Mad Minute stories from Tuesday, May 22nd - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Tuesday, May 22nd

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ALAMO HEIGHTS, Texas (AP) — FOR SALE: One tiny kingdom, with many thrones. But it doesn’t come with a hereditary title.
That belongs, in perpetuity, to Barney Smith — the undisputed “King of the Commode.”
“There’s a lot of me in there,” he says, sitting in front of the corrugated metal garage he’s dubbed his Toilet Seat Art Museum.
There’s a lot of, well, everything in there.
Smith has one seat decorated with a chunk of the Berlin Wall and another with a piece of insulation from the doomed Shuttle Challenger. There are lids festooned with flint arrowheads, Civil War Minie balls, Amtrak train keys, Pez dispensers — even $1 million in shredded greenbacks from the Federal Reserve Bank in San Antonio.
Every inch of door, wall and ceiling space is covered.
The sign out front — a commode lid, of course — says Smith’s art is “NOT FOR SALE.” But after five decades and countless offers, the king says everything must go.
“At 96, I come out here with a cane. I’ve gotta hold onto everything to walk,” says Smith, who is bent with arthritis and struggles to swing the creaking metal doors open for visitors. “I’m beginning to feel like that I’d rather be in an air-conditioned home in a chair, looking at a good program.”
Still, walking away will be hard.
"This is my life's history here," he says.
It started more than 50 years ago, as a way to display hunting trophies.
Smith says his father would spend hours cutting out, sanding and varnishing wooden shields to mount his antlers. The son figured a toilet seat lid would do just fine.
"Well, I'm a master plumber, retired," he says. "I thought I ought to stick with my trade."
Smith had promised his wife, Louise, that he'd stop at 500. That was 850 toilet seats ago.
"If I would have just read my Bible as many hours as I spent on my toilet seats, I'd be a better man," he says with a twinkle in his eye.
Smith's workshop is stacked floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes filled with odds and ends. He engraves his works with cast-off drills donated by a local dentist.
Smith readily admits that he's no Jasper Johns.
"The abstract artist would take it and he would spray a little paint over here and a little bit of paint here and say, 'This is the Alamo,'" Smith says with disgust. "I do detail."
Smith toiled in obscurity until an artist who'd come by to see some of his oil paintings caught a glimpse of his garage and told a local TV station.
"They twisted my arm so until I said to come on," Smith says.
The piece aired on a Friday. The following Monday, two other stations came calling. Then came the tourists.
"And so I just slung the door open," he says.
Smith officially opened as a museum in 1992. Since then, visitors from every state and 83 foreign countries have made their way to this little municipality completely surrounded by the city of San Antonio.
He asks that visitors make an appointment. But he doesn't turn anyone away.
Smith uses his walking stick to point out his favorites. Like a lavatory seat from the airplane that carried billionaire Aristotle Onassis's body home to Greece. Or the piece of one of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's "thrones."
He regales tourists with the tale of "Old Rip," the "horny toad" who emerged alive after 31 years entombed in the courthouse cornerstone in his hometown of Eastland, Texas. He also treats each to a recitation of "When Earth's Last Picture is Painted" — a Rudyard Kipling poem he was assigned to learn in fifth grade.
No one leaves without signing his guestbook — and a toilet seat.
Smith is currently working on a seat commemorating the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. He suspects that will be his last.
In 2014, he lost Louise, his wife of 74 years. A few months ago, he fell and broke two ribs.
Daughter Julia Murders says they've had offers. A man from India, who wanted to buy the collection for his daughter, offered $20,000 — about $15 per seat.
"We discussed it and we said, 'Daddy, you know, you've been doing this your whole life. The last few years of your life, you've done nothing BUT this,'" says Murders, 69, who lives nearby.
People have told Smith that he's sitting on a pot of gold. But Smith isn't looking to cash in.
"I want all 1,350 to be intact in another museum somewhere," he says. "It's not the highest bidder. It's not being raffled off."
Austin writer and publisher Daedelus Hoffman says Smith and his collection are priceless. And he wants to help preserve that legacy.
His Cattywampus Press raised more than $30,000 to produce a full-color, cloth-bound book about Smith. "King of the Commode: Barney Smith & His Toilet Seat Art Museum" is being released Saturday, just in time for Smith's 97th birthday.
Hoffman hopes the book will help Smith attract a suitable buyer. If nothing else, he wanted to at least "document this piece of Americana."
"For me, Barney's story is about the innate human desire to create and communicate," Hoffman says. "He is a folk artist. And his story and his life work merits preservation."
Smith would love for the collection to remain where it is. But if it must move to remain intact, so be it.
"I'm ready to give it up and let it go to London," he says.
The Loovre, perhaps?

