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.
Paul Rolly seems a jolly fellow, at least judging by the picture that accompanies his column in the Salt Lake Tribune. On second thought, that amused look might mask a certain fed-upness. Here's what's bugging him lately: A state legislator who professed to be an expert on the U.S. Constitution proposed a bill saying "any federal law concerning health care doesn't count." Another legislator chimed in saying, "federal laws concerning public land don't count either." Then, at a town hall meeting on health care, a supporter of health-care reform was told to "sit down and shut up because this is America."
But you really know you're in Utah, Rolly says, when, at the inauguration for the new governor, VIP seats were reserved for the Legislature, Supreme Court chief justice "and of course, for that fourth branch of government, the president of the LDS Church." And Rolly quotes one attendee at an Orrin Hatch rally, who cheerfully told a reporter "how wonderful it is to be in a place 'where everyone thinks just like you do.'"
San Tan Valley in the orbit of Phoenix is foreclosure-central these days, with 863 properties on offer. So it's probably not surprising that a man's prayer stand along a busy highway is doing a boffo business with commuters.
In fact, Matthew Cordell, 38, is so much in demand that he has backed up traffic for miles, reports The Arizona Republic. That forced the former body-shop worker to move down the road to an empty parking lot. There, accompanied by a Chihuahua named Skye and Christian music blasting from car speakers, Cordell offers blessings and solace three days a week from 6 to 10 a.m. This is work he loves, Cordell says, and "when it's something God wants you to do, you can't get away from it." He was inspired by seeing a roadside fruit vendor, though Cordell says he didn't act until he heard his pastor preach a sermon about "leaving one's comfort zone behind." Competing along the highway with vendors selling everything from turtles to tamales, Cordell says the people who drive in are surprisingly open and "quick to reveal things others might deem taboo." He keeps a list of every prayer request, he says, and during the day consults it when seeking divine help.
Meanwhile, in Tempe, Ariz., there's a pastor who might benefit from a chat with the compassionate freelancer Matthew Cordell. At the Faithful Word Baptist church, Steven L. Anderson has been preaching sermons about "Why I hate Barack Obama." He also admits to "praying for Obama's death," reports The Arizona Republic. Members of his small congregation (24 on a recent Sunday) apparently take him seriously. It was a member of the Faithful Word congregation who armed himself with an assault rifle and showed up at the Phoenix Convention Center when Obama spoke there. But Anderson has not been allowed to spew his message of hate unopposed. When he preached inside his church recently, about 100 protesters gathered outside for what they called a "love rally." One carried a sign that said, "My God is a God of peace." Another protester told a reporter, "I'm all for tolerance and love. Hate is a dangerous word and I'm afraid someone might get hurt."
Where is a golf-ball-collecting fox when you need one? Although it might take more than one to round up the 3,000 or so golf balls that a 57-year-old man has scattered around Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. Since 2007, Douglas Jones has been "just tossing them out of his vehicle," a park spokesman told mydesert.com. Park rangers spent more than 370 hours and $9,000 searching for the elusive culprit, who also littered the edges of park roads with cans of fruit and vegetables and random park literature.
When finally nabbed, Jones had an explanation, sort of. "He wanted to leave his mark and also to honor deceased golfers." As for the canned food, that was for "stranded hikers." Jones will face a federal magistrate who could bar him from the park and demand restitution.
Why would a red fox collect golf balls? Nobody knows, but then again, nobody really knows why grown men walk around with sticks trying to wallop them. The fox in question lives in Steamboat Springs where it has become obsessed by Tom Houk's backyard putting green. Houk, who likes to practice a few putts every evening and then leave his golf balls out overnight, says he couldn't figure out why they were all gone the next morning. "Day after day the scenario repeated itself until Houk saw the thief in his driveway," reports 9news.com. "A hairless fox was standing there with one of his golf balls in his mouth." The place where the gangly looking fox stashed nearly 100 golf balls remains a mystery (perhaps it lines its den with the balls or sold them on eBay) but Jerry Neal, a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer, explains the animal's obsessive behavior this way: Chasing golf balls, he said, is "fun for them."
