Tahlequah Daily Press


May 13, 2013

Bombs and bears put a dent in slow news days

TAHLEQUAH — The way folks were congregating by NSU the other day, you’d have thought Sodexo was giving away free hot dogs, or campus police had cornered a Bigfoot and were trying to lure it into a cage with some beef jerky.

Something was cornered, all right, but it turned out to be a black bear cub that, according to Game Warden Brady May, had likely just been kicked out of the house by its mama. May estimated it weighed about 120 pounds, although several Facebook posters had the little guy tipping the scales at 400. One person who shared our initial photos of the bear identified it authoritatively as a “grizzly,” thereby freaking out a woman who caught a text-message while she was taking her toddler for a stroller ride at Centennial Plaza.

That’s part of the problem with Facebook. People can get away with exaggerating, or even outright lying, and no one calls them into account. Such bold utterances in print or over the airwaves would have an offended party beelining to one of those law offices next to the courthouse to file a libel or slander suit.  At the very least, we’d have to print a correction and endure a few weeks of ridicule; the Facebook poster needs only to hit the delete button and hope no one remembers his foolish claim. Or he can just leave it up there, and half of  his “friends” will believe it, no matter how outlandish.

I took at least two phone calls from folks claiming a 400-pound bear was rampaging through campus. One caller reported the beast had taken a hunk out of the leg of a bicyclist, who was apparently drunk at the time. The caller – who sounded drunk himself – said if we printed that detail, he didn’t want his name used because he and the bite victim were “on the outs.”

While folks in Colorado, or even southeastern Oklahoma, may scoff about this much commotion over an encroaching bear, they have to realize the incident was somewhat unusual. It was newsworthy enough to get crews from a couple of TV stations on the highway. One talking head called our office first to ask how many tickets Hulbert cops were handing out these days. I advised him to take the turnpike if he planned to have the pedal to the metal. As it turned out, they needn’t have wasted the gasoline. Most TV stations relied on the excellent video provided by NSU’s Pete Henshaw, and so did we, though we had plenty of still shots to go around.

A professor told me Friday that students were cutting class to attend the bear circus. I’m not sure whether they expected the critter to be balanced on a unicycle and wearing a ruffled clown collar, or they were just using a handy pretext to avoid academic endeavors. The prof said any kids who showed up next Tuesday demanding an excused absence were in for a rude surprise.

While all this was going on, animal-loving Facebook posters were lined up like electric pylons to get a word in edgewise. Some felt the chosen method of bear eradication – shooting him with tranquilizer darts, waiting for him to pass out, and catching him in a net – was cruel and unusual. Others objected to the treatment, but for different reasons: They were afraid he’d fall on top of somebody’s car or  poodle. When I saw that comment, I wondered about the three tiny but mouthy Malteses owned by our sports editor, Ben Johnson, and his wife, Alicia, who live near the bear tree.

Later, people wanted to know what happened to the bear. He was released back into the wild with a radio collar, and will become part of a study on bear populations. That didn’t set well with some posters, who opined that as the bear grew larger, the collar would get too tight and choke him to death. Others wanted to known why the bear hadn’t been reuinted with its mother. The fact that no one knew the identity of the mother was only the first of many obstacles. When the cub was first seen, he was out on the bypass by the theater, and no bigger bear was spotted ransacking the Dumpsters, so we have to assume he was on his own.

The speculation, curiosity and righteous indignation of Wednesday escalated into full-blown panic Thursday, when another whack-job dashed any hopes of a slow news day. Whoever left the explosive devices in the ruck sack at AmeriGas on South Muskogee, then suggested he may have planted a bomb, was following what’s coming to be a disturbing pattern in Cherokee County. First the courthouse, then the high school, and then, the guy with the explosive device at a house here and in Stilwell. Now, a propane vendor. Thursday’s perp was whisked away with “unidentified injuries” to a “hospital.” This information was imparted with a certain tone, which suggested to us the perp might have committed himself to a facility for treatment wholly unrelated to physical injuries.

