liangkai and 70-year-old Ren Xiaohai were charged with organizing the fights, punishable by up to three years in prison.

Cricket fighting was a passion of the ancient Chinese, who housed their favorites in elaborate wood or bronze cages and fed them special diets of seeds and small insects. The crickets are starved before matches to make them ornery, then released into a tiny ring where they kick and bite each other to death.

Suppressed after the 1949 Communist Revolution, the pastime has revived in recent years but remains closely associated with gambling, which is strictly forbidden in China.

Shanghai Daily quoted Ren, a 50-year veteran of the sport, as saying he organized the fights because he was unable to find crickets in the wild and couldn't afford to buy top fighters, who can cost up to $120.

"In this way, we could not only enjoy cricket fighting free of charge but also earn money by collecting a 5 percent bonus from the gamblers," Ren was quoted as saying.

There was no word on the fate of the crickets.

WWII Veteran Killed At Veterans Day Parade

WHITMAN, Mass. - Friends and family are remembering an 80-year-old veteran killed while preparing to march in Whitman's Veterans Day parade.

William Hammond of Abington was a decorated World War Two Army veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was lining up with fellow veterans at the start of the parade route when a van backed over him.

The van was owned by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and operated by a close friend of Hammond. The unidentified driver was taken to a local hospital to be treated for distress.

Richard Slowey with the VFW Post 697 recalled Hammond as a "warm and very kind person."

Post members say Hammond and his wife, Irene, had several children and that Hammond owned a contracting business.

Hammond was still an avid motorcyclist and completed a road trip around Canada and the U.S. when he was in his late 70s.

Massive Peanut Spill

SUFFOLK, Va. - A load of Georgia peanuts was delivered unexpectedly to a man who lives in the heart of Virginia's peanut country.

The 46,000-pound load of goobers was dumped in J.S. Doughtie's front yard in Suffolk after the trailer they were in slipped off the road and tipped in the soft shoulder.

The 83-year-old Doughtie said he was working in a shed in his back yard when he realized what had happened. He was told to help himself. He said he plans to roast some and make some candy.

In his words ... "I love peanuts, but I do wish these were from Virginia."

Police said truck driver Jeff Lanier, who was hauling the peanuts from Statesboro, Georgia, was charged with reckless driving and failing to maintain control of his vehicle.