Smithereens: Butte County investigators are looking for help in finding the maker of a pipe bomb left in a field near Plumas High School in Oroville last week. Around 1 p.m. on Feb. 1, the sheriff’s bomb squad was called out to handle the device, a capped metal pipe filled with gunpowder and fitted with a fuse and crude timing mechanism. Bomb technician Kirk Trostele, who works out of the District Attorney’s Office, said he was able to “disrupt” the device safely by uncapping and detonating it. If it had gone off with anyone nearby, he said, it could have been deadly.

“There’s a lot of foot traffic where the bomb was placed. That field borders the baseball field. There was the potential it could have killed somebody.”

The device, which may still retain fingerprints and other evidence, was sent to the California Department of Justice criminal lab in Sacramento for further examination.

Raucous caucus: Just what the hell is a caucus anyway? We’re not exactly sure, but apparently it involves the selection of delegates. California has a winner-takes-all Democratic primary, so the delegates for the candidate who wins on March 2 will attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

This Sunday (Feb. 8), Chico will host two of these affairs, and any registered Democrat who would like to be a delegate for either John Kerry or Wesley Clark can show up to throw his or her hat in the ring.

Kerry’s caucus is at Chico City Hall, 411 Main St. Clark’s will be at the County Library, 1108 Sherman Ave. Both events start at 2 p.m., and delegates must sign up by 3 p.m. to be eligible.

If you’re a John Edwards fan, head to the Bear State Café in Red Bluff, 621 Walnut. Howard Dean’s closest caucus is at Colusa Casino, and Dennis Kucinich’s will be somewhere in Redding.

And no, none of the candidates will actually be at the events.

Halloween ruled a smothering success: Halloween 2003 was a howling success, if you measure such things by per-capita arrests. This week the Chico City Council heard a report from Police Chief Bruce Hagerty, who noted that, while there was a significantly smaller crowd this year than last year, there were 24 more arrests. Last Halloween marked the second straight year the city imposed a get-tough policy to try to rein in the fall festivity, which was turning into a sort of Mardi Gras without the French Quarter.

The report credited a statewide public-relations campaign that warned people not to come to Chico on Halloween. The strategy employed divided the city into seven sectors, with 15 to 20 officers assigned to each. Plus, five church ministries got involved by feeding the 650 volunteers and cops a delicious tri-tip dinner and infiltrating the town with roaming prayer groups.

Arrests ranged from public intoxication (84) to misappropriation of found property (1). Half the arrested were students, with Chico State accounting for 22 percent and Butte College providing 12 percent. Forty percent of those arrested came from out of town. The other 10 percent, we assume, were uneducated locals. The final tab was $47,346.37, including $26,465 in overtime pay for Chico police, $1,496.38 for food, $10,609.97 for cops on horses and $1,650 for copying and printing costs.