The Great Lawn Mower Race

Picture yourself sitting on a bale of hay on a balmy summer night, watching with great anticipation as mean machines with names like "Ace of Blades" and "Mowdacious" roar past, one after the other, in a frenzied race to the finish.

But these mean machines aren't cars or motorcycles or even monster trucks. They are lawn mowers.

Before this vision leads you to freak out and swear off drinking before noon, know this: you are neither intoxicated nor insane. You are merely in Michigan watching members of the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association do their thing on their souped-up, grass-cutting gas-guzzlers at speeds nearing 80 mph … and they couldn’t be happier about it.

"Michigan used to be kind of second ranked, but we're probably the top state in the nation now for mower racing," Craig Pond, the reigning rookie driver, said.

It may seem a little ... funny, but these John Deere-loving dudes are completely serious about their colorful craft.

Tracy Donihue, 2005’s most improved driver and devoted riding mower racer since 1999, spends about $6,000 a year on travel and expenses to race two mowers in two different classes, the Lansing State Journal reports.

"You don't see a lot of people with lawn mowers that will run over 60 mph," he said this week. "Mine will."

And it seems Donihue and Pond aren’t alone in their enthusiasm for the sport.

Since its debut on April Fools’ Day in 1992, more than 500 racers have joined 22 chapters nationwide.

They participate in an annual circuit of 110 races and have a spokesman nicknamed Mr. Mow-It-All. Drivers compete for lawn ornaments, bragging rights and towering trophies, and they even have something for the ... uh ... garden-variety novice — race attendees are invited to rumble along the track at blistering speeds exceeding 5 mph with their own mowers (sans blades, of course) to the delight of the cheering masses.

When Good Gnomes Go Bad

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Allen Snyder just thought his garden gnome had been stolen.

Then on Wednesday, the Morgantown resident got the letter:

"Please bail me out of jail, Uncle Allen. Send money to PA State Penitentiary. Gnomey. p.s. Sorry, I left home but, I wanted to see the world and now I'm in trouble."

Included with the letter, which had a Pittsburgh postmark, were three photos of the 14-inch red and white gnome. Two appear to be booking photos and the other is of the gnome in the back seat of a police car.

"It's hilarious," said Snyder, who bought the gnome two years ago to cover a bare spot in his yard. He said he picked this particular one because it reminded him of the roaming gnome shown in Travelocity advertisements.

Snyder has no theories about who may be behind the prank. "Nobody liked that gnome," he said.

"Someone thought of those pictures and that letter. It's someone with a good sense of humor."

Meanwhile, Snyder said he misses the diminutive yard guard.

"I guess I'll just have to wait for another letter," he said.

And Now This From the Cheaters Never Prosper Dept.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A device designed to foil a drug test didn't help a Mobile defendant avoid prison.

Daniel James Hudson, 22, who had promised Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick that he had not been using drugs, agreed to a drug test.

Graddick sent Hudson to the corrections center for the test. Hudson took not one but two drug tests. He passed the first time and failed the second.

The first time Hudson used a device known as the "Original Whizzinator," described on its own Web site as "guaranteed, foolproof" in passing drug tests.

Probation officer Ray Brazell said lab personnel are trained to "watch for these types of contraptions," and on the day of Hudson's test, something didn't add up to them.

"He was jumpy, nervous, he turned his back," Brazell said of Hudson's behavior.

Later, they made him take another test, minus the "Whizzinator," Brazell said, and the use of speed, opiates and marijuana was revealed.

The prosthetic device was shown to Graddick during Hudson's sentencing hearing Wednesday. Citing Hudson's "crimes and lies," Graddick sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

Graddick told Hudson that his actions were "repulsive" for using "this deceitful device."

Want to Be Taken Seriously? Ditch the Giant Bird Outfit

SEARCY, Ark. (AP) — To Steven Turnage, it was bad enough to dress up in a chicken suit and stand along a city street in 105-degree heat. Having passers-by shoot bottle rockets at him has him crying foul.

"People don't take this costume seriously," said Turnage, who wears the suit to promote a fast-food restaurant. "They need to understand that there's a human underneath that suit. It's getting to the point where this is really a dangerous situation."

One rocket nearly hit him in the eye and another burned part of his suit. Police have heard Turnage's complaints but haven't issued any citations.

"Obviously it is against city ordinance to shoot fireworks inside the city limits," police spokeswoman Amber Dillon said. "Depending on our investigation, other assault-related charges could possibly follow."

Turnage said that, during the two weeks he has worn the chicken suit, people have thrown smokeless tobacco cans at him and tossed frozen drinks. After a bottle rocket attack, he called police.

"It's challenging," Turnage said. "You've got to be very dedicated and have a high tolerance for heat. You almost have to have a calling from the Lord to do this type of work."

Still, he said, there are parts of the job he likes.

"Smaller kids really love it," he said. "We've heard of kids coming from Judsonia, Bald Knob and other parts of the county just to see the chicken. Little kids run up and want a hug."

Compiled by's Taylor Timmins.

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