Democrats can get really lonely in the West. In
rural areas, some are even driven to change their party affiliation
to Republican. They’re not converts — heaven forbid
— they just want to vote in the primaries where the real
choices get made. Now, there’s a weblog to bond Western
dissidents. It’s called Red State Liberals, named for the red
block of states that TV analysts showed were solidly for George
Bush. The "blog" was started by Idaho travel writer Julie Fanselow,
a Howard Dean stalwart, who told The Denver Post, "You don’t
have to be left wing to feel left out of this administration."
Is that a deer in
the backyard, or a walking hat rack? It could be both,
says the Colorado Division of Wildlife, warning homeowners missing
tomato cages, hammocks, volleyball nets or child swings, that the
culprit could be a visiting deer or elk. Bulls and bucks like to
rub their antlers against things, and apparently, sometimes some of
those things get stuck. This isn’t good for the animals,
since antlers festooned with Christmas lights are liable to snag on
fences, or even on other animals. "Clean up your backyard" is the
message the agency urges. Animals sometimes free themselves of
encumbrances, but more often it takes months before the decorations
get shed along with the antlers. This might explain why hikers find
peculiar things in wilderness areas, such as hair dryers and
extension cords. Well, maybe.
Speaking of backyards, in the foothills south of Provo
Canyon, 40 or so bighorn sheep have discovered that
houses landscaped with lots of munchables are far preferable to dry
and rocky hills. Last summer, one homeowner tried turning on
sprinklers to scare away the sheep, but "they were using them like
a WaterPik," Del Hutchings told the Salt Lake Tribune. "There were
four of them on each (sprinkler) head." Some of the sheep, brought
by the state to Utah from Canada, have also taken to playing king
of the hill on top of a Corvette which "now needs a new paint job."
During the December rut, one resident saw a ram jump onto a covered
Jacuzzi and "lightly" butt heads with his own reflection in a
window. Biologists hope to capture some of the backyard bighorns
this winter, then relocate the herd to Mount Nebo, away from the
seductions of suburbia.
Thanks to researchers at the University of British
Columbia, we now know that a mysterious sound emanating
from herring in San Francisco Bay is, to put it bluntly, fish
farting. The New Scientist magazine says, "It sounds just like a
high-pitched raspberry." So far, no one knows why herring, alone of
all fish, make rude noises from their rear ends. Researcher Ben
Wilson says the fish flatulence might be a communication aid, since
the rumbling increases after dark. Apparently, the sounds are
unheard or ignored by most other fish.
Meanwhile, in Texas, the
antidepressant Prozac is soothing fish in a Denton County
creek. The fish aren’t depressed; they just happen to be
living in water treated by a wastewater-treatment plant that
doesn’t filter out pharmaceuticals, reports the
Star-Telegram. Bryan Brooks, who is studying the fish, says Prozac
seems to affect fish as it does humans: "It relaxes them. Maybe it
makes you a happy fish and you’re kind of hanging out."
It’s still a
tiny operation in tiny Grant, Idaho, but Silver Creek
Distillers made headlines last year. Idaho-grown potatoes were the
secret of the world-class vodka called Blue Ice, reports The
Associated Press, and Blue Ice was surpassed in quality only by
Stolichnaya from Russia and Monopolowa from Austria.
If you lived on a county road
with the name "6FU," you might be embarrassed, too.
Residents along the 17-mile road on the west side of
Wyoming’s Buffalo Bill Reservoir say they’re tired of
feeling defensive or humiliated when they tell people their
address, reports the Cody Enterprise. You can blame a grid system
for number-letter addresses adopted a quarter-century ago, says a
county engineer. But faced with a petition from 40 homeowners, Park
County Commissioner Tim French agreed, "It’s time for 6FU to
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the
Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colo. Tips of
Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the
column, Heard around the West.