Heard around the West

 

For sheer chutzpah, nothing beats Las Vegas. This gambling boomtown dares to downsize New York's Statue of Liberty, compress Egyptian pyramids into city-block-size containers, and as wry writer Dave Barry put it in a bazillion dailies recently, "every week or so somebody out there builds a new casino the size of Czechoslovakia, but with more rooms." Barry is bemused, though, by the dearth of gambling halls that trade on the mobster theme of Mario Puzo's The Godfather. Perhaps equally unreal, or this may be another case of chutzpah, is the announcement that a Mississippi company will build an "Isle of Capri" casino in high-altitude Black Hawk, Colo., a former mining town never known for parrots or palm trees, reports The Denver Post. But who wants reality when you're losing money?

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Richard Meyer, who has been a cemetery scholar for almost three decades at Western Oregon University, is fascinated by headstones. He's taken some 17,000 slides of them and knows every pun; he's even seen a grave marked by parking meters showing "expired." Parting shots engraved in stone have come a long way from fingers point-ing toward heaven, he told the Oregonian. Some new headstones in Salem, Ore., feature laser-etched portraits of the deceased complete with renderings of a favorite boat or truck. "I think it says we're getting more into ourselves," Meyer observes.

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Could it be that some drivers become too attached to their vehicles? A couple in Montana ignored a closed sign and drove right into the flooding Yellowstone River, reports the Billings Gazette. "People like to try their trucks out," explained the driver. And a snowboarder in Bend, Ore., tried to jump a 30-foot gap across a highway and landed in the hospital instead. Hans Hibbard, 23, was the first of his boarder buddies to try the leap, taking off from a 20-foot-high embankment on one side of the two-lane road. "We do this all the time over in Idaho," he said. Unfortunately, he hit the 7-foot embankment on the other side, reports The Bulletin. He lost his spleen and broke a wrist and is lucky to be alive, said a sheriff's deputy. On the other hand, three women traveling through Yellowstone National Park luckily abandoned their van. A mudslide barreled down Gibbon Canyon and blocked the road, leaving them just enough time to jump out of the vehicle; then as they watched, "the mudslide hit again and carried their vehicle off the road." Its final stop, reports the Casper Star-Tribune, was the flooding Gibbon River, where it sank.

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Football isn't just a fall obsession for millions of Americans; to some fans it's a blood sport. Stephen Cito of Albuquerque, N.M., allegedly sharpened the chin-strap buckle on his son Mike's football helmet, so that it slashed four players and a referee. Joe Paquette, 18, left the game last fall with a gash in his forearm that took 10stitches to close, reports The Denver Post. His parents are suing Cito, a children's dentist, seeking punitive damages.

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When you have to go, well, you gotta go. But some residents along the Henry's Fork River in Idaho are irked at seeing hundreds of angler rumps each day, reports the Island ParkNews. Recently, Melvin and Lola Atwood convinced Fremont County commissioners to place porta-potties at a boat ramp near them to end the "visual nightmare."

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Heard around the West found gems of heartening news, too. The first concerns the 15 seconds of fame that took by surprise Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire, as she was leaving Grand Teton National Park. She and other pit-bull attorney generals from around the country had just given the cigarette industry its first real trouncing in decades, and as she boarded a flight to Seattle, reports the Associated Press, a passenger rushed over to tell her: "You did a great job." "I can't even comprehend it," she said of the gratitude strangers have expressed to her. The other gem is how grade-school principal Mary Beth Van Cleave, retiring after 32 years as an educator in Portland, Ore., explained her decision last spring to work for free so another teacher could keep a job and avoid crowded classrooms. "It was one of those decisions that was so effortless," she told the Oregonian. "I just knew it was the right thing."


Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or editor@hcn.org