Quirky, extraordinary stories highlight 2011

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 9:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — An American Fork dad spent a school year embarrassing his teenage son, standing outside his home in a different costume each weekday and waving at the school bus.

A Vernal man involved in a dispute over a $25 medical bill decided to settle the debt by unloading 2,500 pennies onto the receptionist's counter at the clinic.

And an outbreak of horse herpes forced contestants in the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest to ride around the fairgrounds arena on stick horses.

"It's kind of weird, but you can't really help that the disease is going around," said former posse queen Savanna Steed in May.

These were among the most read and talked about stories published in the Deseret News in 2011. The three stories, each lighthearted and quirky in their own way, attracted national attention and proved once again that regular people doing extraordinary or unusual things is a recipe for a special news story.

Another example of the extraordinary in action came in September, when a group of bystanders lifted a car to free a motorcyclist who had been pinned under it during an accident in Logan.

"It's not expected to risk your life for a complete stranger," Brandon Wright, the 21-year-old motorcyclist, said three days later. "That's what makes them special."

The Utah State University student was leaving campus on Sept. 12 when he swerved to avoid being hit by a vehicle that was pulling out of a parking lot. Realizing he was in trouble, Wright laid his bike down in an effort to protect himself.

The motorcycle collided with a BMW, and Wright was pinned beneath the car. The motorcycle burst into flames, causing the car to catch fire as well.

That's when a group of bystanders rushed to help. Several of them lifted the car, allowing another to pull the man to safety.

"They put their lives on the line for me," Wright said. "They stepped up and took a huge personal risk."

Risk is what organizers of the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest were trying to avoid in May, and they came up with a creative way to do so.

Earlier that month, 415 horses brought to Utah from 19 states were exposed to the equine herpes virus during a regional cutting horse competition held at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden.

More than a dozen horses had confirmed cases of the disease, resulting in a quarantine that forced event organizers to postpone the Davis County junior queen contest.

Instead of delaying the show further, the horses were replaced with stick horses and contestants skipped around the arena instead of riding.

"Instead of using horses, we are testing the girls' knowledge and ability to adapt," posse member Kim Jensen said.

Dale Price adapted to a change in his son's school bus route — which conveniently took the bus past his home — by dressing up as a pirate, mermaid, a Jedi and 160-plus other costumes and waving at the bus each day as it passed.

"When he did it the first day, I was in shock," said Price's 16-year-old son, Rain.

It started out as a prank, a way for Price to have a little fun and playfully embarrass his son. But it turned into a yearlong event, with a new costume each day.

"He always brought smiles to kids on the bus," said Myron Carlson, the school bus driver.

In May, Jason West brought smiles to a handful of people in the waiting room of the Basin Clinic in Vernal when he paid a disputed medical bill in pennies.

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