If You Had to Have a Scandal in 2017, Why Not Make It a Charming One? - Atlas Obscura
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If You Had to Have a Scandal in 2017, Why Not Make It a Charming One?

The highlights of the lowlights.

The horror!
The horror! Public Domain

In 2017, the news usually left many outraged, sometimes sickened, often horrified. There were times when the year has seemed irredeemable. But in the darkness, there were a few pinpoints of light—scandals worth reliving that left us basking in the warm glow of righteous indignation.

The Case of the Stolen Wheelbarrow

In March, a scandal was afoot in rural Nova Scotia. Some scoundrel had taken a wheelbarrow—and its owners wanted it back, pronto. To make it happen, they put up a large sign on the road outside their home, with a simple, stern admonishment: “BRING BACK MY WHEELBARROW.”

Somewhere, the scofflaw either suffered a fit of conscience, or finished whatever wheelbarrowing he or she had to do. The sign, accordingly, was replaced: “THANK YOU FOR BRINGING BACK MY WHEELBARROW.”

In the Flower Competition World, It Pays to Play Fair

All may be fair in love and war, but in gardening, things can get a bit more tricky. Elswick, a village in Lancashire, won the coveted Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions crown this year and took the opportunity to come clean about some questionable past tactics. In 2014, they confessed, they had sought professional help, hiring a company to design a ready-made display. And in years before that, they competed in the wrong class, entering themselves as a “large village,” when apparently their population of 1,079 made them a “small town.”

A selection of Elswick's winning floral displays.
A selection of Elswick’s winning floral displays. Courtesy Elswick Parish Council

But in 2017, they emerged from the fog of scandal and took home the prize fair and square. There’s a coda to this scandal, however. Britain in Bloom isn’t convinced that actions in 2014 constituted cheating after all. Either way, the Elswick gardeners are finally able to enjoy guilt-free sleep for the first time in years.

A Mysterious Benefactor With a Soft Spot for the Salvation Army

Bell-ringing Salvation Army collectors usually hope for the soft crinkle of dollars bills, rather than the clink of coins, in their distinctive red buckets. But in Pompano Beach, just north of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the normal rules don’t apply. There, for the last four years, a mystery donor has surreptiously slid gold 1947 Mexican 50-peso coins into the red buckets, wrapped in dollar bills. Each one is worth a little more than $1,300.

In 2014, two coins were dropped off a week apart; the following year it was up to five; last year, two, in a kettle outside a Walmart. And this year, to the delight of the charity, the anonymous benefactor struck again, though the they haven’t said how many (and there’s still time yet). Normally, the Salvation Army said, a donor buys the coins—it’s not known if there’s any connection between the donor and the coin-giver.

Move, Bus, Get Out the Way

The defunct, 25-year-old Georgia Dome was coming down, and the Weather Channel had the best seat in the house for its implosion. The team had camped out from 4 a.m. for a 7:33 a.m. blast off, and the shot couldn’t have been better. The dome began to come down on schedule … and then a cheeky bus wrecked it all.

The bus, one of Atlanta’s MARTA public fleet, cruised serenely, obliviously, into the carefully framed shot. As if on purpose, it moved straight in front of the video crew, and then stopped, definitively. Behind it, the dome went down as scheduled, with extraordinary pyrotechnics and a chance to contemplate the fleeting nature of humankind’s accomplishments … well, probably. We’ll never know, because that bus stayed put for the entirety of the implosion. The irony is that far more people saw that errant bus ruin everything than would have watched the implosion in the first place.

An Unusual Cocktail Garnish—A Severed Toe—Is Stolen, Then Returned

Who would willingly put a mummified human toe near their mouth? Further, who’d willingly put a mummified human toe near their mouth—and then take it home with them? At the Sourdough Saloon, in the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, the “Sourtoe Cocktail“—a shot of whiskey (or a drink made with it) with a preserved human toe floating in the glass. As the cocktail’s official site explains, “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have gotta touch the toe.”

Sourtoe Cocktail Preparation
Sourtoe Cocktail Preparation TravelingOtter/CC BY-SA 2.0

You might think the garnish is scandal enough, but someone took it a step further, and left the bar with the actual toe. The owner was horrified (the thief, he said, was a “low life”), the internet appalled, and the digit nowhere to be seen. But conscience kicked in, and the Canadian Mounted Police soon reported the happy news that the stolen toe had wandered home again via the Canada Post, with a sincere letter of apology in tow.

A Complicated Fish-Based Fraud

The organizers of Texas’s BassCashBash tournament, a fishing competition, seem to think that there’s some truth to the stereotype of fishermen and their tall tales (“No, really, it definitely was that big!”), after all. According to the competition’s regulations, all tournament participants must be willing to submit a polygraph test. And if they don’t, or don’t pass it, they are disqualified—for good. For two men in eastern Texas, however, fishy activities saw them taken into custody by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, after one man tried to claim a prize for a fish the other one had caught. He might have gotten away with it—if it hadn’t been for two failed polygraph tests.

A largemouth bass—but not the one caught by a lying fisherman.
A largemouth bass—but not the one caught by a lying fisherman. Public domain

The two were arrested on felony fraud charges, with a potential fine of $10,000. Many questions remain: Why didn’t the man simply enter his own fish? How did these two nefarious characters wind up in cahoots? And … was it worth it?