From an itsy-bitsy spider that may have caused an accident, to the escalation of a whoopie-pie war, to the arrest of Vincent Lombardi on Super Bowl Sunday, 2011 was blessed with odds and ends that provided a bizarre if not humorous contrast to the realities of daily life in Maine.
Though animals tend to play second fiddle to humans when it comes to news coverage, some critters couldn’t help but write their own headlines.
In a scene that resembled the opening pages of a horror novel, two-dozen venomous black widow spiders were discovered in December by a Bath Iron Works employee in a crate shipped from the West Coast. The Associated Press reported that the discovery led to the fumigation of not only a warehouse, but also part of the USS Michael Murphy, a destroyer that’s under construction.
It took only one spider to cause an even bigger fuss in August. According to the AP, a women lost control of her vehicle on I-295 in Freeport after a spider dropped in front of her face and she tried to swat it away. Her Jeep rolled over several times, but both she and her husband suffered only minor injuries.
Our feathered friends also made news in 2011.
A duck drew the adoration of shoppers when it nested and laid eggs in an aisle of the lawn and garden section at the Home Depot in Bangor. But neither shoppers nor employees were lucky enough to get a peek at the newly hatched babies because the female mallard departed under cover of darkness, taking her ducklings with her.
In a much less cuddly tale, a barred owl tormented a barn full of chickens in Bethel. The bird of prey claimed the life of one chicken by decapitation each day. State biologists — who said such behavior from an owl is unusual — captured and relocated the hungry bird after a few days.
In Skowhegan, one man’s relationship with nature took a disturbing twist when he kept an injured deer in his trunk for more than eight hours before taking it to a butcher shop — while it was still alive. The AP reports that after the butcher called police and the Maine Warden Service, the deer was euthanized and the man was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Moving on to sweeter news, a popular dessert triggered a food fight between Maine and Pennsylvania earlier this year.
After both states claimed to be the birthplace of the whoopie pie — a concoction consisting of white frosting sandwiched between two chocolate cakes — Maine legislators passed a bill in April designating the snack as the state’s official treat.
The AP reported that a team from a radio station in South Portland showed their support for the bill by creating a half-ton whoopie pie in March, outdoing a Pennsylvania creation from the previous year that weighed 250 pounds.
A pair of men known for their videos of Mentos-fueled soda geysers put sugar to a more scientific use in Buckfield. According to the AP, the duo used 54 bottles of Coke Zero and 324 Mentos candies to propel their single-seat “rocket car” — the Mark II — 239 feet. They claimed it was a record.
While 239 feet is respectable mileage for a candy-powered vehicle, it’s nowhere near the 1 million miles a Norway man racked up on his 1990 Honda Accord. In October, the Portland Press Herald reported that in addition to a parade in Saco, Honda gave the man a new 2012 Accord to mark his accomplishment.
Politicians got their fair share of coverage in 2011, but one story about Gov. Paul LePage drew particular attention.
In January, less than a month after his inauguration, LePage created a stir when a reporter questioned him about allegations by the NAACP that he wasn’t participating in their events on a regular basis. WCSH6 videotaped and reported LePage’s response: “Tell ‘em to kiss my butt.”
A few days later, late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert joked that the intimacy of LePage’s open invitation signaled significant progress for race relations.
On a much smaller scale of politics, Kenneth Dudley easily won re-election in March as Benton’s road commissioner. What made the matter unusual is that he had been dead for more than a month. According to the Morning Sentinel, it was unclear whether his victory was an homage from voters or if they hadn’t received word of his death.
There was no shortage of criminals whose antics added a humorous twist to headlines.
After running out of beer, a Vassalboro man made a trip to a variety store on his lawnmower in June. He was arrested for operating under the influence when he emerged from the store carrying a case of beer. According to the AP, he opted for the lawnmower because his license had been revoked.
Another man under the influence of alcohol found a much faster mode of transportation.
The Times Record reported in August that a 22-year-old man who had been drinking climbed atop a train in Rockland and fell asleep. The next day, he traveled 45 miles until police stopped the train at an intersection in Bath after a Woolwich resident reported seeing the man on the roof.
Calling all police
It wasn’t alcohol, but cellphones that caused problems for some Mainers in 2011.
In May, a Bangor man was arrested on outstanding warrants when police arrived at his home after he accidentally dialed 911 from his pocket. The Bangor Daily news reported that the man was operating a leaf blower when he repeatedly made the calls.
Another man in Bangor had his own cellphone mishap in June when he attempted to charge two of the devices at an outdoor electrical outlet belonging to a business. He was charged for theft of services, but the charges were later dropped.
Naughty and naked
Nudity made headlines in September when a man was spotted running around naked at Bangor Municipal Golf Course. Police said he was last seen speeding away in a four-door sedan after reportedly striking a street sign.
But that instance of nakedness is nothing compared to the repeated complaints about a Hermon man who, according to police, had a hankering to strip down to his birthday suit after drinking on days the temperature reached 80 degrees or more.
Over the course of the summer police visited the home of the 55-year-old man more than half-a-dozen times and once videotaped him mooning deputies. He was arrested three times over the course of the year.
In perhaps the most unexpected name to find in the news in 2011, Ellsworth police arrested a man named Vincent Lombardi for attempted burglary early on Super Bowl Sunday.
Later in the day, the Green Bay Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV, taking home the Vince Lombardi trophy named after the late legend who coached that franchise from 1959 to 1967.