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CANTON, Conn. (AP) — What might be the world's hairiest vandal has destroyed the interior of a Connecticut woman's car.
Linda Morad tells WFSB-TV she was house-sitting in Canton last Friday when she noticed her car lights on and heard strange noises. She called police.
Officers found a full-grown bear that had somehow gotten into Morad's car and could not get out.
Police opened a door, ran to the other side of the vehicle, and the bear scampered into the woods.
The car's exterior was almost untouched, but the car's interior was torn to shreds. Morad says her insurance company tells her the vehicle is totaled.
There was no food in the car, but Morad had taken some garbage to the dump earlier that day. She thinks the smell attracted the bear.
 
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina woman isn't happy a grocery store censored her honor graduate son's cake, which was supposed to include the Latin phrase "Summa Cum Laude."
Cara Koscinski told The Washington Post a cake online from Publix that was supposed to say "Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018."
She says the online message box did not like the word "cum," the Latin word for "with." The computer marked it as a naughty word and substituted three hyphens.
Koscinski said she then filled in a box for special instructions, explaining the Latin word and placed the $70 order. Another family member picked up the cake, not knowing what it was supposed to say. It came with the hyphens.
She says the store gave her a refund and a gift card when she complained.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A bronze plaque honoring soccer star Brandi Chastain got a red card Tuesday after a social media outcry over its unflattering portrayal of the athlete.
The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in San Francisco said Tuesday it will redo the plaque, which was unveiled a day earlier and quickly panned by the public.
Fans on Twitter compared the likeness to former President Jimmy Carter, actors Gary Busey and Mickey Rooney, baseball player Babe Ruth, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and movie character Mrs. Doubtfire, played by Robin Williams.
Chastain is often remembered for ripping off her jersey in celebration of her game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup.
Chastain attended the unveiling of her plaque at a San Francisco hotel Monday night and graciously commented, "It's not the most flattering. But it's nice," according to The Mercury News of San Jose.
Hall of Fame president Kevin O'Brien told KTVU-TV that he spoke with Chastain on Tuesday and offered to redo the plaque if she sent in a new photograph of herself. She agreed and a new plaque will be made, O'Brien said.
"It's expensive," he said. "But it's the right thing to do."

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LAKE WORTH, Fla. (AP) — Residents of a Florida city who received alerts about a power outage were also warned to look out for zombies. That's right — zombies.
The Palm Beach Post reports that Lake Worth residents received the message during a power outage Sunday.
The alert warned that more than 7,000 customers lost power "due to extreme zombie activity."
City spokesman Ben Kerr later posted a Facebook message saying officials were investigating the bogus alert and that he wanted to "reiterate that Lake Worth does not have any zombie activity currently."
Kerr says 7,880 customers lost power, but it was restored within 30 minutes. He did not mention what really caused the outage.

