MODESTO — From the emails, voice mails and other trusted sources:
CAT ASSASSINS There are those who love cats and will feed and fix the feral ones at their own expense.
Others, meanwhile, don't share the love for such mercurial critters known to defile yards.
This feud has spilled over from the streets and yards into the newspaper and city council chambers. It's gone from heated and angry to just plain vicious in Modesto and Ceres, where some cats reportedly have been poisoned.
Ceres resident Maria Arms said the cats she'd been feeding were poisoned.
"My husband, Welba Arms, buried nine between the first and third (of May)," she said. "We don't know how many others were killed. We thought maybe someone trapped them, fixed them and would bring them back. But that hasn't happened."
She said roughly 20 have disappeared over the past two months. The couple asked Ceres police to investigate, but an officer couldn't find any remnants of poison in the area.
Meanwhile, as many as 17 cats, including some domesticated animals, were poisoned over the past few months in the vicinity of Pierre Park, along Encina Avenue in the La Loma neighborhood.
Susan Robinson of Modesto believes the way they died is consistent with the effects of strychnine. "By description, all died with claws extended and their mouths open," she said. "Very painful."
Susan and husband Paul are offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrests and conviction of cat killers.
AMTRAK CARTS In Monday's Bee Investigator column, Sue Nowicki broached the subject of stolen shopping carts.
It reminded Modesto's Rita Matthews of her experience in November just minutes after boarding a southbound Amtrak train in Modesto.
"A few minutes into the journey, a terrible crash occurred and I thought we had hit a car, but we didn't stop," Matthews wrote in an email.
"A few seconds later, a second crash occurred and this time I was sure the windows would be blown out and we would be injured. Again it happened! Five times, just a few seconds apart, we heard the crashing noise.
"But Amtrak continued south. A few miles before Merced, we were advised that the train would stop and the undercarriage would be inspected before we brought more passengers aboard.
"We had hit five grocery carts. They must have been placed on the track strategically a few minutes before Amtrak was scheduled to pass by. This grocery cart problem is for the merchants to solve. I wish they would do something about it."
An Amtrak official couldn't confirm that specific series of incidents but did say dumping carts on the tracks is common.
WALLS OF JERICHO Driving into Los Angeles on Wednesday, I noticed the extensive retaining walls being built along Interstate 405.
That same day, the Los Angeles Times reported on the project how one of the walls had crumpled in 2011, forcing construction crews to rebuild it and 14 others over the 10-mile- long stretch of freeway between U.S. 101 and Interstate 10.
The estimated cost of the project before the wall came tumbling down? $1 billion. Now, add at least an additional $100 million to fix the mess while they sort out who must pay the tab, the Times reported.
Compare that with Stanislaus County's North County Corridor, a project that's been a pipe dream in one form or another since first being floated circa 1954. The current projected cost? About $400 million, from McHenry Avenue to east of Oakdale.
LA's estimated cost overruns alone would cover a quarter of the North County Corridor construction. And with flat ground for all but the last mile or so, there's no need for $1.1 billion worth of artistic retaining walls that won't retain anything but lawyers.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.