From honorary degrees to runaway zebras

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

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As the old saying goes: “life is strange.”

There are some days where you watch events unfold and remember that the truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Thankfully, journalists all around the world are committed to chronicling the news every day, no matter how weird or strange.

The Associated Press even has an “Oddities” section on their website devoted specifically for these kinds of stories. Here are a few recent ones:

As I mentioned in my column last week, plenty of students are receiving their diplomas this time of year. But as far as I know, only one university is bestowing an honorary degree on an animal.

Vermont State University’s Castleton campus has been the stomping grounds for “Max” the cat for the last four years, garnering the affection of students and staff all over campus. He’s even been known to tag along on campus tours with groups of prospective students.

So university officials decided to give Max an honorary degree as a “doctor of litter-ature” this year. They delivered the degree to his owner, who lives in a house by the main campus. Congrats to Max, for his hard work of being adventurous and friendly!

Recently, in Maine, there was an overturned tractor-trailer on Interstate 95. That wouldn’t be newsworthy itself – trucks have been known to crash on highways everywhere, after all – except for the cargo it was hauling.

The 18-wheeler had approximately 15 million bees in hives strapped to the trailer!

The hives were on their way to be placed by a blueberry field in order to aid in pollination. Bringing in bees to assist is apparently pretty common in Maine’s blueberry industry. I imagine that maybe they don’t stick around for their cold winters up there, so they need the extra help.

Thankfully, with the assistance of a beekeeper, the millions of bees were mostly all contained. But not before they stung a few firefighters who were inspecting the scene of the accident for any leaking fluids from the truck.

Let this be a reminder that our first responders often have to deal with all sorts of unexpected things on the job. Thank you for what you do!

Speaking of trucks, another story that caught my eye involved an alleged thief who couldn’t quite manage to steal a pickup truck.

The woman in Colorado had just been released from jail on a car theft charge and, for some reason, decided that the first thing she should do is steal another car. She chose a pickup truck with the keys inside, but it was a stick-shift and she couldn’t figure out how to drive that.

According to the article, she gave up, but left the truck running. It rolled forward and hit a fire hydrant. She was arrested again on new car theft charges.

I’ve heard a lot of people older than me complain that “kids these days” don’t even know how to drive stick-shift. But I think this is one instance where that ended up being a good thing!

Circling back around to odd stories about animals: I can imagine that people near Seattle, Washington don’t usually expect to see a zebra when they look out their windows.

But there was a week in early May when that actually was possible.

A lady was transporting four zebras from Washington to a petting zoo in Montana when she noticed a problem with her trailer. She pulled over to quickly fix it, but when she opened the door, all four zebras decided to make their escape into the wilds of Washington. (Though it was actually a rural neighborhood near the interstate, and neighbors were bewildered by the zebras hanging out in their yards.)

Several people stopped to help get the zebras back to the trailer – including a rodeo clown, according to the AP article. But there was one zebra who managed to elude everyone and continue her romp through the Cascade Mountain foothills, about 30 miles east of Seattle.

After a few days, however, the last runaway zebra, nicknamed “Shug,” was corralled by animal control officers. They had set up “feeding zones” to coax her back. It worked, and she was reunited with the other zebras in good condition.

Lastly, a fun story from Texas: the city of Kyle, TX attempted to break a world record recently for “the largest gathering of people with one name.”

The name? “Kyle,” of course!

A total of 706 people of all ages with the name Kyle showed up, but it wasn’t enough to beat the record. In fact, it wasn’t even enough to surpass last year’s Gathering of the Kyles. That total was 1,490 people named Kyle. Maybe many of those Kyles had other commitments this year?

According to Guinness World Records, the actual record is held in a town in Bosnia. In 2017, they somehow managed to round up 2,325 people named Ivan.

Personally, I can’t think of anyone I know named Kyle or Ivan. (At least, not off the top of my head. Sorry if I forgot anyone!)

Apparently, Kyle was the 416th most popular name for boys in the United States in 2023. Ivan was 153rd.

Perhaps town officials in Kyle may have to wait until the name gets popular again. Or set their sights on a different world record.

These are just a few examples of strange things that happened this month across the country. Keep your eyes peeled for more in the future. You never know what you might see when you look out your window!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.