Heard around the West


Yes, they look freaky, some of them, but on the whole they're peaceable and just want to see old friends and hang out - sometimes, it is true, while sampling controlled substances. They are the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely affiliated group of '60s-style hippies who gather for a week once a year somewhere on public land. They provide their own food, set up bathrooms and showers, and their record of cleaning up afterward is excellent. But when some 20,000 of them converge from all over the country, their sheer numbers alarm locals. This time the alarmed rural area is about 50 miles from Dillon, Mont., on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. To prepare for what locals fear is an onslaught, the governor and Beaverhead County commissioners have already declared a state of emergency. That will enable the National Guard in Montana to be called in, reports Associated Press. But during the Rainbow Gathering near Paonia, Colo, in the early 1990s, what was glaring and oppressive was not the Rainbows; it was heavy-handed law enforcement from both the Forest Service and state of Colorado.

People keep throwing things at Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, the Chicago Tribune reports. Four years ago in Rome, a group of naked women pelted him with non-genetically modified soybeans. Later that winter, a woman in Montana flung a bucket of bison guts in his face to protest the killing of bison that stray out of national parks. The latest spew came just after Memorial Day when Glickman spoke at a nutrition meeting in Washington, D.C. This time the fast-moving food was tofu in a pie tin; as usual, the hurler's cause was animal rights. By now experienced in rapid ducking, Glickman kept his face clean. After his attacker, PETA member Arathi Jayaram, was handcuffed and led away, Glickman tossed off both his smeared jacket and a quick joke: "It wasn't a very well-balanced meal she threw at me," he said.

Aggressive animal-rights activists have also begun a campaign in Midwest high school newspapers that puts them smack in the face of dairy farmers. The ad from PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shows a teenager with a milk mustache and pimply face under the headline: "Got Zits?" The text links animal fats and hormones in milk to greasy hair and pimples, says PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich. "My first reaction to the ad is to say to them, 'Got bull?' " responds Sandra Chalmers of the Wisconsin Agriculture Department. Chalmers told Associated Press, "There is no evidence that milk causes acne." PETA also tried out an anti-milk campaign in college papers with the headline "Got Beer?" The group canned that approach after the nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving complained that it promoted alcohol.

You may think you're going on a float trip down the Colorado River, but maybe you'll wind up flying through the air. For the second time in 10 months, a commercial tour boat has been stranded in what's called Crystal Rock Garden in the Grand Canyon. And once again passengers have been forced to escape by helicopter - first flying in to shore, and then boarding another helicopter for the trip up to the South Rim. One traveler reported that the rescue was almost as exciting as river-running, though the trip was cut short by three days. River guides said the raft would have to be winched off the rocks or dismantled, with pieces flown up to the South Rim.

Texas state government apparently has few qualms about accepting corporate help. Dow Chemical, Budweiser and Copenhagen snuff are all underwriters for agency activities. Now, says Texas watcher Jim Hightower, the state Parks and Wildlife Department has even adopted an "official SUV" - the Chevy Suburban. In exchange for giving two of the gas guzzlers and $230,000, the car company gets to put the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's official logo in its ads. Hightower says the parks department draws the line at really, really tasteless connections between parks and products. Says the parks chief, "We've said that we would not have the Budweiser Big Bend State Park."

Sixteen-year-old Ian Michael Lake and Milford, Utah, pop. 1,500, just never clicked. After Lake dyed his hair green with pink polka dots, the principal sent him home. When Lake tried to run for student office, he was told his grades didn't measure up. Then the teenager, who'd moved to Utah six years earlier from Southern California, created a Web site. He used it as a weapon, calling teachers, the principal and some students sluts and drunks, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. This time a juvenile-court judge ordered the Milford High School junior to leave town, in part because anonymous callers had threatened the boy's life. With the consent of his father, Lake was sent to live with his grandparents in Palm Springs, Calif., until the date of a court hearing. But Lake's father says there's something amiss here; while he doesn't condone what his son did, he defends the teenager's right to speak freely. High school principal Walter Schofield thinks the real issue is that the teenager "doesn't like living in a Podunk town because it isn't like California."

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.