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The Odd Truth, Sept. 29, 2004

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

Family Exchange Recipes, Shots
BLUEWELL, W.Va. - A family meal erupted into a gun battle after a father and son clashed over how to cook chicken.

The two men argued Sunday over the best way to prepare skinless chicken for dinner.

"It started out as a physical confrontation, but it escalated until both of them were shooting at each other," Detective Sgt. A.D. Beasley of the Mercer County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

Beasley said each man fired a .22-caliber handgun at the other. Harley Shrader was struck by a bullet that went through the upper part of his right ear and lodged in the back of his head. He was treated at a hospital and released. The elder Shrader was not injured.

Jackie Lee Shrader, 49, was charged with malicious wounding and wanton endangerment. Harley Lee Shrader, 24, was charged with wanton endangerment.

At Last, Math You Can Use!

OXON HILL, Md. - School officials in a Washington DC suburb have a lot of questions about a phony test given to some high school students.

Prince George's County school officials are apologizing to parents for the test that included questions about drugs, crime and weapons.

Officials say a tenth-grade geometry teacher at Oxon Hill High School administered what is being called a "fake math proficiency test." It contained math word problems beginning with phrases like "Jose has two ounces of cocaine," "Willie gets 200 dollars for a stolen BMW," and "Raul gets six years for murder."

One parent says she's appalled.

The school board says it will take what it calls "appropriate administrative action" and it's apologizing to the parents in writing.

Stray Cat Strut

MONTERREY, Mexico - Rats of Atascaderos note: The tough city cats of Chihuahua are coming - and they are hungry.

Chihuahua state officials say they hope to collect an army of 700 felines for a frontal attack on Atascaderos, an isolated farm village in the rugged Tarahumara mountains, a region where officials estimate the rat population at half a million.

The cats are being collected in Chihuahua city, capital of the northern Mexican state of the same name, where they will be vaccinated and checked for rabies and then shipped by truck to Atascaderos, about 300 miles to the south, said Roberto Gallegos, a health official who is overseeing the recruitment of the cats.

"So far we don't have any cats, but an animal control agency already promised to donate 50," Gallegos said. "Our goal is to stop the rats from reproducing and that's how we hope the cats can help."

Ads asking for cat donations started circulating in Chihuahua newspapers Monday and officials hope some 200 will be ready to travel to Atascaderos this weekend.

Villagers in Atascaderos, a town of 3,000 people, started noticing the rodent problem a year ago when rats appeared in barns and warehouses where they stored their produce.

Farmers started setting traps and poison, but the effort backfired: cats and other animals that prey on rats started dying instead.

"Now they have no cats left and the rats just keep reproducing," Gallegos said.

Eustaquio Marin, a spokesman for the municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo, where Atascaderos is located, said about 800 households are infested with the rats. He said there was an average of 200 rats per home.

With the rats able to produce 800 offspring per year, authorities fear they could soon start spreading to neighboring villages.

"It's like the problem in "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" tale, but unfortunately that flutist doesn't exist and what we have here is an imminent health problem," Gallegos said.

The plan alarmed Emilia de Leon of the Animal Protection Society in Monterrey, the largest urban area in northern Mexico.

"Are they going to bring the cats to die of hunger?" she asked, and said it would be "a very big mistake" to use cats that had not been sterilized.

"Now there is going to be a plague of cats and what are they going to do - start to exterminate cats?" she asked.

Have A Holly-Jolly ... Funeral?

ST. JOHN, Ind. - Ozella "Ozzie" McHargue's Christmas spirit was always evident - even at her holly, jolly funeral this week.

McHargue came up with the idea 17 months ago after being diagnosed with cancer. She said she didn't want depressing organ music at her funeral - she wanted songs like "Silver Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

She got her wish.

The funeral home was decked with holly, wreaths, mistletoe, poinsettias and a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from friends and family. McHargue was placed in a custom-made red and green casket for her wake Monday.

Ozzie, a widow who died Sept. 22 at age 67, always sprang to life around Christmas, her family said. She enjoyed Santa, Frosty and her favorite, the Grinch.

"Mom was always cheesy with the decorating, too. Things weren't done until they were overdone," said Kristy Hudi, who wore a Christmas tree pin on her blouse.

Rhonda McHargue said her mother's home was filled with Christmas decorations.

"It was like going to the North Pole," she said.

The daughters planned to give close friends and family the Christmas tree ornaments after the funeral.

"Mom would have liked that," Rhonda McHargue said.

Jewel Encrusted Potato Head, Because You're Worth It

DALLAS - What do you get for that special someone who has just about everything? How about a personal zeppelin? The airship is in the 2004 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, unveiled in Dallas yesterday. The zeppelin seats 12 passengers and costs a mere $10 million. If that's a little steep, Neiman is offering a $1.7 million mini submarine for two. Or jewel encrusted Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head figurines at $8,000 apiece. This year's his-and-hers gift is a four-lane bowling alley, including large-screen plasma TVs, personalized bowling shirts and lessons from a pro. Price tag? Nearly $1.5 million.

Casual Friday At The FBI

ROCHESTER, N.H. - Would an FBI agent wear flip-flops on the job? Some airport workers in New Hampshire didn't think so. They called police when a fake FBI agent started nosing around Skyhaven Airport in Rochester, asking questions about security. According to police, a man wearing a jacket that said "FBI Anti-Terrorism" showed up at the airport last Wednesday. Airport workers were immediately suspicious because the man was wearing flip-flops and couldn't produce proper ID. Police note it's a federal crime to impersonate an agent.

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