Oak Park and River Forest's oddball stories from 2012

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Lightning hits tree, stuns minister

An eerie storm rolled through on the afternoon of May 6 just as Rev. Kathy Nolte was walking home from her congregation's annual participation in the CROP Hunger Walk. She was just steps from her door when a lightning bolt struck a nearby tree. The jolt ricocheted and Nolte collapsed. The lightning reportedly entered her legs and exited through her shoulder; a "lightning scar" on her body remained as evidence. She left the hospital injury free, went home to relax for a few days and felt lucky to be alive.

How 'bout them apples?

Walter Skibbe, a longtime Oak Park Farmers Market vendor, had a small crop of apples this year due to a late Michigan frost. So instead of bringing his own apples one market Saturday, he brought some from a nearby farmer. This, however, violated the rule, and Skibbe was sent home with a week's suspension. The village sympathized with him, but the committee decided: It's your apples or no apples at the Farmers Market.

Pigeon poop proposal prompts protest

The pigeon problem started when retailers and residents complained about the unsightly pigeon poop under the Marion Street train viaduct. Village staffers teamed up with experts and came up with solution that didn't favor the birds. The pigeon debate grew and dozens of residents flocked to village hall after it was reported village staff was considering spending their tax dollars to euthanize the birds (with carbon dioxide poisoning). The people spoke and the village listened. Pigeons lived to poop another day.

Raccoons invade neighborhood

A handful of masked marauders caused quite a stir on South Humphrey Street when an abandoned carriage house became a haven for the nocturnal neighbors. Yards and gardens were torn up, garbage cans rummaged through and parents feared for kids' safety. One resident was startled one night when she saw a dozen set of glowing eyes peering out from from her trees, so she started trapping the animals herself. On one night alone, she captured six raccoons and one opossum. The village offered a rental cage; eventually the critters were rounded up and the neighborhood appears to be raccoon-free.

Birds and the bees spotted

A storm in July took down a giant tree, but this led to a sweet discovery. Hidden inside the toppled tree was a beehive harboring thousands of bees. The nearby homeowners snapped some pics, but the slumbering hive awoke. When the bees calmed down, a beekeeper was called to help the colony find transitional housing.

Exotic birds continued to find Oak Park an attractive place to roost. The Gyllenhaal brothers, who had spotted a mysterious, wayward hummingbird in their South Oak Park backyard last year, encountered another rare find in 2012. This year, the bird-watching duo discovered an Elaenia, a South American species about 7,000 miles out of its element. We look forward to see what the teens spot next year.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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