Heard Around the West

  • ROADSIDE DINO: One of many attractions found at "Stuart's Petrified Wood" in Adamana, Arizona

    Jeff Widen

Don't mess with Monterey; it plays hardball. For the next 15 years, no cruise ship from Crystal Cruises will be allowed to enter the California city's harbor. What's more, if one city official had his way, the company would be banned "forever" - because one of the cruise line's ships, the Crystal Harmony, dumped 36,000 gallons of wastewater into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The company also covered up the offense for four months, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The cruise line blamed an inexperienced officer for the dumping - which violated an agreement between the city and the company - but said it didn't reveal the incident immediately because no laws were broken. Carl Anderson, Monterey's director of public facilities, lambasted Crystal Cruises for its "cavalier attitude" and suggest the company sail out of Monterey for good. In unanimously approving its ban, Monterey's city council also voted to set up strict reporting requirements for all cruise lines.

Someday, historians will look back in wonder at the proliferation of bottled waters, and ask: "What were they thinking?" For now, hundreds of specialty waters crowd the market, with the latest bottled by the city of San Francisco and called Hetch Hetchy Mountain Water. Though Mayor Willie Brown hopes to make a few bucks on the new product, he might be disappointed. The San Francisco Chronicle conducted an informal taste test of Hetch Hetchy, pitting it against eight other bottled waters, and the result was not encouraging. Comments by tasters included "dull," "flat," "slight rubber aftertaste," and "it tasted like distilled water; you should put it in your iron." Favorite brands were Arrowhead, from Southern California, and Acqua Panna, from Italy's San Pellegrino region, because both reminded tasters of the mountains. Ranking last was Evian. That Evian hails from France was not the problem - it was said to have a chemical aftertaste.

In Arizona, there is hope of a new life after a federal jury convicts you of bank fraud and shady real estate deals. Former Republican Gov. Fife Symington found this to be true, even though he had to hastily resign as governor in 1997, and hire lawyers to fight his conviction. His appeal succeeded, and Symington told The Associated Press recently that he's "very happy doing what I'm doing now," which is working as a pastry chef. His specialties include a liqueur-and-coffee-soaked tiramisu and chocolate mousse cake; both are served at Franco's Italian Cafe, the Phoenix restaurant he co-owns.

When an official at Los Angeles Airport asked Robert Cusack if animals might be concealed in his clothes, he answered, "Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants." That wasn't all he'd brought from Thailand, says Audubon magazine; when his suitcase was opened for inspection, a bird of paradise flew out. Besides the two endangered pygmy monkeys, Cusack was caught smuggling 50 protected orchids and four endangered birds of paradise. He was sentenced to 57 days in jail and must donate $1,500 to a facility for primates.

Ken Taylor, who lives in semi-arid Kennewick, Wash., was awakened at 1:30 a.m. recently by a thumping noise. When he went out to his porch to investigate, he found a 40-pound beaver ensconced in a chair. "He gave the beaver an apple. It took one bite and left the rest," reports the AP. Taylor went back to bed, only to be awakened again by a thud: This time the beaver was sitting on its haunches, baring its big teeth and growling. Taylor found his bed again, figuring the animal would waddle off during the night. Instead, it waddled into his garage, whereupon Taylor called animal control in the nearby town of Pasco. The visitor was trapped and later released to a pond.

A "wonderfully whimsical" lava lamp, 60 feet tall and placed in downtown Soap Lake, Wash., would act as a sure-fire tourist-magnet, says the town's mayor, Ken Lee. Soap Lake, pop. 1,700, could use an economic jolt: 68 percent of its residents live in subsidized low-income housing, reports Governing magazine. A century ago, Soap Lake was a spa destination for tourists from Seattle and Portland, who came by train to take the mineral-rich water. But the town hasn't attracted many visitors lately. Is the mayor serious? Merely floating the idea, he says, has brought Soap Lake a flurry of attention.

Penny, a horse with such a dramatic swayback that passersby did doubletakes at the sight of her, died in Ridgway, Colo., recently. She was 38, or 152 in human years, reports the Ouray County Plaindealer. The horse lived in a pasture by the side of the road, and was a familiar sight to drivers in Western Colorado. Owner Julia Olin said Penny had given birth to seven foals over the years, which might have helped drop her middle section. While folks may not have known it, Penny was related to a famous horse: She was the great-great-granddaughter of the bold and handsome Trigger, ridden by Roy Rogers.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (betsym@hcn.org). She relishes tidbits of Western news and fascinating photos.