Heard around the West
With just a few words, Beverly Hoover won third place in the High Country Shopper’s annual contest, "My Favorite Hunting Story." She and her husband had moved from Pennsylvania to western Colorado in 1992, and soon after their arrival in Montrose, they were invited to a barbecue by new friends. The conversation turned to hunting, and Hoover’s husband — who was not a hunter — asked if it was legal to shoot an elk with a handgun. The friend replied, "If it is a certain size." Hoover writes: "I thought he said, ‘If it is circumcised,’ " and she immediately blurted out: "If you can get close enough to an elk to see THAT, why wouldn’t you just hit him over the head and not even bother to shoot him?" The Shopper is located in Paonia.
More and more, wooden crosses adorned with flowers are showing up along highways in the West. They’re not meant to be decorative; they mark where people were killed in car accidents. Now, a nonprofit group, the Missoula-based Great Bear Foundation, wants to erect markers to note where grizzly bears died after being hit by vehicles. "We thought it would be another way for people to think about wildlife," Chuck Jonkel, the group’s president, told the Missoula Independent. "It would be to commemorate the place and warn people it’s a dangerous road." Jonkel says he knows of at least eight places where cars killed grizzlies. The road markers — metal silhouettes of bears — are in the design phase at Salish Kootenai College.
California state police arrested 14 people accused of fleecing the state’s recycling program of millions of dollars. Here’s how the scam worked: Bottles and cans were bought on the cheap in neighboring states and in Mexico, and then turned in for cash at California recycling centers, reports the Los Angeles Times. Aluminum cans, for instance, could be had for about $950 a ton in Nevada, Arizona and Utah, but in California they cashed in for about $2,490 a ton. The recycling-fraud bust was the biggest in California since consumers began paying bottle deposits in 1987.
It’s official: Money talks. By paying $999 per season, skiers at Copper Mountain — a resort on national forest land — can zip to the front of the lift line and quickly get to the top of the mountain. This is no big deal, explains resort employee Beth Jahnigen: "It’s comparable to the difference between a coach-class seat on an airplane and a first-class seat on an airplane." But Jim Horkovich, a condo owner at Copper Mountain, told the Summit Daily News that paying for special access is a big deal on publicly owned land. He called the two-tier system "unfair, unethical, elitist and discriminatory."
A column called "The Lower Case," a compilation of newspaper headlines gone awry, has always made the last page of the Columbia Journalism Review a hoot. Starring this month were two from Western papers: "JEANS: Low-rise styles continue to be poopular among young adults," from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and what was almost certainly a deliberate pun from The Denver Post: "Sheridan voters to decide nudity ban: suits loom."
vA brand-new weekly newspaper in Cortez, the Four Corners Free Press, prints an extensive police blotter under the ominous headline, "Crime Waves Continue." But one person’s crime might just be someone else’s perfectly reasonable excuse: "A man who was stopped in a pickup with expired plates could not produce a driver’s license, he explained to the officer, because he never had one." And a woman found that some of the people who helped her move were not that helpful after all: She reported "several items missing, including an air conditioner, a wheelbarrow, numerous tools and some belly-button rings."
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado. Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.