Heard around the West

  • Community support is high in Hamilton, Mont.

    John Gatchell photo
  Two Wyomingites are trying to set the record straight about "real" cowboy attire. Studying old photos, mail-order catalogs and interviewing relatives of early range-riders, Tom Lindmier and Steve Mount conclude that the big-hatted denim look popularized by Hollywood is all wet. Their book, I See By Your Outfit, says that 19th century cowboys were more likely to sport hippie-length hair, corduroy hunting caps and pink underwear. Union suits, worn to cut the chill on the High Plains, were available in assorted colors, including pink, reports the Denver Post. The idea for the book was sparked 12 years ago, when Lindmier and Mount presented their research at a museum in Los Angeles. A dozen costumed enthusiasts in attendance were so horrified that they walked out.


Where can you be really, really alone - far from traffic, chain stores and annoying people on cell phones? There is one place in the Lower 48 states, says Cartographic Technologies in Vermont, and that place is the Thorofare Ranger Station in the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Ranger Lloyd Kortge says it's a 32-mile ride by horseback for him to go to work, but once there, close to Wyoming's Teton Wilderness, what he sees are "meadows and a big, wide valley," reports Associated Press. The second-most remote spot? The Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, 18 miles from a road.


"In my estimation," says a junior high principal in Centerville, Utah, "putting a gun in a student's hand would not be appropriate." But for years, local seventh-graders have gotten real guns - though loaded with blanks - which town policemen allow them to shoot at a video enactment of a crime taking place. The police-supervised course is called "Shoot, Don't Shoot" and the point is to teach kids responsible gun behavior, reports the Deseret News. For some reason, few had been aware of the course; now, people are up in arms. The head of the education association says she thinks having children handle guns in school is "wildly inappropriate" and "makes me sick to my stomach." What surprised principal Jane Muna was that the school didn't even see the parental permission letters. They were handled by the Centerville Police Department. A school district official says, "I think our plan is to revisit those lessons, especially since we say we don't allow guns in schools."


A company created to prove New Jersey academics wrong turned out to be sadly wrong itself. Buffalo Commons Corp. is no more in Mott, N.D., pop. 900. Two lawyers in town named their manufacturing company ironically, hoping to challenge professors Frank and Deborah Popper, who predicted that the region's depopulation would mean a return of the bison that once commanded the plains. "Someday," promised attorney David Crane in 1996, "we hope to bring Mr. Popper out here to check out the Buffalo Commons situation and see our progress." A local banker said there had been progress of a sort: Up to eight workers were employed making road-repair equipment. But sales failed to keep up with expenses, reports Associated Press.


For Margaret Dotson of Eugene, Ore., driving along at midnight, the shock was seeing two mountain lions racing across Interstate 5 in front of her. Dotson missed the first cougar, reports the Register-Guard, but hit the second, a 110-pound male, which later had to be killed. Seeing lions and black bears in unexpected places this summer has become common as dry weather drives animals into human territory in search of food. Then there's the curious report from Adams, Mass., about the black bear sitting in Margaret Lowry's garden. A police car's siren didn't budge it, and even a noisemaker that sounded like a firecracker failed. "Finally," reports Associated Press, "an officer gave the bear a poke with a long prod." That's when they discovered the four-foot bear was stuffed.


It's not easy having it all: "Do you often feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed of your wealth?" asks the Idaho Mountain Express. If the answer is yes, then Myra Salzer, a counselor specializing in "wealth angst," may be the expert for you. "Poor people can take risks and have nothing to lose," Salzer believes, "whereas someone who has inherited $10 million tries not to screw up what's given to them." While her assumptions seem debatable, Salzer says she always tries to teach two lessons to the suddenly rich: How to answer the question, "What do you do for a living?" and how to avoid feeling obligated to help worthy causes. What's really hard for the new inheritor, Salzer says, is realizing that people usually relate better to their money than to them.


The grasshopper was only doing what comes naturally " hopping through the grass in Coulee City, Wash. But when it bounded onto an electric fence, reports Associated Press, it became a "flaming grasshopper," and the blaze it ignited burned 3,500 acres before firefighters could stop it.


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.