For law enforcement officials, it was what, these days, has become just another day on the job. For terrified parents and shock-attuned citizens, it was a cue to seek information – and to pass it along, regardless of accuracy. Calls came into our office, but their numbers couldn’t compare to the Facebook queries. Someone messaged us that there was a bomb at T-Bones’, and then another poster said the bomb had detonated and taken out a couple of U-Hauls. But the person who said the bomb was at Heritage Elementary is the one who really sparked the panic. Dozens of parents were freaking out at the keyboard because they couldn’t get through on the phone lines. Others hit the road and became part of the traffic melee on South Muskogee. We tried to tell people to “remain calm,” that the threat wasn’t at the school, but our words had about the same effect as the same ones uttered by the Kevin Bacon character in “Animal House.” At least none of us were flattened into the sidewalk by the stampeding mob.

Now that the proverbial smoke has cleared and the perp is presumably under the watch of authorities, questions are still being asked, and rumors are still flying. One woman told me she heard it was a “disgruntled teacher” who did the deed. Another man, who himself is a disgruntled teacher, told me he heard it was a “retired politician.” There are plenty of those around, but I can’t think of any who would muster the ambition for this project. And finally, there was the woman who was certain her ex-husband was the culprit: “That’s jes’ got him wrote all over it,” she said. Time – or perhaps Facebook – will tell.

Needless to say, it’s been a week. Some of us newsies need a nap.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Text Only
  • Keeping the interest of boys is just a matter of ‘gross’

    A couple of my friends complained to me recently that they didn’t know how to “connect” with their teenage sons, and that they are growing apart from the sweet little boys to whom they once read bedtime stories.

    July 14, 2014

  • ‘Different’ situations aren’t so very different, after all

    “Well, that’s different!” It’s the favorite phrase of the hypocrite, when confronted with his glaring flaw.

    July 7, 2014

  • Threats on social media or elsewhere won’t change any minds

    I try not to take political positions on my private Facebook timeline. I used to sometimes, in what I considered a polite way, but that offended friends left and right – literally. And sometimes I watched in horror as a thread degenerated into name-calling between people I respect, but who happen to be polar opposites on the political spectrum.

    June 30, 2014

  • Striking the hyphen, and other journalistic maneuvering

    A couple of years ago, my office phone rang. With no greeting or fanfare, the caller indignantly said, “Did you know they’ve taken the hyphen out of ‘fundraiser’?”

    June 23, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg IRS spins email yarn as Obama slips past another scandal

    Forget everything you've heard about email. All digital trace of a former IRS official's email over the 25 months the agency harassed conservative groups has mysteriously, improbably vanished. Gone, too, is the White House's accountability as President Obama slips from another scandal.

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Front-load washers are harbingers of foul-smelling fabric

    May 27, 2014

  • Beetles in the office aren’t up on blocks

    We have more dead beetles here at the Daily Press office than you can shake a can of Raid at.

    May 12, 2014

  • NOLA always worth your time, especially for Jazz Fest

    When it comes to New Orleans, you can have a “glass half-full” or a “glass half-empty” attitude.
    Either you see anniversary celebrants enjoying a romantic dinner at the Court of Two Sisters, or the aging transvestite hawking her wares on Bourbon Street. You hear the joyous sounds of Zydeco music from the band on the corner, or the lewd cursing of the drunken frat boy at Pat O’Brien’s. You smell the enticing aroma of Cajun cuisine in the French Quarter, or the fresh puddle of vomit on the sidewalk.
    I’m a cynic, but I take the “glass half-full” approach to New Orleans. My family loves the city’s character, even with all the blemishes that repel respectable folks, and we especially love the Jazz and Heritage Festival. That’s where we were last weekend. The main action is out at the fairgrounds, with its sweltering temperatures, stick-tight-laden grass, and sea of sweaty bodies packed in around a dozen stages and 60 or so booths selling local food and crafts.

    May 5, 2014

  • Selling of lies in the dreaded car game

    Recently, my husband and I did something that is discussed in the same tone of disdain reserved for Communists, salesmen, politicians, lawyers, and sometimes, journalists. We bought ourselves a “furrin” car.
    We decided on a foreign contraption because my husband now commutes to Tulsa every day, and a quick calculation revealed the horror our three-quarter-ton diesel Chevy would visit upon our bank account. That vehicle gets a comparatively impressive 18 mpg, but doing the math on the current price of diesel and a 150-mile daily round trip is enough to send anyone to the nearest toilet to hurl up the previous meal.

    April 21, 2014

  • Wild West pits U.S. government against “We the people”

    Unless one has been living under a rock over the past week, one couldn’t have missed the recent standoff in Nevada between a rancher and the U.S. government. It’s only one incident in many that has the government of the people pitted against the people.

    April 16, 2014


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel