YDR Insider

Part of the USA Today Network

The story behind that ridiculous horse brief…

On second thought, this doesn't look as dangerous as the plastic riding horses of my youth.

On Fridays, I man the cops beat. Er, (wo)man the cops beat.

Either way, this requires me to come in early, listen to the police scanner, skim through our competition’s websites and chase after anything catastrophic.

It’s unpredictable work. Some days multiple houses spontaneously combust and dumptrucks crash into van-loads of puppies. Other days, like today, are slow. (So far, anyway. Knock on wood. We’re very superstitious on the cops beat.)

Anyway, on days like these we can get a little punchy in the newsroom. Take this morning’s brief about a stolen plastic riding horse as an example.

Every Friday, I scan the city’s police log for anything that catches my eye. Mostly I’m looking for homicides, other violent crimes or names that sound familiar. But barring that sort of thing, I’m looking for weird incidents. Weird stuff makes great web content.

This morning, the theft of a plastic riding horse caught my eye. Who steals something like that? Were some kids being a nuisance or did someone really want a plastic horse for their kid?

“Who still has plastic riding horses anyway?” I asked aloud. Fellow reporter Bill Landauer was the only one who cared enough to respond.

“Why?” he asked.

“They have those crazy springs that kids can get stuck in.”

“What’s a few lost fingers?” he asked.

The theft seemed mildly brief-worthy, so I squeezed a few paragraphs out of it. But I was stuck on how the brief should end. Luckily, Landauer is always good for these things. Here’s a few he came up with:

— “Anyone who manages to rope Gerber’s horse is asked to call ….”
— “Gerber plans to upgrade to a plastic car for transportation.”
— “Could Gerber’s mount have taken part in a plastic stampede?”
— “The penalty round these parts for stealin’ a plastic horse is a Nerf dart gun firing squad.”
— “Toy cowboys everywhere demand justice.”
— And my personal favorite, “Police are searching local pet stores for new bags of plastic dog food.”

Ultimately, these were all rejected. They were a little too silly to make it onto the website. But you never know when something good will come of these random newsroom brainstorm sessions. It’s all a part of the process.