Around The Rim Country

Fried bird rises from the ashes

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If you're even a casual observer of the dance of life, you'll appreciate what The Darwin Awards are designed to do for the future wellbeing of the world.

The awards, which started with a Web site (www.darwinawards.com) and evolved into a best-selling book by Wendy Northcutt (The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action, EP Dutton, $16.95), were named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution. They commemorate "those who have improved our gene pool by removing themselves from it."

Each year, The Darwin Awards honor the idiots who have managed to get themselves killed in a way that best combines stupidity and entertainment. For the year 2000, for example, there were two Darwin Award winners and two runners-up.

A brief synopsis of each demonstrates the degree of brainlessness necessary to elevate one of these seemingly tragic events to an amusing level:

THE D.B. COOPER CLONE

Runner-up

We all remember Cooper's escapade. After hijacking a Northwest Orient Airlines jet in 1971, he parachuted from the plane with $200,000 in ransom money to a certain death certain because he jumped from way too high into a dense forest at night, during a freezing rainstorm, with no food or survival gear.

Fast forward to August of 2000, when a guy in the Philippines named Augusto did a Cooper impersonation. After robbing passengers on a Philippines Airline flight of $25,000, Augusto jumped from the plane wearing a homemade parachute. As he leaped, he pulled the pin from a hand grenade and tossed it back into the plane. That's right, he left himself holding the business end of the grenade as the chute failed to open and he plummeted to earth. When they found Augusto, only his hands were above ground.

GUN SAFETY TRAINING

Runner-up

Rashaad, a 19-year-old Houston resident, learned an important lesson about gun safety during a recent game of Russian roulette. The lesson: when you play Russian roulette with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol which, unlike a revolver, automatically inserts a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked the chance of winning is zero. Talk about "going off half-cocked."

FORKLIFT SAFETY VIDEO

Darwin Award winner

While filming said video, Peter of Perth, Australia was thrown from his forklift and crushed because, an investigation revealed, of driver error. He was driving too fast on varied terrain and wasn't wearing his seat belt. Some people just have to learn the hard way.

FATHER KNOWS BEST

Darwin Award winner

When Andrew of New Jersey got in a squabble with his 10-year-old son over chocolate cake icing, he took the boy out to the garage for a private discussion. When the angry lad blurted that he hated him, Andrew offered to let the boy stab him with a 5-inch kitchen knife. When the fourth-grader declined, Andrew insisted. So this time he did, and is currently awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.

So that's how The Darwin Awards work, and those are the big winners for 2000. Since the Rim country is faster and faster becoming part of the global community, perhaps the time has come to select a deserving resident to receive our very own Darwin Award. Enough dumb things certainly happened up here last year.

In that spirit, I am happy to report that our panel of independent judges has completed its evaluation of the dozens of local entries and has selected the Rim country's Darwin Award winner for the year 2000.

The winner is ... (dramatic pause) ... AS THE CROW FRIES!

This of course is the saga of the large bird who, on Dec. 2, shorted out most of the Rim country when it landed between circuits at a power substation and got zapped by 21,000 volts. To add insult to injury, the Roundup snapped a most revealing photo of the bedraggled bird in the classic Darwinian claws-up position. The panel of independent judges realized this is probably the first non-human to win a Darwin, but justified its decision with the following:

We give the award to a bird, and we don't have to embarrass the family of some ex-Rimaroo who offed him or herself in a really stupid way.

If they awarded a Pulitzer Prize for headline writing, Jerry Thebado's "Power goes out as the crow fries" probably wouldn't win. But it sure is good enough for an encore.

The photo of the smoldering bird framed against a backdrop of power poles and lines has to rank right up there with the Mona Lisa in terms of expressive images.

Because of its underdog (or underbird) overtones, the bird-frying incident has to put a knowing smile on the faces of such born losers as Wile E. Coyote, Al Gore and the Arizona Cardinals.

In keeping with the recent decision of the Supreme Court, through which the guy who finished second became president of the United States, this panel of independent judges does not have to make sense.

Despite the fact that the winner is a non-human, there is more than just a hint of human stupidity on display here as in, who put the two power lines close enough together that a bird no matter how wide its wingspan could complete the circuit?

In the best tradition of enriching our language through such incongruent phrases as "mother of all wars," "pregnant chad" and "Tyler Parkway speed limit 25," the winner of the first annual Rim country Darwin Award gives an entirely new meaning to the expression "flipping a bird."

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