Heard around the West


Spam, that quivery quasi-meat, needs a support group. In a list of 1997 bests and worsts in the food world recently, the Arizona Republic zeroed in on the Jell-O-like pink substance as top contender for "worst recipe."

The winning (or losing) recipe came from Spam's national recipe contest, which "always provides a good candidate," according to the Republic. This year the Spam people went upscale with an elegant puff pastry containing "julienned Spam lite luncheon meat." Marginally yummier and also a contender for worst food combo was a recipe dreamed up by supermodel Kathy Ireland, a spokeswoman for prunes. Her recipe welcomed turkey, yogurt, mustard, celery, green onions and prunes, all stuffed into a pita. "A package of prunes in the dressing room helps many keep up with Tinseltown's pace," says her press release. Reporter Judy Walker suggests a "90s message for a new corporate fortune cookie: "You are downsized. Enjoy this with your coffee as you clean out your desk." Contestants for worst cookbook were too numerous to mention, she adds, but runners-up include Cooking with Prozac by Robin Cohn, which focuses on soup and desserts. She can't do vegetables, says the author, because they remind her "of the state she was in before Prozac." Another close contender was InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. As for the worst press release, this come-on took the prize: "You regularly clean your skin, hair and teeth ... but when was the last time you cleaned your colon?"

Believe it or not, but the Colorado weekly, Westword, reports that last year, after a bear broke into a home in suburban Denver and planted himself on a couch in the living room, a teenage boy entered the room and said, "Hey, Dad," before realizing the furry couch potato was not his father. "The bear then grabbed a plum from the fruit bowl and left." In a (possibly) unrelated incident, another bear was seen leaving a home south of Denver "with a tortilla in his mouth."

As 1997 lurched to a close, a fight in South Dakota over religious expression on state property turned tense. Or perhaps ironic. It all depends on how you read Gov. Bill Janklow, who announced he was prepared to go to court to keep a nativity scene on display in the state capitol. "We're entitled as South Dakotans to have our capitol reflect the unique culture of the people of South Dakota, and part of that is different kinds of religions, and frankly, part of that is some people that don't believe in religion, and I always leave a space for them," he told AP. "We always have a corner in the capitol that has nothing in it for those people that don't believe in anything."

Driving toward Bozeman, Mont., recently, an off-duty sheriff's deputy briefly added an unexpected passenger to his van. A 150-pound deer suddenly jumped through the backseat window - its head came completely inside - before bouncing out. "If the deer had jumped a split second before, it would have landed on my (11-year-old) daughter," said Dan Wertz. "We were big-time lucky." Another wildlife note: Montana's Hungry Horse News reports that an "opportunistic" grizzly near Glacier National Park ripped into a logging slash pile, entered a den where a black bear lay hibernating; then ate the bear, which was probably drugged by its winter sleep.

Piloting a helicopter as low as 100 feet above the ground, security officers for the Central Arizona Project eyeball 336 miles of canal as it crosses Arizona. "I was looking down at the filtering screen on one of our sluice gates," said one officer. "The screen was clogged with tumbleweeds. One of them had legs." A dead body is unusual; more routine are vehicles, dead animals and marijuana plants all floating along in water diverted from the Colorado River. On one daily run from Phoenix to Havasu, canal patrollers helped police pull up more than 300 pot plants, leaving behind a handwritten note as consolation: "No, you weren't ripped off. We have your plants," reports the Arizona Republic.

Besides television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, cows now face an opponent in the U.S. Senate. But Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin isn't bad-mouthing burgers, he's after the waste that pre-burger cattle leave behind. Gannett News reports that cow pies add up to millions of tons a year, and Harkin, a Democrat, says the "lagoons' that store the sludge are particularly a problem. At 20 feet deep and a half-mile wide, lagoons full of manure can create a "dead zone" if they spill.

Sometime back in that bygone year of 1997 we asked readers for suggestions for "privy readings," those pithy bits of mountain lore, poetry or stirring sentiments to while away a buggy interlude in a confined space. Installment number one comes from writer Ted Williams, who swears the following are English subtitles used in films made in Hong Kong:

"I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way."

"Same old rules: no eyes, no groin."

"A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries."

"Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants."

"Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short rabbits."

"I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!'

"The bullets inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?"

"You daring lousy guy."

"How can you use my intestines as a gift?"

"Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?"

Finally, our favorite: "You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken."

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.