Visitors to a museum don’t usually expect to be attacked by wild animals, but then, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum close to Tucson is a very different kind of institution — outdoors, interactive and endlessly fascinating. Unfortunately, reports the Arizona Republic, a pig-like, tusked javelina that “did not belong to the museum” took a dislike to Rene Zegerius, a tourist from the Netherlands, and bit him in the calf and left hand, severing veins and arteries. Last summer, Zegerius spent eight days in a hospital and is now suing the museum and Pima County for $400,000.
There may be nothing new, perhaps, about a drunk guy on horseback in Wyoming, but Benjamin Daniels, 28, created a traffic hazard at 4 p.m. in Cody just by “riding a white horse during a snowstorm.” Slow-moving horse and snowflakes were blending in, reports the Associated Press, and motorists told police they feared there would be an accident. Daniels was cited for public intoxication.
Not to be outdone in the oddball department, Idaho State Sen. Gary Schroeder, R, has introduced a bill requiring his state to gather up its wolves and give them away, preferably to another state, reports the IdahoStatesman.com, though so far none has stepped up to tell Idaho that it’s wolf-short. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, which met in a room festooned with a wolf pelt hung by Schroeder; now the bill moves to the Senate. “We have to protect the elk here and get rid of some wolves,” Schroeder explained.
Not infrequently, state legislators who think of themselves as conservative come up with extraordinarily intrusive laws. In Utah, Senate President Michael Waddoups, R, has a proposal that would treat social drinkers as potential criminals. Distressed because he thinks restaurants are becoming too much like bars, Waddoups has urged managers to keep all offending booze out of sight and to serve only prepared drinks. But urging alone has not proved sufficient, so now Waddoups supports a bill that would require the state’s fewer than 400 clubs and taverns to exercise tighter control over drinkers. He wants managers to scan the driver’s licenses of anyone ordering a drink; that information would then be stored in a “state law enforcement database.” Waddoups says he’d eventually like to extend the monitoring to the nearly 1,100 restaurants that serve beer and liquor — an idea that appalled restaurateur Tom Guinney, who called it “an absolute customer relations fiasco,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
Ah, Vail, where big money still gets spent on a crucial item like a parking space. The Vail Daily says a treasured spot within Vail’s heated indoor Founders Garage is now on offer for $500,000. “Parking is going up in Vail,” said Buzz Schleper, the spot’s owner. “There’s always somebody out there who has money to spend on a good Vail parking spot.”
Twice a year or so, says a fire chief in Medford, Ore., a blaze breaks out in somebody’s house and bullets start banging as well. “Actually, it’s not uncommon for us to deal with ammunition during fires,” says Medford Battalion Chief Ken Goodson. A recent Jacksonville fire was a doozy, though, because James Frings sold reloaded ammunition for a living and kept barrels of gunpowder inside his house, reports AP. Frings also stored “buckets of bullets” — as much as 40,000 rounds of ammo – outside, so when a fire broke out, “it sounded like the Fourth of July.” Birds burst from the roof and then smoke and flames poured out from the windows. Next-door neighbor Jacob Carr probably saved Frings’ life: He called 911 and crawled inside the burning home to lead the 77-year-old to safety. Frings survived with burns on his face and arms; the cause of the fire is not yet known.
Did a bunch of dinosaurs really hang out together 190 million years ago, leaving their many footprints behind? When a University of Utah geologist announced that a “dinosaur dance floor” had been found within what’s known as the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona, it made big news. But four Western scientists — including two paleontologists who recently hiked to the area — told the Southern Utah News that the pock-marked rock reveals only potholes, not dinosaur tracks. All the experts agree that the holes in the rock deserve more study.
“Cactus cop” Jim McGinnis, an investigator for Arizona’s Department of Agriculture, is tired of thieves ripping saguaro cacti out of the desert. “Everybody wants a saguaro in their front yard,” he complains, and unfortunately, thieves around Tucson are happy to oblige by stealing some of the magnificent plants from public lands. The pilferers target the relatively young plants, 30 to 50 years old and from 4 to 7 feet tall, then sell them to nurseries and homeowners for $1,000 or more.
But saguaro snatchers may soon have to combat high-tech plant protection, reports The Associated Press. The Park Service plans to imbed microchips smaller than dimes in selected saguaros; if rangers see a truck passing by loaded with cacti, they can stop it and just wave a wand over the plants. Any cactus carrying a hidden chip will send out a signal. Wands could also be wielded at landscape businesses, “particularly if we know that a theft had occurred and that the cactus had not been found,” says Bob Love, chief ranger at Saguaro National Park.
The iconic cacti, which grow up to 50 feet tall and weigh thousands of pounds, can spout “gaggles of arms” starting around the age of 70. No one knows how many are growing throughout Arizona, but a 2000 survey estimated 1.3 million living within Saguaro National Park. “Cactus-chipping” already has a precedent: The Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada put microchips in barrel cactuses in 1999, and a staffer there says the practice has helped stymie poachers.
The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle in Cheyenne featured the headline “Which is scarier?” on its front page a few days before the presidential election, followed by a subhead that echoed some of the nastier campaign literature making the rounds of the region: It asked readers to choose between “a black president or a bleak economy.”
As Capital Press put it: “Winemaker Budge Brown is on a mission — to find a cure for breast cancer — and he’s doing it one bottle at a time.” After his wife, Arlene, died of breast cancer three years ago, Brown, who grows grapes in California’s Pope Valley, decided to buy a wine label called Cleavage Creek and turn it into a money-maker to fight cancer.
Brown donates 10 percent of the gross price of every bottle for cancer research, and since 2007, he’s featured the photos of smiling breast cancer survivors on his label. Six were chosen this year, and you can read their stories on the vineyard’s Web site: cleavagecreek.com. The group, Brown said, is “like a sisterhood of survivors.”