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A monkey escaped from its crate Monday afternoon at San Antonio International Airport but was shot with a tranquilizer and was recovered safely.
Officials said the monkey got out of his crate in an isolated baggage area where animals are checked upon arrival. The monkey, a rhesus macaque named Dawkins, according to NBC affiliate WOAI, was on his way to a local animal sanctuary and refuge.
Dawkins was on an American Airlines flight to the Alamo City from Chicago when he "inadvertently became free of his cage," the carrier said. He was contained in an isolated area away from staff and customers and officials from the San Antonio Zoo were called in to ensure his safety. 
The zoo said on Twitter that it conducts regular emergency drills so it was prepared for such incidents and transfered the monkey to its owner.  
The monkey had been confined to the baggage handling area and tranquilized, San Antonio Aviation Director Russ Handy said.
He couldn't say how rare such incidents are at the airport.
"People that have been here at the airport a while can't remember this type of thing happening," Handy said. "We transport a lot of the animals and the rules on kennels and how they're supposed to be secure are very clear, so I would say it's very rare."

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(FOX) A 30-year-old man was outraged Tuesday when a judge ordered him to vacate his parents' home. The order came after a monthslong effort by the couple to get him to leave their  New York residence.
Michael Rotondo appeared in court for 30 minutes Tuesday after his parents, Christina and Mark Rotondo, filed a petition in the Supreme Court of New York State claiming they've had enough of their son living under their roof, Syracuse.com reported.
State Supreme Court Justice Donald Greenwood praised the son for doing his legal research and citing a "common law requirement" that required family members to give a six-month notice before eviction.
However, Greenwood called it a simple internet search and said the six-month demand was "outrageous." Michael, in turn, called the eviction order "outrageous." He continued to slam the judge's order outside the courtroom, the report stated.
The eviction drama began on Feb. 2 when the parents left their first note, saying Michael had two weeks to vacate his room at the family's Camillus home, CNYCentral reported. 
"Michael, After a decision with your Mother, we have decided you must leave this house immediately. You have 14 days to vacate. You will not be allowed to return. We will take whatever actions are necessary to enforce this decision," the note read.
Michael appeared to take the threat lightly. The Rotondos tried again with another strongly-worded note dated Feb. 13 saying: "Michael Joseph Rotondo, you are hereby evicted from the home effectively immediately."
"Any action you take that can be construed as threatening or harassing...us or prevents or obstructs our ability to use the house or property…as we see fit will result in your immediate removal from the premises," the mother wrote.
Michael had 30 days to vacate, as recommended by the couple's lawyer. The mother warned "legal enforcement procedure will be instituted immediately" if he wasn't out of the house by March 15, the full note released by Syracuse.com stated.
The couple decided to add an incentive and penned a third note five days later saying they were graciously giving him $1,100 to help him find a place to stay. They also offered some advice such as organizing his personal items, selling valuables for money and finding a job.
As the March 15 deadline approached, it seemed like Michael wasn't budging. The couple wrote another note on March 5 claiming there had been no indication their son would leave.
The note adds, "Be aware that we will take any appropriate actions necessary to make sure you leave the house as demanded."
Yet, the deadline passed and Michael was still living at his parents' home. In the last note before the court filing, the Rotondos addressed an issue with Michael's car that was reportedly still sitting in the parents' driveway.
The couple initially went to the town's court in April to evict their son, but was told they could only remove a family member from their home through ejectment proceeding.
Michael said in court on Tuesday his parents didn't support him when it came to food and laundry — only with a place to live. He said he believed the judge didn't fully read the case and vowed to appeal the decision.
The parents' lawyer said the couple was hoping for a court order that the sheriff's deputies could enforce.
No specific move-out date was provided in court on Tuesday, however the parents' lawyer said it would be a reasonable enough time for Michael to move out.

