The hunt is on for a new “spud stud” to replace the old reliable Russet Burbank variety long used in McDonald’s French fries. In 2005, reports The Associated Press, a Potato Variety Management Institute was established by Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and though it’s been trying to develop the next hot new potato, no miracle tuber has emerged to rival the 130-year-old Russet Burbank. Rewards will be great for growers of a tater that’s environmentally less intrusive, internally consistent and good for storing: McDonald’s buys more than 3.4 billion pounds of potatoes annually to make its crispy fries.
What with sensational court cases about forced marriage and the Big Love television series, it was probably only a matter of time before locals cashed in on the fascination with “polygs.” Now you can pay a fee to take “The Polygamy Experience Tour” with guides who once lived under the thumb of Warren Jeffs, the jailed polygamist cult leader. Tours leave daily from St. George or Hildale, Utah, (877-520-9955) and the curious are urged to “come with questions.”
Read more about the experience: "Polygamy Tours? Why not?" by HCN contributor Beth Kampschror.
Every bar should have a hitching post; that’s just common sense, right? Or so reasoned a ranch hand in Worland, Wyo., who was cited for allowing his horse to wander through town while he hung out in a bar. According to the Billings Gazette, an indignant William Schellinger told police that “they should spend their time arresting real criminals, not bothering cowboys with wayward horses.”
As everyone knows, bears are quick learners, and thanks to a scholarly article in the Journal of Mammalogy, we now know what vehicles in Yosemite National Park they prefer to rip and rend in their search for fast food. “The bears seem to base their decision on ‘fuel efficiency,’ ” writes Rocky Barker — “that is, which vehicle offers the best opportunity of finding a meal.” The minivan wins top honors as the bears’ “Car of the Year” because it’s more likely to leak odors, it probably hauled kids who almost certainly spilled food on the upholstery, and it has a rear side window that can be popped open by a powerful paw. Of the 908 vehicles studied in Yosemite between 2001-2007, bears attacked minivans 26 percent of the time; SUVs, 22.5 percent; small cars, 17.1 percent; and sedans, 13.7 percent.
Who knew marijuana was the answer to the real estate industry’s prayers? It must be so, since the Denver Post announced in a giant headline: “Pot boom offsets real estate bust.” Voters first approved a medical marijuana amendment to the Colorado Constitution back in 2000, but the feds announced only recently that they wouldn’t prosecute medical users. In the meantime, some 13,000 people have gone on record as suffering from one or more of eight conditions that make the herb necessary for their health.
But even as dispensaries open daily in Denver and rural areas all over the state, another obvious need has been revealed, reports Westword, and that’s for reliable information on which weed variety to buy and where to get it. Westword editor Pat Calhoun tried to answer those questions by asking potential pot critics to write an essay describing “What marijuana means to me.” The first applicant replied within five minutes, which was “fast work for a stoner,” Calhoun noted. Other hopefuls rambled entertainingly, while one modestly ended his account of patronizing pot dispensaries this way: “If I have wasted your time, or you feel dumber for having read my essay, my apologies in advance. I was medicated.” Mainstream media found the hullabaloo hilarious and rushed to interview Calhoun about her search for a “qualified” medical marijuana critic. The Denver Post said she drew one conclusion: “The longer they used pot, the less they used punctuation.” No word yet on who got the job.
If you remember Ronald Reagan as the “Teflon president,” thank Pat Schroeder, the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado, who coined the term. She served as a congresswoman from Denver for almost 25 years, arriving in Washington, D.C., in 1972, with two children — one still in diapers — and a supportive and witty husband, Jim, who’s now written his account of that time. In Confessions of a Political Spouse, he describes his experience with a Washington establishment so decidedly male that he was continually called “Pat,” slapped on the back and assumed to be the one elected. His book is a companion to his wife’s memoir, 24 Years of House Work … and the Place is Still a Mess, as well as a biography, Pat Schroeder: A Woman of the House by Joan Lowy.
As reviewed by Sandra Dallas in the Denver Post, Jim’s account adds more anecdotes about his engaging wife. She became a tough-minded member of the House Armed Services Committee, a champion of legislation benefiting women and children and — disappointing many supporters — an almost-candidate for the presidency. Pat Schroeder had a knack for making politics and family work, her husband says, and offers an unusual example: He “once found a business card for Joe the Balloon Man in Pat’s purse, and on the back, written in his own hand, was Shimon Peres’ private phone number.”
Michelle Childers, 20, was driving along the Lochsa River near Kamiah, Idaho, with her husband, Daniel, 22, when a spruce tree crashed through the passenger-side window. When Daniel saw where the tree had gone, he started to panic, reports The Associated Press. “I asked him ‘What? Where is it?’ ” Childers said. Her husband answered, “It’s in your neck.” Thirteen inches of tree limb were impaled in the woman’s neck, but after six hours of surgery, Childers is reportedly recuperating well.
It’s not a joke, though it sounds like one: A new law signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, R, allows people to walk into a bar carrying concealed weapons, though once there, they can’t order a drink. The National Rifle Association’s Todd Rathner insists the law makes perfect sense: “Any time law-abiding gun owners can carry firearms into more places, the safer the public is,” he told The Week magazine. There are 5,800 bar owners in Arizona, and many of them seem less than thrilled with the new law, calling it government intrusiveness. Over 1,300 owners quickly requested state-issued “No firearms allowed” placards to post in their establishments, reports the Arizona Daily Star.
Cathy Warner, co-owner of the Boondocks Lounge in Tucson, said she’s learned that a bar is never a good place for firearms. “I don’t care if people walk in and don’t have a drink. How do you know the person hasn’t already had a drink, unless they’re falling down?”
The last time anybody looked, no national forests grew in Washington, D.C., so why should the city get almost $3 million in stimulus funds to fight wildfires? Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and other Western representatives are wondering, because their region is home to most national forests and the super-expensive wildfires that sweep through, destroying homes and killing firefighters. “The last major fire in D.C. was likely lit by British troops in 1814,” Republican Sen. Barrasso told The Associated Press. “There are many wasteful and wild schemes born in Washington, but this takes the cake.”
Well, not exactly, says a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service. While the stimulus law specifies “wildland fire management,” the term is elastic and includes efforts to promote forest and ecosystem health. A D.C.-based nonprofit, Washington Parks & People, will get nearly $2.7 million to create green jobs and improve the city’s tree canopy.
“Wildlife officials are counting down the days” until black bears head for the high country to den up for the winter, reports the Aspen Times. It’s been an exasperating year, admits the state’s Division of Wildlife. The bears have grown ever smarter about breaking into Aspen homes, forcing open refrigerators and even — three times this summer –– attacking and injuring locals at night. This bad behavior hurts bears as well: Wildlife officers killed 12 this summer. After hungry bears broke into an outdoor freezer at the Main Street Bakery & Café four or five times, owner Bill Dinsmoor finally figured out a deterrent: He electrified a mat in front of the freezer. Shoe-wearing staffers never felt a jolt when they stepped on the mat, but the two bears “tormenting” Dinsmoor all summer apparently did. Once the mat shocked them, they retreated, though it may be only a matter of time before the bears figure out the shoe thing.