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Bright and Brief

March 8, 1988

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) _ At the Pike’s Landing bar, the regulars have a curious way of telling spring is near - they wait for the first truck or car to break through the ice of the Chena River.

Gary Halmstad earned that dubious distinction Monday. His 1979 van broke through 8 inches of ice as he started across an ice bridge used as a winter shortcut by many residents.

″I hate being this kind of harbinger of spring,″ he said.

The ice cracked between the front and back tires, and he summoned a small wrecker to pull him off. Instead, the tow truck pulled the front tires off a supporting shelf of ice, and the front of the van plunged into about 5 feet of water. He planned to call a larger wrecker to pull the van out the rest of the way.

″I’m glad it wasn’t in the middle,″ he said. ″I suppose I should giggle. All I have to do is pay money for a tow truck and drain the engine.″

The dunking was the earliest that bar patrons could recall.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Several California lawmakers are trying not to be spineless as they defend their decision to make the banana slug the official state mollusk.

The state Governmental Orginization Committee on Tuesday endured slimy jabs about the slug, including comparisons to its garlicky cousin, escargot, before sliding the bill out of committee on a 12-2 vote.

The legislation, authored by democratic Assemblyman Byron Sher, now inches onto the Assembly floor.

Sher introduced the bill at the urging of the Dynamite Blue Bird troop of Redwood City. Six members of the inveterate invertebrate supporters testified before the committee and brought along six banana slugs.

The state has several official mascots, such as the California gray whale as the marine mammal and the California dog-faced butterful as the state insect. But it has no mollusk, which is a large phylum of invertebrate animals that includes octopi, abalone, mussels, snails and slugs.

Blue Bird Susanna Farley said the banana slug should be the state mollusk because ″they’re native to the West Coast and live in redwood forests, which is the state tree, and also they eat poison oak and that’s very helpful.″

″Can we make escargot out of them?″ inquired Assemblyman Curtis Tucker.

″I have no inherent objection to the state mollusk being such a useful, slimy, oozy thing,″ said Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle.

Assemblyman Trice Harvey tried unsuccessfully to make the state mollusk the abalone, saying they taste better and are not ″yucky yellow creatures that hide out in the mountains.″

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