Writer Ari LeVaux went to an unusual swap meet in Missoula recently, only he called it a “meat swap.” Here were the rules: Any food that was acquired or “put away personally” was fair game. Deer steak, moose meat, dried morel mushrooms, organ-meat sausage, pickled peppers and sauerkraut were some of the food stuffs on offer; LeVaux quickly traded 10 pounds of frozen albacore tuna for some sausage and bags of onions, until “the rug was littered with onion skins, like so many buy and sell orders on the New York Stock Exchange floor.” Everybody was pleased, he said, and nothing, including a jar of questionable pickled green tomatoes, remained unswapped.
Facebook just doesn’t get it: Native Americans don’t always have names like Dick Jones or Jane Smith. In fact, something like Robin Kills the Enemy is not only OK, it’s traditional. Not understanding that, Facebook disabled the site account of 28-year-old Robin Kills the Enemy, a Lakota woman from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Facebook apparently assumed that her last name was fake, reports New America Media. Now, Kills the Enemy, a computer technician, has lost contact with hundreds of her friends, and she’s not happy about it. While waiting for her name’s promised reinstatement, she’s gotten lots of support, including a message from a person whose last name is CrazyBull. He said Facebook rejected his name as illegitimate, too, until he joined Crazy and Bull into one word. Kills the Enemy is insisting on her three-word name, and notes that it goes back four generations and is genuine. “They can have Isthebest as a last name, and I can’t have my last name?”
Dogs become friends and cats purr perfectly, but can either lay eggs with golden yolks that stand upright at attention? No, and maybe that’s why more and more homeowners are choosing chickens as pets. “Enthusiasts have been pecking away at multiple local laws,” reports USA Today, persuading officials in Fort Collins, Colo., Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and even New York City to allow backyard chickens. Homeowners love the fresh taste of newly laid eggs, and the savings during this grim downturn are a bonus. Rob Ludlow, a chicken-booster in Pleasant Hill, Calif., says he thinks that raising chickens hearkens back to the victory gardens planted by Americans during the two world wars; it gives us a feeling of independence and confidence. Ludlow started a Web site five years ago, BackYardChickens.com, and in the last two years, he says, it’s become a burgeoning community of 19,000 members from around the world. In Brainerd, Minn., though, Sonya Chamberlain is still the only person licensed to keep backyard chickens. She thinks she knows why: “People who grew up in rural areas seem most opposed to the chickens, which they see as livestock,” she explains. “They said, ‘What happens if there’s chickens running amok?’ ”
A giant statue of a rearing blue horse has welcomed drivers to Denver International Airport for about a year, and nobody made much of it — until now. Rachel Hultin, a Denver real estate broker, thought the sculpture a dud and started a Facebook page, byebyebluemustang.com, to vent her criticism. She also asked for comments about the sculpture in haiku form, says the New York Times, and in poured the poetry — at last count 250 haikus. Here’s one example: “Anxiously I fly / apocalyptic hell beast / fails to soothe my nerves.” Surprisingly, Hultin has since moved from critic to appreciator of the 32-foot-tall horse: “Let’s try and understand it,” she says now. Does the anatomically correct sculpture symbolize the end of Denver as a one-horse town? Might it mock the city’s Old West past? “Or is it just strange?” The electric-blue mustang has a tragic history: Its creator, artist Luis Jimenez, died in 2006, when part of the 8,000-pound fiberglass structure fell on him.
A bull elk famous for his magnificent set of antlers — and his nasty temper — died recently in Yellowstone National Park after a freak accident. The animal (known as No. 6 because of his ear tag) apparently tripped crossing a fence and somersaulted onto his back, reports the AP. “Pinned between large rocks with his antlers beneath him, No. 6 slowly suffocated.” Over some 15 years, the bull developed his reputation for fearlessness, “venting his sexual frustration on rival bull elk and cars.” He also took a dislike to two tourists: One needed stitches after the encounter; another was knocked down but not hurt. The death of No. 6 could make a rival known as No. 10 king of Yellowstone, “but several younger elk have also been making themselves known,” writes Mead Gruver. No. 6 “is survived by a large harem of cow elk.”
