Retiree Builds Real-Life Treehouse

Call it the story of the Old Man and the Tree.

According to the Des Moines Register, Jack Barnhart of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, was 61 when he went looking for one last big challenge.

Just retired from his third career as a social worker (he'd also been a real estate salesman and college theater producer), he feared becoming one of those old guys with nothing to do.

He found his project in a tree -- a 100-year-old honey locust with a 40-inch diameter located in a far corner of his back yard.

An accomplished woodworker, Barnhart dreamed of building a treehouse -- but not a little kid's idea of a treehouse.

The treehouse he was envisioning would have two staircases, built-in closets and cabinets, a wet bar, high-quality insulated windows, water and electricity, cable TV and a rooftop patio -- and table service for six.

And instead of climbing a ladder from the ground, his treehouse would be accessible by a soaring footbridge, connected to the deck of his home some 65 feet away across a ravine.

It was a level of difficulty that would keep Barnhart grappling with his tree through five years of labor, some $12,000 to $15,000 in materials and many scary moments on ladders.

"It would have been difficult to build this thing on the ground, let alone in a tree," he told the Des Moines Register. "There were times I was nearly hanging by my toenails trying to get the right angle to drive a nail."

It took Barnhart a year just to build the framework for his treehouse. One year turned into two turned into three turned into four.

Barnhart is racing to finish the exterior by Aug. 13, when he and his partner of 20 years, Bob Schanke, have a private, treehouse-top party planned. By the first of January, he predicts he'll be totally done, inside and out, with bamboo wallcovering, heaters, ceiling fan, easy chairs and all.

"We've already had a couple of dinner parties and cocktail parties," Barnhart told the Des Moines Register.

Woman's Possessions Taken After Ad Error

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kris Bryan couldn't believe it when she came home and realized strangers were taking away her stuff — including her 7-week-old kitten.

A legal notice in the Lawrence Journal-World for unclaimed property mistakenly listed Bryan's address. The notice said the items would be thrown out if they weren't picked up from the apartment.

"I was freaking out," said Bryan, 22. "I told them, 'That's my apartment — there's been some mistake.'"

Sgt. Dan Ward, a spokesman for the Lawrence Police Department, said Bryan confronted the people at her home, who showed her the Journal-World ad. They returned the items they had taken, but others had already made off with an estimated $3,300 worth of possessions — everything from a TV and a DVD player to video games and Bryan's kitten.

Ward said it was unclear how people got into Bryan's home. There were no signs of forced entry and Bryan told authorities she believed her door was locked.

Police are still trying to find her possessions. Despite the ad's confusion, those who took them could also face charges.

"Just that ad in the newspaper doesn't give someone permission to go in and take items," Bryan said.

The Journal-World's chief operating officer, Ralph Gage, said Thursday that the matter has been settled, but would not elaborate on the terms.

"We made a mistake in a legal ad," he said. "It's totally settled to the satisfaction of all parties."

Misprint Swamps Woman With Medicaid Calls

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A businesswoman in faraway Montana was swamped with anguished calls after a letter informing 339,000 Medicaid recipients of service cuts wrongly listed her phone number for a help line for the hearing impaired.

The letters mailed Monday already have resulted in hundreds of calls to Sharon Rivera, who lives in Columbia Falls, Mont. — more than 1,200 miles northwest of Missouri's capital.

The Missouri Department of Social Services acknowledged the error Thursday. The two-page letter had correct help line numbers for voice calling but used Rivera's number, one digit away from the correct one, for calls from telephones used by the hearing or speech impaired.

Many of the callers are older — some are weeping, others cursing — and don't understand when she tries to explain the mistake, Rivera said. Instead of hanging up on them, she has been listening.

"This has been a nightmare for me. ... My phone rings constantly," Rivera said in a telephone interview. "And I honestly am feeling very, very sad for the people who call."

At the urging of Gov. Matt Blunt, the GOP-led Legislature this year eliminated Medicaid health care coverage for about 90,000 of Missouri's 1 million Medicaid recipients. It cut services such as dental care, eyeglasses and crutches for an additional 339,000 adults remaining on Medicaid, and imposed new co-payments ranging from 50 cents to $10.

Officials in the Division of Medical Service are weighing how to notify the Medicaid recipients of the mistake. The first round of letters cost the state about $80,000, spokeswoman Deborah Scott said. The state also plans to reimburse Rivera for the calls to her toll-free number and for her time.

"She's been very gracious," not only to the callers but to state officials, Scott added.

Rivera runs a home-based business, Hawkstone Productions, that books concerts and sells music for Jack Gladstone, an Indian singer, songwriter, lecturer and storyteller.

Indiana Couple Want to Wed in Cemetery

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Evansville city officials are considering a request by a couple to be married in a city cemetery.

Twenty-two-year-old Jamie Sue Smithhart says that when she wanted to escape to a quiet place as a teenager, she went to Oak Hill Cemetery.

Now, she and her fiance, 23-year-old William Zentmeyer, want to get married there.

They have a spot picked out just inside the cemetery's main gate.

The couple met in art class in high school but didn't start dating until earlier this year.

Their former teacher says it would be just like them to want to do something a little different.

The city Works Board briefly discussed the couple's request yesterday. Members voiced no objection, but tabled it for a week to give a city attorney time to review the application.

Cop, Friend Face Indecent Exposure Charges

OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — A police officer has been accused of flashing more than his badge. Edison, N.J., officer David Salardino, 32, and a friend, Brian J. Rossmeyer, were arrested early Wednesday after people complained the men were standing nude in front of their hotel window.

"Salardino was attempting to 'show off' by flexing as he stood naked in front of the window in order to attract the attention of the people on the sidewalk in front of the hotel," according to a police report.

The report also says Salardino identified himself as an officer and later apologized for what he did, while never actually admitting to exposing himself.

Witnesses told police they also saw Rossmeyer expose himself for a brief period of time. Both men were arrested on indecent exposure charges.

Compiled by's Jennifer D'Angelo.

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