CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — Sitting in the Junction Inn restaurant and lounge, this reporter picked up a copy of the Illinois Valley News to go with his cheeseburger and discovered what is quite possibly the best crime blotter in American journalism.
The weekly newspaper covers Cave Junction, population about 2,000, and its surrounding hamlets deep in the southern half of Oregon. "Tales from the rural patrol," as the crime section of the News is called, is the most popular part of the paper.
And for good reason. The local brushes with the law are presented with dry humor and a certain vagueness of language that leaves readers to fill in the blanks.
An example from the most recent issue: "[One call] was from a woman who said that another female person calls her names while dancing, screaming and honking her car horn and saying that she will fight her, apparently in connection with a horse."
Dan Mancuso, the editor of the Illinois Valley News, said the style was already in place when he took over the paper some years ago. Since then, there’s been no lack of "you can’t make this up" stories.
"One guy got hit by a dead squirrel," Mancuso said, lapsing into police-speak. "He was in an altercation with a female and she hit him with a dead squirrel."
"My favorite, there was another guy who kept calling in because he said people were coming into his house and rearranging his books," he continued.
Then there’s the guy who shot a wild turkey in the middle of the road in full view of the state police.
A waiter at the inn said the section is so popular that some residents who move away still get the paper delivered, just so they can read the crime blotter.
Mancuso confirmed this fact, saying he sends out about 150 copies abroad.
"I have a guy that pays almost $300 a year to get it delivered to England," he said. "I have people in Culpepper County, Va. I might even have some down in Florida."
Here are a further selection of items from the Jan. 29 edition:
- "Some creep broke into the crew cab pickup truck of an O'Brien resident and rifled it. The complainant was advised to be careful, as the jerk took the keys to his house."
- "Lunatics were said to be ‘doing brodies' in the grass at Jubilee Park."
- "Family members in Selma were at odds with each other regarding rent, lack of utilities and ownership of various items."
- "One [call] was about a pitbull that the owner claims he can’t contain, but it keeps bothering (attacking) the complainant, his family and his livestock. He has the legal right to shoot the dog."
- "Shop Smart Food Warehouse in Cave Junction was the victim after a man, who is known, picked up a $25.98 bag of jerky and got $7.98 worth of hot fried chicken; then left the store without paying."
- "Several fisherman were checked on the Finch Road green bridge, and it seems they all had licenses."