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This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., Nov. 14)

We'll get to "Montana Mania" in a moment. But first, bird poop.

NBC5's Randy McIlwain contributed a contemporary classic Wednesday night with his pithy piece on grackle waste.

"The annual migration of misery is back," he proclaimed from a Frisco parking lot. But here's his money line: "Experts say if you think those droppings are just a nuisance, you really don't know crap."

Now that's freedom of expression! But McIlwain, natty in a light grey suit, had another one up his sleeve. Grackles are well known for "bombing us with their own brand of shock and yuck," he noted before turning it over to giddy Heather Bohuslav of Frisco.

"I actually got crapped on once," she revealed. "So, it doesn't really like, I don't freak out about it."

Well said. But seriously, folks, grackle poop is "especially acidic" and can do a number on your car's paint job unless you quickly rub a dub dub. Back to you, Heather.

"I'd pay to get it clean," she vowed. "I'm not touchin' it."

Is there a Lone Star Emmy award category for "Best Load of Crap?" If so, McIlwain's got a hammer lock on it unless an intrepid rival reporter fights back by letting a flock of grackles "shock and yuck" him on live TV. Time's a wasting, though.

All four stations sent choppers and reporters into the teeth of Wednesday night's Hannah Montana concert at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Conspicuous consumption ran amuck, with way too many parents blowing dough on makeovers and limos for their kids before coughing up lots more cash for concert souvenirs.

A mother who had just spent $20 for parking told Fox4's Lari Barager, "Once you get here and you've gone this far, what's money?"

TV cameras weren't allowed to capture any of "Hannah's" (Miley Cyrus) performance. So reporters instead surrounded themselves with as many high voltage concert-goers as possible. NBC5's Scott Gordon seemed to be having the best time. And why not? The veteran Night Ranger usually finds himself in the clutches of human tragedy. This time he happily reported, "For young girls, life just doesn't get any better than this."

CBS11's Carol Cavazos tried a little too hard to goose her gaggle of tweens.

"A lot of screaming tonight, and they still have their lungs. Right, girls?" she prodded.

"Yea-h-h-h!" they responded, less than resoundingly. Cavazos also had used the "Right, girls?" gambit earlier in her report, so maybe the Montanans were a little pooped, as McIlwain might say.

Over on Belo8, reporter Chris Hawes seemed to be wearing a negligee under her black sweater, but it didn't get her into the concert either. She did have the best featurette, though, on a special needs boy from Bowie whose community surprised him with hard-to-get tickets and the requisite limo ride.

Hawes also noted that three private jets were waiting on runways to take some of the concert-goers home. Meanwhile, a nation turns its hungry eyes to you.

Fox4's Jeff Crilley and CBS11's Ginger Allen

CBS11 investigator Ginger Allen had a story that went heavily against the grain of all those Montana Mania spending sprees.

Her report on the growing "Freegan" movement spotlighted TCU criminology professor Jeff Ferrell, a dedicated "dumpster diver" who gets more than his money for nothing and his chicks for free. The Empire of Scrounge author took Allen on one of his jaunts through other people's trash. It netted him two pizzas, some barbecued chicken wings and a pair of still-wrapped "franks in a bun" among other alleged edibles.

"I look forward to retirement so that I can dumpster-dive full time," said Ferrell, who's not alone in helping himself to food, clothes and household furnishings discarded by others. The Freegan movement may not be "sweeping the nation," as anchor Doug Dunbar told viewers. But it does seem to be building momentum even if it made Dunbar's desk partner, Karen Borta, a bit queasy.

"OK, let's talk about something else," she said at report's end. "How about the weather, Kristine?"

"I'm with you on that one," rejoined temperature taker Kristine Kahanek.

Fox4's ever-capable Jeff Crilley had a talker, too. He reported on Lowe's quick adjustment to an online holiday catalogue featuring ready-to-decorate "Family Trees."

The home improvement chain hastily amended that to "Christmas trees" after the American Family Association mounted a heavy-duty email campaign, Crilley reported. But the "Family Tree" designation is still in Lowe's printed catalogues.

"I think that anybody who wants to call a Christmas tree something other than a Christmas tree is an idiot," huffed Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Legal Institute.

Fox4 is looking for viewer feedback on whether Lowe's terminology was an "honest mistake or PC malarky."

The station also scored Wednesday night with two other stories that rival stations missed.

Reporter Brandon Todd had a piece on a car that remained parked for two weeks in a Tom Thumb lot. By the way, it had a badly decomposing dead man in the front seat throughout that time. A nearby restaurant worker finally noticed the smell.

Fox4's Jason Overstreet, who specializes in neighborhood and human interest pieces, had another good one on the discovery of a letter written by Lee Harvey Oswald to former Texas senator John Tower. Oswald was asking for help in returning from the Soviet Union to the United States. Found in Tower's attic, the letter now is being auctioned on ebay. Its seller thinks it's worth "north of a couple million dollars." Get real. How about south of $100 grand?


***The Peacock's Nigel Wheeler offered a nighttime parking lot report about a man who supposedly is flashing women near a Linens 'n Things store.

"It is the kind of act that can best be described in a single word -- disgusting," Wheeler contended. But interviewees successively went with "dirty, perverted, gross, disturbing" and "creepy." The story itself was -- in a single word -- excessive.

***Belo8 medical reporter Janet St. James had an intriguing story on the hazardous mercury content in those long-lasting, curly fries-shaped lights. They're supposed to save loads of energy, but can be dangerous if broken. Only three sites in North Texas collect the lights for safe disposal, St. James said. But most people just throw them away, and that could be a problem down the road.

***CBS11's Jay Gormley led the station's newscast with an exclusive story on the alleged sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl by a same-aged boy while they were enroute to classes on a school bus. The boy since has been transfered from Robert T. Hill Middle school while authorities investigate.

***NBC5's Scott Friedman likewise had an eye-opening piece on faulty speedometers for some 2003 and 2004 model GM trucks. They tend to get stuck in place, and the automaker is offering free repairs if the mileage is under 70,000.

***There's just something about anchor Mike Snyder's manner of speaking. After a closing short on "Texas-sized sweet potatoes," the NBC5 anchor looked at colleague Jane McGarry while musing, "Wonder if he used Miracle-Gro?" Coming from him it sounded unsavory, but McGarry still laughed on cue. She's otherwise just gotta be dying on the inside.

***Fox4's No. 4 "Greatest Cowboy" is defensive tackle Bob Lilly. No. 1 will be announced on Sunday night's newscast. And if only players are eligible, it obviously boils down to who will be tops among remaining eligibles Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. I'd pick 'em in that order, but predict that Fox4 will put Staubach on top. Whatever, it's been a good sweeps gambit in times when interest in the Cowboys has returned to peak levels.