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Our annual roundup of the year's strangest news and most dubious accomplishments



A friend of ours always used to say, "We tease because we love." While that always seemed like a convenient excuse for him to continue peppering us with verbal jabs, we get it. Good-natured ribbing is a part of life, and when done in the right spirit, it helps us all laugh a bit at the more ridiculous aspects of the world.

Hence, our third annual Cluck-ups. The idea was hatched years ago by an Indy staff that had stockpiled bits of silly, surreal or otherwise bizarre news throughout the year—and wanted to do anything but the typical year-end retrospective. The name derives from the never-ending chicken debates that defined the Missoula City Council in 2007, which just happened to be the same year we brought these awards to print. We've kept both the format and the name intact because, for better or worse, we have no shortage of people—including us (see sidebar)—who have laid an egg this year.

Wikipedia FAIL

House Minority Leader Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, opened the 61st Montana Legislature with a speech in which he attributed a series of quotes to Abraham Lincoln, such as, "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong." Unfortunately for Sales, Lincoln never said the quotes. William John Henry Boetcker authored "The Ten Cannots" 41 years after Lincoln's death. Sales said he found the list on the Internet and apologized for not doing better research.


Sorry to eat and ride

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus proudly represented Montana at the January inauguration of President Barack Obama by dressing—and acting—like a cowboy. As the Washington Post reported, "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., dressed in rodeo gear, paid his respects to Obama as soon as the guests started eating, bowing out early so he could get ready for his appearance in the inaugural parade in which he'll be riding a horse with a Montana float."

Music with a message

The Montana Meth Project launched a Presidents' Day rally at the Capitol that included a lively pop soundtrack, including the Black Eyed Peas' 2004 radio hit, "Let's Get it Started." The single originally appeared on the group's 2003 album, Elephunk, as a drug anthem titled, "Let's Get Retarded."

Imagine how many Mutt Mitts this would buy

Motor vehicle offices across the state closed for two days in June to repair the new Montana Enhanced Registration and Licensing Information Network, otherwise known as MERLIN. The state spent $28.5 million and four years developing the software.

Crying fowl

Flathead Lake resident Holly Wurl protested the "loud, unabated noise from roosters" in a court filing over her neighbor's chicken coop. The official complaint included Wurl's exhaustive, three-month rooster crow log, in which she detailed precisely when and how many times her neighbor's roosters cock-a-doodle-dooed. For example, Wurl claimed that on July 4, 2008, the roosters crowed 38 times between 4:35 a.m. and 4:41 a.m., and 33 times between 4:47 and 4:58 a.m. And then about 100 more times throughout the day.

High refers to more than just our elevation

A January Forbes report on the country's failed drug war singled out "America's Drug Capitals," including New Orleans, Baltimore, San Francisco...and Missoula. According to a survey by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, 13.8 percent of households polled in Montana's Region 5—Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli and Sanders counties—reported using illicit drugs in a prior 30-day period. Twelve percent in our region reported using marijuana in the prior 30-day period. Both placed our region at the top of the list.

It's gettin' hot in here

Noted social networking fan Rep. Denny Rehberg took to his Twitter account before President Obama's first address to Congress, letting all his tweeps know: "On the floor of the house of reps. Waiting to hear Barack. Place is on fire."

A different kind of heat

After he was involved in a late-night Flathead Lake boat crash that injured all five passengers, Rehberg waited seven hours before calling his wife, Jan, to let her know he had been hospitalized at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. "He is in a little bit of trouble," Jan said during a press conference.

I am hard, but I am fair

Actor R. Lee Ermey, better known as hardass Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's classic Full Metal Jacket (and the character who spoke the line above), recovered a bag of un-deposited cash and checks while filming a History Channel show in Missoula. Ermey found the bag—with deposit slips for $3,700 and $2,800, and approximately $8,000 in cash—on a blacktop near Fort Missoula and returned it to the Wells Fargo on Russell Street.

An udderly silly moooooove

The Western Montana Fair embraced a new slogan this year: "I herd it through the bovine."


Maybe she should write more about bungee cords

University of Montana assistant law professor Kristen Juras protested the student newspaper's publication of a weekly sex column by senior Bess Davis. Juras claimed Davis wasn't qualified to dispense sex advice and that her "Bess Sex Column" portrayed "a hook-up culture that has unhealthy physical, psychological and emotional effects on students." Juras, who also serves as faculty advisor to the Christian Legal Society, unsuccessfully pleaded for the column to be removed.

What exactly did he expect for $60?

John Erbele, the former pastor at Missoula's South Hills Evangelical Church (SHEC), allegedly paid $60 to a hooker in St. Paul, Minn., who turned out to be an undercover cop. Erbele was one of 16 "johns" arrested during the sting.

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