An adventurous bear in Snowmass, Colo., didn’t need surgery, just a ladder. Apparently hoping to do some rad riding, he dropped into the town skate park’s bowl. Unable to skate vert, he was then busted down there, with no way out. One can imagine young onlookers confusing him with some shaggy old-school skater, before realizing their mistake. Quick-thinking town parks officials brought a ladder, dropped it into the bowl, and the bear climbed out and wandered off.
Though some view skateboarding as a crime, local law enforcement didn’t pursue the bear. Other Aspen area bruins have been less fortunate. Just a week before the skate park incident, a black bear broke into an Aspen home and swiped the owner across the chest before fleeing. The bear was caught trying to break into the same home 48 hours later and was killed by wildlife officers. Meanwhile, over the hills in Vail, a bear broke into a car, bit into the steering wheel, pooped on the seats and deployed the airbags. “My car was shaking back and forth,” Jeff Leistad, the owner of the car, told the Vail Daily. “The windows were steaming up and the bear was growling pretty badly.” Police officers rushed to the scene, opened the car door, and shot a pepper ball at the bear, which then wandered off into the woods.
Photos from the Denver Post.
The cow that belonged to the aforementioned tongue didn’t fare very well except, perhaps, as carne asada. But a rather unusual pair of rattlesnakes is doing just fine after a 45-minute surgery at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson. The two snakes were found as one – conjoined just below the head – at a construction site. The Siamese-twin serpents were taken to the museum, where Dr. Jim Jarchow successfully performed the separation surgery. Museum officials told the press that they expected the snakes to live long and healthy lives.
At first glance, it seemed
like just another mundane story about horse massacres and the role they
will play in starting the next American Revolution. Then we dug deeper and learned the details about the ex-CIA agent and his hog-tied co-worker,
not to mention the duck-killing dog. Ultimately, we confronted the dark
truth of the matter: This was a tale of land-use zoning.
When Trenton H. Parker, 64, of Weld County, Colo., failed to abide by a court order to clean up a bunch of old trailers on his land, he was sentenced to 90 days in the clink. Parker responded in the only logical way: He posted a flier asking for riflemen to help him kill 24 Russian Arabian horses. He also left voice mails at the zoning department, threatening to stab the said horses and bash in their skulls on the courthouse steps and other public places. (Parker described the planned massacre as a “Tea Party,” which has left us determined not to RSVP the next time we’re invited to one.)
“The first horse that we're gonna kill is a beautiful gray stallion by the name of Independence,” Parker enthusiastically told the Greeley Tribune. “When we shoot him with one shot, make no mistake about it, it will be the first shot of the second American Revolution. You think I'm kidding? You just sit by and watch what happens.”
Parker, who ran in then dropped out of the race for the U.S. Senate in the late 1970s as a Colorado Republican, and who has been quoted in the tomes of conspiracy theorists (ask him about Vince Foster; go ahead -- we dare you) explained that the slaughter was necessary because he couldn’t feed the horses in jail. Besides, it would be a great protest of land-use regulations, or at least help to silence any neigh-sayers.
But the revolution has been
delayed; Parker went to jail sooner than expected after his bond on
an unrelated, earlier charge was revoked. Parker’s dog had apparently
killed Parker’s co-worker’s duck, you see, and during a dispute
over the matter, Parker allegedly hog-tied said co-worker.
But that’s another story.
On the same day, in the same
newspaper, another lead caught our eye: “A mysterious, photo-filled
cow tongue found buried in a farmer's field near Longmont is only one
of many in recent weeks to stir up curiosity across the country.”
Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski admits he has never seen a fairy, but that doesn't mean they're not around.
"Fairies manifest themselves differently to different people," he told The Seattle Times, "and besides, only about 10 percent of people have 'the sight.'" Pilarski is the founder and organizer of the ninth annual Fairy and Human Relations Congress, held recently in a secluded meadow in the foothills of the North Cascades near Twisp, Wash.
The gathering attracted 250 people, who came from as far away as Europe, to "keep alive the possibility of things unknown and larger than yourself, the sense of wonder and magic in your life," as one participant explained.
Another said she's sure the fairies like having people in the neighborhood, and that they particularly enjoyed a parade in which people dressed up like mythical fairies.
"They think that's hysterical," she said.