Grand Junction in western Colorado has long had a problem separating state from Christian church. County commissioners keep trying to pray before public meetings, and public officials approve of nativity displays on public property. Now, a Wisconsin-based organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is striking back with an in-your-face message for drivers. The Associated Press says the foundation has paid for billboards that urge residents — in giant type — to “Praise Darwin. Evolve beyond belief.”
YouTube.com recently fired up people who love the Southwest’s iconic saguaro cactus. All it took was a startling video of a tractor chowing down on a 15-foot-tall plant in the desert near Phoenix, reports the Arizona Republic. Within seconds after the tractor’s mower grabs the cactus at the top, it smashes it down until nothing is left but pulp. The photographer was Bob Mitchell, a “recreational” prospector from Phoenix, who was out walking when he saw the saguaro being liquefied near a power line. He filmed the event and then posted the video to his Web site, nuggetshooter.com, as well as to YouTube. “To see a large company such as APS totally devastating their utility right of way … struck a nerve,” he said. It didn’t take long for irate viewers to call Arizona Public Service Co., which had sent out the mowers. The company explained that it needed to clear all vegetation from its power lines, both to prevent fires and to avoid fines from federal regulators. Relocating the saguaro is always an option, but in 10 miles cleared so far within the utility’s right of way – which is anything within 50 feet of the wires overhead — only about 100 cacti have been moved. Relocating the giant plants is expensive; the estimated cost is $750 to $2,500 for each saguaro. Company spokesman Alan Bunnell said he understands the frustration when people see saguaro shredded: “It’s nothing new, but it is a very visible location,” he added. “And rightfully so, people have strong emotion about these plants.” The company now says it will “reassess” its plan to demolish the estimated 2,400 to 12,000 saguaros that grow close to its 24 miles of power lines.
Who was that masked man? Wearing a black mask, a black jacket and jeans, a man wielding what appeared to be a Klingon sword held up two convenience stores in Colorado Springs recently. According to a surveillance camera, the first 7-Eleven clerk handed over some money at 1:50 a.m. A half-hour later, the clerk at the second store balked, so “the robber ‘transported’ himself out of the store on foot.” Both clerks apparently had their Star Trek down cold, describing the thief’s weapon as a Klingon sword called a Batleth. Helpful comments to theDenverchannel.com came thick and fast: “I think 7-Eleven should require all clerks to keep Tribbles behind the counter, in case of future attempts,” said one trekkie. (For those drawing a blank, Tribbles were furry little animals that reproduced like gangbusters and had a calming effect.) Another person proposed hiring the humorless Borg as security: “We are the Borg. Robberies are futile. You will be assimilated into prison. Existence, as you know it, is over.” Still another said he was sorry to learn that even the Klingon Empire must be in a recession, since its noble warriors were resorting to holding up 7-Elevens: “What would Worf say?” Amazingly, Worf himself weighed in: “Dochvammey loDpu’ ‘oH ll’be,” he said.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which may soon be mourned as a shuttered daily, attracted top-drawer talent in the mid-’70s, writes Jean Godden in Crosscut.com. Novelist Tom Robbins was on staff, as was legendary science-fiction writer Frank Herbert, creator of the Dune series. During that tumultuous decade, bomb threats became routine and there were regular anti-war demonstrations outside the newspaper office. Godden waxes especially nostalgic about the drunken woman who visited and “shot up the lobby because her letter to the editor hadn’t yet appeared in print.”
It’s no hassle to get on the Internet and buy a kit containing adorable tadpoles from the Florida-based Grow-a-Frog company. But this is something the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks hopes you’ll never, ever do. The company may say that the animals merely morph into baby froglets that only hop around in the water, but once released in the wild by negligent owners, African clawed frogs can survive for up to 15 years, attaining the size of bulbous bullfrogs and decimating native wildlife, reports the AP. Montana prohibited the clawed frogs in 2005, but found out this fall that 65 Grow-a-Frog customers lived in Montana. The state wrote each one, saying owners needed either to return the frogs to the company or kill them. Whatever frog owners chose to do, one state official cautioned: “Please don’t flush them down the toilet. These critters are very adaptable. They could live in the sewer system.” The owner of the Grow-a-Frog company, who has agreed to pay Nevada a $3,600 fine for selling the exotic animals there, said he’d only recently learned of Montana’s ban. Ten other states besides Montana prohibit the invasive species.