Heard around the West

  In southeastern Washington,


vandals wiped out an entire forest overnight. They did the deed by


chopping down the only tree in an arid landscape of cheatgrass and sagebrush near the town of


Connell, pop. 2,000. Townspeople have put up a $1,000 reward for the arrest of the saw-wielding bandit, reports Associated Press. The lone tree, a Chinese elm, had survived a brush fire several years ago. It lived close to a state highway where locals had decorated it with a handmade sign reading: Connell Forest.





A lonesome sign has also appeared in the town of Bow, Wash., close to Canada. Made by 46-year-old Tom Rodal for the yard of his small house on Chuckanut Drive, it reads: "Wife Wanted." Would-be spouses are invited to give him a call. Since Rodal put the sign up a year ago, he told the Seattle Times, women have called or written him from all over the country. Not long ago he nearly found the right candidate - except for an insurmountable problem. "One gal was really nice," he said. "But she's got dogs, and I have a cat." Rodal said he's "toughing it out for the right gal."





In Alaska, harsh winters and the lowest population of moose in decades are forcing wolf packs around Fairbanks to look at dogs in a whole new way. As food. Sometimes in broad daylight, wolf packs have entered villages to prey on tied-up pets or sled dogs. So far the hungry wolves have chowed down on more than a dozen dogs, reports the Anchorage Daily News.





And from Utah, distressing news: Salt Lake City no longer reigns as the number-one consumer of Jello in America. Des Moines, Iowa, has taken the lead, says Kraft Foods. Folks at Kraft were so surprised they reran the numbers just to make sure, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City's mayor-elect, Rocky Anderson, said he was shocked and disappointed to hear that his city had slipped to second place, buying only 4.4 million boxes of Jello a year. Happier was Des Moines Mayor Preston Daniels, who admitted that, while he doesn't eat Jello at home, he was "all a-twitter" to hear that the vibration-sensitive dessert was tops in his town.





It's getting tense in Jerome, Ariz., pop. 500. Once a center for copper miners, in the late 1960s and early "70s the town became a haven for counterculture types. Now, these former Flower Children aren't comfortable with a biker bar in the heart of town, reports the Arizona Republic, and the culture war has gotten ugly. Susan Hale, wife of the fire chief, says motorcyclists hog the highways and like to rev their engines until it "sounds like a chainsaw festival." She accuses the biker set of conducting cultural genocide: "The Serbs invade and it's time to move on - while we still have our inflated real estate." Recently, the head of a children's art program turned down a $5,000 donation from motorcyclists who participated in a charity ride, calling it "dirty biker money." Bikers tend to respond to criticism by gathering outside their bar, the Spirit Room, and gunning their engines through the night. Coming up soon: a noise ordinance designed to drive down the decibel level and perhaps, drive the bikers out of town.





The alternative paper Westword in Denver collected a slew of weird events that made news in 1999. There was the black bear near Fairplay that needs a 12-step program: It broke into 30 trailers, a state biologist said, because it had become "hooked on powdered coffee creamer." Then there were the cremains of the town manager of Erie, Colo. They were scattered in hot mix destined for paving the town's main street. Said the town manager's widow: "He liked the smell of asphalt, so, by God, he can smell it forever." One more tidbit: During the Christmas break for Congress, Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell enrolled in the United States Truck Driving School.





An Oops! Award goes to Kootenai County commissioners in Idaho. They approved the 75-acre Sun Meadow Resort without realizing that the 16,000 square-foot lodge, 43 RV hookups, and 10 rental cabins would be a mecca for nudists. Actually, no one knew, says the Spokane Spokesman-Review, including the consultant who planned the resort, though it is listed on Web pages for the American Association for Nude Recreation, Northwest Naturals and Mooncrow's Naturist Pages. Nineteen ticked-off neighbors had appealed the commissioners' approval of the resort last August, and that was before anyone knew its clientele would be clothes-free. Locals said they opposed the resort because the area is designated agricultural under the county's comprehensive plan. When commissioners approved the resort, they cited private property rights and the "potential boost to the economy."


*Betsy Marston





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 bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or betsym@hcn.org.