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(Huffington Post) A Colorado man is facing federal charges after he allegedly harassed a female airline passenger and then urinated on the seat in front of him.
Michael Allen Haag, of Boulder, was arrested Thursday night after his plane, Frontier Airlines flight 9864, landed in Charleston, South Carolina.
He has been charged with a felony count of interfering with a flight crew and a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure, according to the Charleston Post & Courier.
An FBI affidavit obtained by The Smoking Gun states that Haag was drinking double vodka and tonics during the flight.
Assigned a middle seat, Haag allegedly told a woman sitting next to him he was going to meet up with an old girlfriend in South Carolina and was "physically excited."
The woman told authorities Haag asked her lots of personal questions and kept staring at her chest and legs.
At some point, Haag allegedly started touching a woman seated on the other side of him, prompting her to yell "stop touching me" and summon a flight attendant.
Haag was then moved to a seat in the last row, which he shared with a third woman, identified by Denver station KDVR as Emily.
She told the station flight attendants told her she "might want to get up just in case he tries to touch you."
When Emily took out her phone to snap a picture of the man to show her girlfriends, things got gross.
"While I have my phone out trying to take a discreet photo, he starts to pee and urinate on the seat in front of him," she said.
CBS Denver posted a photo that allegedly shows Haag urinating in his seat and hitting the back of the seat in front of him.
"And I scream, he's f***ing peeing. He's peeing. Oh my god. And the flight attendant doesn't even acknowledge him at first. Acknowledges me and says you need to calm down and stop cursing," she told KDVR.
For all her trouble, Emily says the airline only offered to waive her bag fees and give her a $200 voucher.
"I think they handled it extremely poorly," she told the station. "Someone should have sat with him."
Frontier Airlines did not immediately respond to HuffPost's request for comment, but airline spokesman Richard Oliver released a statement after the incident to CBS Denver.
"The safety and security of our passengers is our top priority at Frontier," he said. "We have been made aware of this situation and are working with the appropriate authorities."
Haag was booked Friday at the Charleston County jail but released on his own recognizance later in the day, according to the Post & Courier.
If convicted, he could spend 20 years behind bars.

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May 22 (UPI) -- A British man sitting down for breakfast received a fright when a snake slithered out of his cereal box and fled into his dishwasher.
The RSPCA said Animal Collection Officer Katie Hetherington responded Saturday morning to a home in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, where a man reported a 3-foot snake had emerged from his box of cereal.
"I think he was expecting to have Cornflakes for breakfast -- not Cornsnakes!" Hetherington quipped. "The poor chap was absolutely terrified -- I think it was the last thing he expected to find in his kitchen!"
The snake was safely removed from the man's dishwasher and taken to a specialist center, the officer said.
The cereal-stowaway serpent was identified as a corn snake, a species native to North America but common in Britain as an exotic pet.
The RSPCA said the snake is suspected to be a runaway pet and officials are trying to find its owners.
"Corn snakes are one of the most commonly-kept exotic pets -- and they are particularly good at escaping!" said Nicola White, RSPCA senior scientific officer in wildlife.

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(FOX) One deputy took a hands-on approach to a bull in Texas. 
Samson the bull — a well-known member of the community — got loose on Saturday, and deputies were tasked with leading him home.
"We are told the neighborhood knows him well, and he is very gentle so it didn't take much to get him home," the sheriff's office told Fox News.
A snapshot showing Samson being led by a deputy was published on the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Facebook page on Sunday. 
"Only in Texas!!! Our Deputies believe in 'grabbing the bull by the horns' to get the job done! Onto the next call!! Never a boring day!" authorities captioned the picture.
The sheriff's office added the hashtags "#Deputylife #CopLife #StruggleisReal."
The post has received more than 1,300 reactions as of Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of Texans thanked the officers for helping the bull find his way.
" I love it! This is only one of the reasons I love Texas," one woman commented on the Facebook post.
"Talking about above and beyond - this officer is committed to the welfare of all. Great job - brave man," another user commented.
"Just a ordinary day in the country, gotta love it," one man wrote, adding a thumbs-up emoji.
The sheriff's office replied with a gif from a scene in "The Breakfast Club," of a character saying, "Don't mess with the bull young man. You'll get the horns."

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