Santa Still Free to Fly

Salt Lake City almost banned Santa Claus.

Routine updating of the city's aviation code nearly nixed a Claus clause, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

The sentence, written sometime in the 1980s, reads in full: "Exemption for Flying Reindeer on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve only, flying reindeer and any cargo they may be towing shall be exempt from the 2,000-foot height restriction and other provisions of subsection A of this section."

The aviation committee deemed that a bit frivolous and planned to cut it, pending city council approval.

"The [aviation] committee felt that particular provision was not in keeping with the overall tone and seriousness of the ordinance," Director of Airports Tim Campbell told council members last Thursday.

Council members, who unlike aviation-committee members face elections, were less certain about forbidding sleigh takeoffs and landings.

"Can I tell my 6-year-old we took [the exemption] out because Santa's already exempt?" asked Councilman Dave Buhler.

"How do we avoid a 'Miracle on 34th Street' situation?" wondered Councilwoman Nancy Saxton.

Finally, the city council voted to protect Santa's landing rights.

— Thanks to Out There reader Rebecca T.

The Snake Comes Standard With This Model

POTSDAM, N.Y. (AP) — A northern New York woman taking a used car out for a test drive found a little something extra under the hood: A 3-foot snake.

Margaret Brusso took a 1999 Honda Accord (search) out for a ride Wednesday after spotting the car at a dealership in Potsdam. When she noticed the car's hood was ajar, she decided to take a look at the engine.

"All of a sudden I was eye to eye with this giant snake," Brusso said.

"They must have heard me scream all the way to Market Street," she said.

A Saint Lawrence County sheriff's deputy with experience handling snakes corralled the ball python (search), an African snake that can grow up to six feet in length.

The snake, named Zayla, had escaped its owner's home earlier this summer. It has since been returned to its owner.

No injuries were reported.

Man Pleads Guilty to 'Hairy' Theft

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man was sentenced to probation Monday for snatching the hairpiece off the head of another man at a restaurant.

Paul J. Goudy, 25, of Lemoyne, pleaded guilty Monday to theft by unlawful taking. He was sentenced to 23 months' probation, fined $500 and ordered to write a letter of apology.

The victim, Edward Floyd, was sitting in the Fisaga restaurant (search) in Harrisburg on Jan. 1 when Goudy ripped the hairpiece off his head, taking with it a gold chain that hung from his neck, according to court documents.

"Don't these guys have anything better to do than to rob and humiliate someone for absolutely no reason in the world? It's just outrageous," said Floyd, 60, of Harrisburg. "I'm a nice guy. I don't bother anybody."

Goudy said another man, Matthew G. Flinchbaugh, 26, of Wormleysburg, had offered him $100 to do it as a dare. Flinchbaugh is scheduled to be arraigned next month on charges of soliciting Goudy to steal the hairpiece.

Flinchbaugh's lawyer, William Fetterhoff, said the prank was "an exercise in very poor judgment."

"It's the sort of prank that when you're on the other end — as Mr. Floyd was — it's not funny at all," he said.

Flinchbaugh is expected to request entry into a first-time offender's program.

Floyd said he is examining the possibility of a lawsuit against Flinchbaugh, although he said he might drop the idea if Flinchbaugh apologizes.

"It has literally affected my entire life, and for what? What did I do?" Floyd said.

Texas Cop Served Spit Soda

LUFKIN, Texas (AP) — Two young men face felony charges after one of them allegedly spat in a drink he was serving to an East Texas police officer.

Brian Strban, 19, and Nathaniel Allen Baker, 22, were workers at a Lufkin Sonic Drive-In (search) where the incident allegedly happened Sept. 3, according to a police affidavit.

Both were arrested last week and charged with second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product. If convicted, both could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined up to $10,000, The Lufkin Daily News reported in its online editions Monday.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City-based Sonic hamburger chain said both workers were fired.

According to the affidavit, the officer ordered a soft drink, but when he received the beverage he noticed several workers inside the kitchen laughing. The police officer, who was not identified, opened the drink and noticed what appeared to be phlegm floating on the surface.

The affidavit says lab tests confirmed his suspicions. It alleged that Strban planned the prank after recognizing the officer as one who had interrupted him and his girlfriend having a romantic interlude at a local parking spot.

According to the affidavit, Strban has acknowledged encouraging Baker to spit in the drink.

Police say both suspects have given DNA samples, but no test results have been disclosed.

Kitties Thrive in Maximum Security

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) — There are some pretty tough cats at Indiana State Prison (search).

However, they've done nothing wrong. They're pets of inmates.

"Come here, boy," inmate Jerry Grinstead cooed as he recently cuddled his cat Thor in his tattooed forearms. "Say, 'This is dad's baby.'"

The maximum-security prison with its 29 cat-owning inmates is the only correctional facility in the state that allows these pets, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (search).

Cats were never part of the plan at the 144-year-old prison. They simply wandered in through the north gate that once served as the entrance for coal trains, said Barry Nothstine, administrative assistant at the prison. Others came in through the maze of sewer pipes, he said.

No one can say when the first cat appeared in the facility, or when inmates began adopting the animals as pets.

"This goes back years and years," Nothstine said.

The cats have brought advantages: Their companionship has encouraged many inmates to keep their behavior in line, he said.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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