Mason County News
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Shoot to Chip
Wednesday, June 8, 2011 • Posted June 8, 2011

There seems to be a lot of strange news happening lately, for some reason. Maybe it’s the economy, or the threat of global warming, or that British chap getting married recently. Or maybe it’s something else, but people seem to be doing weird things nowadays.For example, the world’s tallest couple was crowned in Hollywood recently. There’s a video on the internet, and I was going to watch it, but failed due to lack of interest. I just couldn’t see spending three minutes of my life watching a video of two people who probably bump their heads even more than I do, if that’s possible.Likewise, I was too apathetic to watch a video about the world record one ton sausage someone made recently, or the one about the fellow who set a record for swallowing fire, or the radio host that set some sort of record for broadcasting from under water. I don’t know, it just seems cheesy to me when people do things for no other reason than to set a record.The story about the BMX bicycle rider who set a world record for the first ever successfully completed triple backflip showed initial promise, but as I watched that one all I could think about was how many others must have tried that and failed. They’re probably laying around in their hospital rooms right now, watching the same video, bleeding quietly in defeat. Which is just depressing.An interesting first happened in Florida recently, though, that should probably be just as depressing as the bike thing, but isn’t, for some reason. This will probably end up being referred to as the case of the Jumping Sturgeon, which, by the way, would be a good name for a rock band.The Suwannee River is pretty much full of sturgeon. Florida wildlife officials think there are about 14,000 of them in there, although I don’t know how they come up with their numbers. It’s not like you can get fish to fill out census forms, and if you try to count them they’re notoriously uncooperative.Anyway, the thing about these sturgeon is that they evidently like to jump out of the water, although that’s really a misnomer. Fish don’t really jump, because they don’t have legs, and you can’t jump without legs. What they do is get going pretty quick and then swim right out of the water into the air, which is called jumping, but isn’t. Not really.Sometimes the sturgeon come out of the water and land in passing boats, where they are quite welcome if the people in the boat are fishing for sturgeon. But not everybody is fishing for sturgeon, and sometimes the fish collide with the humans in the boats, which can be No Fun. For the human. Also for the fish.This apparently happens often enough that Florida wildlife officials issued a warning before Memorial Day for boaters to be careful, and watch for jumping sturgeon. Which most of the boaters, being humans and therefore uncooperative, ignored.So a 25-year-old woman named Tina Fletcher, who was riding in an airboat, was hit by a sturgeon, and it broke her leg. She wasn’t the first to be hit by a fish, by any means, as four other boaters have been whacked since April 27, but she was the first to have a leg broken by one. Which is probably no consolation, but there you go.My favorite recent news story, though, comes from Independence, Missouri, where Rick Sheridan was working in his garage and heard gunshots out back. He went to check and found some police officers lined up along the bank of a small creek behind his home. They had managed to get the drop on Rick’s lawn statuary.Rick had been having problems with neighborhood kids trespassing on his place, and he was probably worried one of them would get hurt and he would end up being sued, the American legal system being in the state it is. He tried signs, which were promptly torn down. So he bought a large concrete alligator and put it in the weeds beside the creek, thinking it would keep the children away. I don’t know about that, but it definitely would have kept me away, on the off chance I had an urge to play in a creek in Independence, Missouri.A kid saw the gator and fetched his dad, who called 911. When the police called Missouri wildlife officials, they were told to go ahead and kill the gator if they found it. As luck would have it, the gator had not moved (being made of about 500 pounds of concrete). Rick was quoted as saying, “The officer fired two rounds, and killed my concrete, ornamental alligator.”I don’t know if that was the first concrete gator ever shot by police, but I’m betting it wasn’t. I’m thinking it probably happened before, but the cops involved were smart enough to say, “No, of course I wasn’t shooting at the statue. Didn’t you see that rattlesnake right beside it? Well, it’s gone now.” Poor shooting is easier to live over than poor thinking.Now I’ve got to get busy practicing on my bike. I understand no one has ever successfully completed a quadruple backflip over a concrete alligator . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never shot at concrete lawn statuary. Yet. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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