Heard Around the West


Ski-hats off to 33-year-old Karen Hartley, the stranded Utah skier who kept warm for 18 hours on Christmas Eve by dancing in the dark and singing "old disco songs, show tunes, popular and current stuff, Christmas tunes and even camp songs," reports AP. She never panicked; she kept her head, and when a helicopter arrived at 9 a.m., she thought, "That's my ride." She deserved it.

We know awards reported in rural newspapers are almost always accompanied by a photo of a smiling person passing a wooden plaque to another upright, smiling person, the two simultaneously shaking right hands in the classic crossed-arms pattern. But the dawn of a new year entices "Heard around the West" to issue its first "Glad to be a Victim" award, even without the obligatory photo. Our winner: the former police chief of Grand Junction, Colo., who, after his arrest for drunk driving, told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: "I'll bear the responsibility for it. I'm not blaming anyone but myself." Now he is suing the town that fired him. He claims it violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His disability? Alcoholism.

Apologies (not taken back yet) were forthcoming recently in Nevada from two Navy pilots who'd flown out of their designated flight path and over the town of Fallon faster than the speed of sound. Howls of outrage surely penetrated Navy ears because the next day the pilots appeared on the doorstep of a woman whose horse had spooked at the fusillade of sonic booms. Thrown rider Annette Trent suffered three broken ribs and a concussion even though she was wearing a helmet. A recuperating Trent told AP that though she looked "like heck," she felt better after they came to apologize. The pilots, whose names were not released by the Navy, got in a lot of practice: They visited with a dozen or so other area residents whose windows were blown out or whose houses gained dramatic new cracks.

It was different over at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground. No one said boo after a B-52 bomber launched a cruise missile, this one minus its nuclear warhead. That was all to the good, AP reports, since the 20-foot missile, failing to negotiate a turn, smashed into a clutch of scientific trailers leased to the University of Tokyo. Luckily, no one was inside operating a half-dozen or so telescopes when the errant missile popped in to trash the place.

Our condolences to a deer in Cooperstown, Pa. Teenager Brian Krepp collided with the animal, then jumped out of his Toyota and beat the deer to death, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The story was reprinted in several Western newspapers, perhaps because editors could not believe its macho tone. Krepp, 18 and weighing 240 pounds, was reportedly so upset by the damage done to his car and an injury to his foot, that he "confronted" the deer: "There is no indication that words were exchanged. He grabbed it by the antlers; the two struggled briefly. Krepp gave the antlers a sharp twist and the deer went down. He thinks he broke its neck." Krepp, an asthmatic, then went to a neighbor's house and passed out. "When he came to, he saw the deer, got angry again, walked over and gave it a kick." Later, he told police he wanted to keep the dead deer's head. How would you characterize this interaction? Reporter Dennis B. Roddy called it "a crime of passion."

National Rifle Association members can lick a stamp almost as fast as they can reload a gun. Ticked off at outspoken billionaire Ted Turner, who said "The Star-Spangled Banner" was a militant dud as a national anthem and needed to be replaced, NRA members sent more than 4,000 postcards to the Billings Gazette in Montana. The cards said that Turner, who owns a ranch in the state, showed "callous disregard" for those who fought and died defending this country.

From the Missoula, Mont., Independent comes this reminder that paying due bills is the right thing to do. Alvin Strickland learned that in Idaho when he appeared at the Nez Perce County Courthouse to get married. Unfortunately, he still owed $67 on an arrest warrant, and a jailer, figuring it was as good a time as any to collect, discreetly asked the best man to bail out the groom. When the best man turned up broke, the groom saved his wedding day by passing the hat among guests.

A bus company manager near Aspen, Colo., had advice for workers traveling Highway 82, dubbed "Killer 82" for its high accident rate, and now suffering construction delays while its lanes multiply. When bus commuters said hour-long delays made bathroom breaks mandatory, Dan Blankenship, general manager of the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, suggested: "Just don't drink that extra cup of coffee in the morning." The Aspen Times Daily reported that some desperate commuters were begging drivers to stop and let them go behind the sagebrush.

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 betsym@hcn.org.