Over the years a good journalist will have encountered his or her share of news “brights” — offbeat articles that turn out humorous in nature.
No one could mistake them for a serious news story. They are intentionally written to bring a smile to the lips and offset some of the less that fun news we must publish.
A search of my wallet would reveal a tattered piece of paper I have been carrying for several decades to remind me what is truly news. The printed quote reveals how most of us view news stories — the good and bad — differently.
“I read the sports pages first because they record man’s accomplishments,” a former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court once said. “The front pages record his failures.”
One story about flying saucers, aliens in shiny suits and a single Arkansas state trooper saw print several times more than 20 years ago.
Some pernicious young vandals decided to “have some fun” after a spate of flying saucer reports in Northeast Arkansas. Each one filled his shirt and pants pockets with raw eggs, then took turns covering the clothing with aluminum foil.
They would jump into the paths of approaching cars and waved their arms like they assumed aliens from a faraway planet would act. They threw eggs at several passing vehicles.
They frightened a very pregnant woman, who called her husband, who in turn called police. The only trooper on duty in the county that night responded.
Two “aliens” jumped out of roadside bushes in front of his police car in the dark. The trooper activated his car’s lights and siren. The aliens froze, realizing they were in trouble.
The trooper, who later retired with the rank of major over the uniformed Highway Patrol, approached the two and asked what they were doing. They told him the usual half-truth, half-lie.
He grew up in a rural environment and realized he was not dealing with the smartest students at their high school. He ordered them to place their hands on the hood of the police car and began to “pat them down.” You could hear the eggs shells shattering in their clothing beneath the foil as his flashlight rolled over their pockets.
The two were soon standing in a puddle of egg whites and broken yokes. They decided not to mention their egg-soaked clothing to the trooper, well known for his poker face.
After a few minutes of silence shattered only by the shuffling of egg-soaked shoes, the trooper told the two to go home since they were obviously not the vandals who had egged cars and almost caused one woman to go into premature labor.
As they squished their way homeward — minus their foil cover — the trooper notified his dispatcher the problem had been resolved and the aliens ordered to leave the area and return to Planet Bono.
A “bright” about the two youths and was published in an area newspaper and spotted by a Texas newspaper columnist. He elaborated on the story, as Texans often do.
In Texas, he reminded his readers, the rule is one riot; send one Texas ranger to quell the disturbance. He wrote that Arkansas must have had a similar rule — for each flying saucer, send one state trooper.
The bright generated its share of smiles.
* * *
Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or at (870) 329-7010.