Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 1, 2013

A roundup of the weird and wacky

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — As is usually the case, 2012 generated its share of stories that simply defied classification.

We filed them under the heading of “Weird news” and we present you with a rundown of them to help kick off the brand-new year.

Collect(ion) call

Phone calls aimed at collecting debts happen all the time, and most times, there’s nothing unusual about them.

But when the party making the call is an elected county official and the party he’s attempting to collect from is an agency of the federal government? Yeah, that’s pretty weird.

Such a scenario took place just recently, though, when Carter County Magistrate Clifford “Sodbuster” Roe placed a call to the offices of the U.S. Marshal Service to demand the agency remit payment due the county for housing federal prisoners.

Officials of the marshal service claimed Roe behaved in an abusive, unprofessional manner and used foul language, which Roe denied. He also claimed his efforts bore fruit since a check for the amount owed the county arrived shortly thereafter. The feds, though, said that was just a coincidence.


Don’t offer the Rev. Jim Varney a penny for his thoughts unless you’ve got lots of time to listen.

In October, Varney — not to be confused with the late actor of the same name — and members of his church, Grayson Freewill Baptist, cashed in 1 million 1-cent coins it took them nearly two years to collect.

According to Varney, the idea for the penny drive came from one of his sermons. The message of it, he said, was that things like pennies might seem worthless and insignificant when there’s only a few of them, but they can add up to a lot.

It took a bit longer than expected for the goal to be reached, but, the fact it was reached at all was remarkable in light of the setback the church suffered. About six months into the project, the church was burglarized and the approximately $500 in pennies it had collected at the time was stolen.

Varney said the $10,000 would be deposited in the church’s building fund and used to refurbish the steeple of the church, which was built in 1976 and hasn’t had anything done to it since then.

Here kitty, kitty

Reports of cougar-sightings in Ashland were rampant in 2012.

No, not THOSE kinds of cougars. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Authorities said the sightings could be yet another example of the outdoors coming into the city. There is a heavy deer population here and have been sightings of foxes, wolves and even an occasional bear inside the city limits.

However, fish and wildlife experts said what the spotters most likely saw were bobcats, which are common in this region.

Duct work bandit

A 16-year-old from Cleveland who happened to be passing through Ashland in September and decided to burglarize a restaurant definitely picked the wrong way of going about it.

The teen tried break into El Rancho Grande, 2146 Winchester Ave., by climbing onto the roof of the building and squeezing through a duct. He wound up becoming trapped in the vent for roughly 9 1⁄2 hours and had to be rescued by the Ashland Fire Department.

Employees of El Rancho Grande heard the suspect yelling for help when they arrived to open the restaurant. It took about two hours to remove the grease-covered male from the ductwork,

Firefighters on the roof lowered a harness to the suspect and instructed him how to put it on. However, the initial attempts to pull him up failed because the suspect was so slippery, from all the grease in the duct, that he was unable to get a hold to free himself.

The problem finally was resolved when firefighters moved an oven and pushed the suspect from beneath while those on the roof pulled the harness upward.

I do, I do, I do, etc.

David and Lauren Blair of Hendersonville, Tenn., exchanged wedding vows in Greenup County in October.

Nothing weird about that, you say? Well, no, not until you consider it was their 104th time to do so.

The Blairs, who married in 1984, are the world record-holders for the “Most Marriage Vow Renewals by the Same Couple.” They officially broke the record with the 59th renewal of their vows on Valentine’s Day 2001, and have renewed them several times since, shattering the record in the process.

The Blairs’ 104th renewal occurred during a family reunion. They decided to marry in an unlikely place for a wedding — Wright’s Funeral Home in Greenup.

‘Celebrity’ wedding

In other wedding-related news, a “reality” TV star chose Catlettsburg as the site of her April nuptials.

Leah Messer of MTV’s “Teen Mom 2” and her fiance, Jeremy Calvert, were married at The Wedding Capel by the Rev. Marty Gute.

 Gute, an Ashland city commissioner, said he received a phone call from an MTV producer asking him to sign a waiver allowing the network to film in the chapel.

“When I asked what was going on, they said it was for the Leah Simms wedding, and that name didn’t ring a bell at first,” Gute said. But when he mentioned it to his wife and daughter, they knew exactly who he was talking about.

It was a casual wedding with close friends and family, Gute said. The mothers of the bride and groom served at witnesses. Including the cameramen and producers, about 15 to 20 attended the wedding. Also in attendance were Messer’s 2-year-old twin daughters, Aliannah and Aleeah.

Gute said he has performed about 28,000 weddings, but Messer’s was the most exciting one he had done in a while. It is not uncommon, though, for prominent figures from surrounding communities to marry at the chapel to avoid the media, including athletes and well-known doctors, he said.

“We’ve had two couples on Jerry Springer — one from Boyd County and one from Ashland,” Gute said.

“Teen Mom 2” has been chronicling the lives of Messer, who’s from South Charleston, W.Va., and her daughters for two years. Messer’s marriage to Calvert was her second.

Fish food?

Bonnie Taylor thinks she knows what happened to an heirloom wedding band that bounced into the pond at Central Park during her wedding to husband Mike Taylor on Easter Sunday, and why the golden band may never be found.

“A fish probably ate it,” the new bride said with a chuckle after learning that the story of her lost ring had “gone global,” earning the newlyweds calls from interested parties in Missouri, Colorado, Michigan and upstate New York.

The Taylors, who live in Rush, decided to have a wedding rehearsal in the park on Easter because the date fell between their mothers’ birthdays. The practice wedding became the real deal, however, when Rev. Marty Gute was recruited from a nearby baptizing in the pond, making their union legal.

As the bride’s wedding band was removed from a bubble-maker, witnesses said, it hit the ground and bounced over the small wall around the pond before rapidly descending into the dark water.

A toy ring was used to complete the ceremony, although family members were quite disappointed by the loss of the real ring, passed along from the groom’s mother through his aunt, Donna Davis, just a week before.

City park employees and members of the Ashland Fire Department dive team spent several hours trying to locate the ring, to no avail. As part of a training exercise, dive team members initially used a metal detector to try and home in on the ring, although the abundance of materials on the pond’s bottom made the technology somewhat useless.

The divers did recover coins, wires, a cell phone and a “My Little Pony” doll as they used their bare hands to sift through the sludge, following an underwater grid system just as they would use if searching for any small object in low-visibility conditions.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2654.