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Going out with an even bigger bang was the pilot known as "Smilin' Jack," who turned his plane upside down along with his frown in June, plowing a vintage F-68 fighter jet into a hillside during an air show at Jefferson County Airport. The Korean War-era aircraft crashed and burned after the pilot attempted to complete an aviator's stunt known as a "loop." Noted one observer, "It wasn't a smooth loop."

As usual, however, the truly explosive action was out at DIA, where airplanes and other objects continued to arrive unexpectedly. Channel 4 reporter Brian Maass revealed that an unidentified aircraft had made a mystery landing at the airport, dipping one set of landing wheels into the grass next to a runway and tearing out a giant gash in the turf before pulling up and going around. No pilot fessed up to the flubbed landing, but conclusions were a little easier to draw after an employee shuttle bus and an airplane collided at the airport for the second time in six months. DIA officials made the shocking suggestion that airplanes should turn on their headlights while taxiing in the dark.

The strange goings-on all seemed to make more sense when one took note of British author Alex Christopher's revolutionary theory about DIA: that the airport is really a "control center for world control." Christopher noted that designs on the terminal floor suggest Nazi "Black Sun" worship and that "grotesque" murals painted by local artist Leo Tanguma secretly explain how governments would like to "splice out specific races." Not only that, but beneath DIA is an "eight-level underground base" adjoining an underground city filled with child laborers and surrounded by chain-link fences.

Actually, that's the baggage system.

THE WILD BUNCH
In a year when even little Bobby Brady--also known as actor Mike Lookinland--could be busted for drunk driving in neighboring Utah, it was clear that nobody was above suspicion. Summit County law enforcement responded with nighttime stakeouts when an unknown "Tourist Terrorist" ran amok, tossing "caustic liquid" on cars with out-of-state plates. Sheriff's deputies near Wiggins used machetes to harvest a bumper crop of four tons of marijuana found growing in a seemingly innocent cornfield. "My gas-powered Weedeater with a metal blade couldn't cut through this," complained one officer. Even the grand-champion steer of the Southeast Weld County Fair couldn't be trusted to behave himself; he was disqualified after residues of an illegal tranquilizer were found in his system. Authorities became suspicious after the animal "went wild" and chased two people out of a holding pen.

Similar unbridled behavior was seen on the highways, as motorists in the throes of "road rage" vented their spleens and their automatic weapons at one another. After an Idaho truck driver forced a Chevy Cavalier into oncoming traffic on I-25 to punish its driver for invading his personal space, the Colorado State Patrol immediately sounded a code red, instituting emergency measures that called for drivers to flash each other the two-finger "peace" sign rather than the more common one-finger salute.

When push came to shove, not even the cops seemed able to contain themselves. One Denver officer pleaded guilty to an ordinance violation after slapping and pushing members of a family who had called him to help resolve a "domestic disturbance." A Denver detective was cited for disorderly conduct after an altercation at an Aurora bowling alley--the latest incident in a career whose other highlights include pulling his pistol while demanding a refund at a Church's Fried Chicken restaurant and punching out an opposing player during a softball game.

The violence from society's role models continued in the fall when Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski, who is white, was fined $7,500 for spitting in the face of San Francisco player J.J. Stokes, who is black. The incident sparked a fascinating discussion about race among other Broncos. Spitting is the worst thing you can do to a black man, said tight end Shannon Sharpe. Wide receiver Willie Green agreed. "It is," he said. "Other than defecating on somebody."

Not that there weren't people around to show defecators and other evildoers the light. A Virgin Mary sighting in the plains town of Holly drew people from across the Midwest to ogle one Mother of a stain on Yolanda Tarango's wall. And in May, newspaper ads advertised that "good seats were still available" for the Dalai Lama's appearance at McNichols Arena. The multimedia extravaganza included Tibetan music, Native American dancing, a presentation by the Colorado Children's Chorale and--reportedly--a show-stopping 27-minute version of "Stairway to Heaven."

MORE BLUSTERY THAN EL NINO
The state briefly righted itself in June, when eleven-year-old Andrew Martinez of Palisade headed to New Jersey to represent Colorado in the National Marbles Tournament. But while Andrew was shooting his marbles, other Coloradans were losing theirs. A monster blizzard swept into Denver in October, snarling traffic, downing power lines and bringing things skidding to a halt at DIA, where starving passengers fought over the last bags of stale pretzels. Mayor Webb donned a cowboy hat for the occasion, had his picture taken riding shotgun in a snowplow and announced that it didn't take a "brain scientist" to know the city had botched the job of plowing Pena Boulevard. Or a rocket surgeon, presumably.

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