The year in review: Real outdoor stories offer surprising hooks

The Baltimore Sun

Where would we be without wacky, the fuel that runs the news business? Never a "d'oh" moment? Perish the thought.

Isn't that right, Plaxico Burress, Rod Blagojevich and Roger Clemens?

As we steel ourselves for the plunge into 2009, when we'll celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles "Survival of the Fittest" Darwin, here is a look back at some of the wacky outdoors acts of 2008, ripped from the pages of notebooks, cocktail napkins and newspapers around the country.

* The year began with a story from Chaparral, N.M.:

Two men trying to trace the outline of a loaded .357-caliber Magnum on their bodies as a pattern for a tattoo accidentally shot themselves, the Otero County Sheriff's Department reported.

Robert Glasser and Joey Acosta, both 22, were treated at a hospital and released. Authorities said Glasser was struck in the hand when the gun accidentally went off, and Acosta was hit in the left arm.

Good thing it wasn't a bazooka.

* Shaun D. Smith of Federalsburg learned in November that no good deed goes unpunished.

The good news: Maryland Natural Resources Police said Smith was saved from a potentially fatal fall when his tree stand collapsed by being properly buckled into his safety harness.

The bad news: In the process of freeing himself from the harness, the 18-year-old hunter broke his arm, requiring an airlift to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.

Adding insult to injury: Smith will have to go to Caroline County District Court on Jan. 9 on charges he was hunting without a license.

* A Pottsboro, Texas, man relaxing with his family on Lake Texoma in January needed the local sheriff's department to help him reel in the catch of a lifetime.

Bob Faulkner, you see, hooked up with one of the monsters of the deep and the highway: a stretch Hummer limousine.

Faulkner said he thought he had snagged something larger than his boat, perhaps a sunken boat, a jet ski or chunk of a floating dock. He attempted to attach his anchor to it to drag it to shore but instead hauled up a chunk of vinyl.

It took deputies four tries to bring the beast to the surface. The vehicle had been reported stolen.

* A North Carolina man said he caught a state-record-breaking catfish with his granddaughter's pink Barbie rod and reel.

David Hayes said his 3-year-old granddaughter, Alyssa, had asked him to hold her Barbie rod Aug. 5 while she went inside his home to use the restroom, and that's when the 21-pound, 1-ounce behemoth latched onto the line.

"[Alyssa] wasn't in the house a few seconds when the catfish took off with the bait," Hayes told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Hayes said it took him 25 minutes to wrestle the 32-inch-long catfish into his net.

He said he and Alyssa took the fish to a grocery store with a state-certified scale and found the catfish beat the previous state record of 18 pounds, 5 ounces, which was set in 2007.

* Residents in a Pinellas County, Fla., neighborhood awoke one July morning to find about 30 catfish walking around their streets.

"I was, like, 'No way, there's fish in the street.' And I kept going farther and farther, seeing fish everywhere. In driveways. I've never seen anything like it," said Dianna Fernandez, a landscaper.

The walking catfish, an invasive species in Florida since the 1960s, use their pectoral fins to mosey around.

Paul Shafland, a state wildlife biologist, said walking catfish can travel short distances on land as long as they stay moist.

"Scientists say these walking catfish are pretty tough. They actually live in storm drains, and when it rains a lot they come up with the water and start walking around the streets," he said.

Sounds more like an Illinois governor to me.

* Funny thing about Delaware's 2008 boat fishing decal. It comes off in water, or as the bureaucrats delicately put it, "it does not adhere sufficiently."

Some flaw, eh?

Delaware got the decal company (Acme, perhaps?) to put some more sticky stuff on the back, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Here's hoping your 2009 begins your happily ever after.

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