Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

I don’t know who nominates people for Memphis’ local Emmy awards, but whoever it is needs to nominate a video I just saw in the “investigative report” category. That’s how insightful and important this piece of journalism was. I’d personally nominate it for a Pulitzer if I could, but they don’t accept videos. I bet you this one could make them rethink that policy.

I was first lured in by the headline: “Raccoon BBQ leads cops to meth lab.” I know that’s the sort of thing most people would ignore in their haste to find a video of a talking head agreeing with their point of view, but I prefer my news hard-hitting, so I clicked the link.

Before I go on, I suppose I should tell you why a headline like that has such personal relevance for me, and why I found it so intriguing. And no, it’s not because I, too, have a meth lab in my house. I mean, I do (who doesn’t?), but that’s not why I was intrigued.

The first reason is because when I was a kid, my family took in a baby raccoon that had fallen out of its home way up in a tree. We kept Russell, as we called him, for a few months until one day he disappeared, never to be seen again. I always figured he’d just gone back to the woods. Now I’m starting to wonder if maybe the neighbors ate him. Sure, you wouldn’t expect that in Connecticut, but you never know.

The second reason is because I’m quite familiar with Southern cuisine due to a stint I did as an intern at Outdoor Life Network years ago. Most of OLN’s programming at the time was purchased from regional public access channels, and one of my jobs was to screen the new videos that came in. By far the best one was “Arkansas Outdoors,” a show that lernt me everything I needed to know about Southern home cooking.

During each episode of the show, the host, an enormous man named John Philpot, would be joined by a woman named Phyllis Speer for a cooking segment. Some of the recipes they featured – and I swear I’m not making this up – were grilled bear steak, catfish in a bag, dishwasher trout, hot dog loaf, squirrel pot pie and my favorite: sweet and sour coon.

(While she was cooking it, Phyllis said to John something like, “This is great if you like Oriental dishes, because I don’t know about y’all, but I love Asian food.” John replied with, “Yeah, and I love coon.” Greatest moment in TV history.)

Now, I’ve been to Memphis, which is right across the river from Arkansas. I’ve seen the ducks at the Peabody Hotel and made it to the gates of Graceland before deciding I didn’t like Elvis enough to spend 25 bucks to see his house.

I know how big barbecue is in that part of the country, and I just figured raccoon was a staple of the Southern diet. Thus, I was curious to find out why the police would find a raccoon barbecue out of the ordinary. Unless, of course, it was the raccoons that were doing the barbecuing, which would have only made the story that much more awesome.

Anyway, the video opened with a dreadlocked man mumbling something about “slicing or whatever he was doing” before getting a hot chick’s take on the matter. She was “pretty shocked,” if you must know. Then the story unfolded.

Apparently, one night a man in the aforementioned people’s apartment complex was grilling a raccoon on a small wood-burning stove in the parking lot. He had some friends and a futon out there with him, and when police came to break up the party, they discovered buckets of some “unknown material.” They called the meth task force to investigate. Turns out the guy had a meth lab in his apartment. Really? What are the odds that a guy grilling a raccoon would do meth?

But here’s why I think the video and WMC TV Action News 5 reporter Janice Broach deserve an award: In her quest to uncover the truth, moments after telling us the man was arrested and taken away, Broach knocked on his door and found no one home. Then the video abruptly ends, leaving viewers hungry for more and guaranteeing we’ll tune in to see what professional investigative tactics Broach unveils in tomorrow’s follow-up report.

That, my friends, is award-worthy reporting.

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