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Bright & Brief

October 4, 1986

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ Each year around this time, the fuzz crawls all over Gerald W. Spessard’s office.

Spessard is responsible for tending contestants in the annual woolly bear caterpillar contest, sponsored by the Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack, of which he is business manager.

Those submitting winning entrants in the cutest, biggest, and wooliest categories will win cash prizes in the fourth annual competition.

But the woolly bear contest is more than a beauty pageant. The almanac is trying to determine whether the fuzzy caterpillars are, indeed, weather prognosticators - though the publication does not rely on the critters for its forecasts.

Folklore suggests that the wider the woolly bear’s middle band, the milder the coming winter. Some believe that if the black band in front is larger than that in the rear, the first part of the winter will be more severe than the second part, and vice versa.

Last year’s crop accurately predicted a mild winter, Spessard said.

And after the woolly bears have served their purpose?

″Following the judging, they will be released back to a natural habitat on a lovely farm near Downsville,″ Spessard said.

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) - A huge missile-tossing alien tree has declared war on the peace-loving residents of the Silvercrest senior citizens home.

″Whoosh - splat 3/8″ was how Randy Patrick described a typical assault by a 90-foot-tall Australian bunya-bunya tree that dominates the parking lot behind the home.

The tree has been bombing cars for the past three weeks with 16-pound cones the size of bowling balls.

″Poor car,″ murmured 80-year-old Mary Thurman as she looked with distress at her automobile’s dented top.

″A giant sat on my poor, itty bitty old automobile,″ she despaired to reporters. ″If one of these things hit you on the head, my 3/8 You’d be six feet under.″

In addition to $515 in damage to Thurman’s car, the cones are reported to have wrecked a second car, nearly bopped a maintenance man, and generally scared the 200 elderly folks who live at the home.

Captain Stan Mallery of the Salvation Army, administrator the center, said he has closed off the section of the lot beneath the tree.

″Only God can make a tree,″ said he, gingerly cradling one of the cones. ″But with this tree ... God works in mysterious ways.″

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A big peanut, a film canister, Uncle Sam, Tony the Tiger and about 450 other hot air balloons cast shadows over Albuquerque early Saturday.

The mass ascension kicked off the 15th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Jean Jordan, media director for the fiesta, said approximately 150,000 people watched the balloons lift off in four waves from a 77-acre launch site.

Cars were bumper-to-bumper coming into the launch site at 5 a.m., Ms. Jordan said. ″We never had so many people,″ she said. Gasoline-powered fans produced the air that filled the balloons and then was heated by propane burners in the balloons’ gondolas.

The balloons began to lift into the sky at about 7:30 a.m., with temperatures in the 40s and winds at about 10 mph. Most had landed by 9 a.m., when winds were clocked at about 13 mph.

Pilots of some of the balloons in the fourth wave opted not to take off because of the winds.

Ms. Jordan said 485 balloons registered for this year’s fiesta, which ends Oct. 12.

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