Heard around the West

  • Too bad, graffiti-man: Aspen near the San Francisco Peaks in Coconino National Forest

    Christian Timmerman


Wearing brightly patterned robes and spectacular strands of African beads, Masai warriors livened up the town of Douglas in southern Arizona when they arrived to talk shop with local ranchers. Members of Arizona’s innovative Malpai Borderlands Group had visited the African herdsmen in 2002, and found they had lots in common. Both the Masai and the Malpai ranchers cross borders — in Africa, the Masai graze cattle in both southern Kenya and northern Tanzania; in America, some ranches extend south of the border to Mexico. Both groups share key values, believing that fewer fences are better, and that when cattle occupy the land with wildlife, each benefits. The Associated Press noted one cultural difference between the Americans and the Africans. Americans do things by the clock, said Yusuf Ole Petenya, but "once a Masai starts grazing his cattle, he’s not in a hurry."


"Cheese artist" Cosimo Cavallaro, the man who sprayed five tons of pepper jack over a vacant house in Powell, Wyo., a few years back, has a new gig: He covered a bed with 312 pounds of processed ham. The installation, as these things are called, will be in a gallery space in midtown Manhattan for two days. "According to the artist, no concern about cockroaches has been raised," the AP reports. " ‘They are welcome,’ he said. ‘Imagine what this looks like from the point of view of an insect.’ "


A couple of hundred people gathered at the state capitol in Sacramento recently to protest Indian gambling in cities, the subject of two initiatives that will appear on the November ballot. But the rally turned into a different kind of demonstration when the crowd — made up mostly of homeless people, street-gang members and self-described anarchists — demanded money they were owed for showing up. "We don’t know who is paying us," one young man from the San Francisco area told Indian Country Today; "all we know is that we were told to get on a bus … and we would get $40." When no money was immediately produced, tempers grew hot, and African American youths and anarchists started shouting at each other "over their clothing choices." Payment for appearing at the rally, the paper said, was apparently promised by some of the nonprofit groups that oppose urban casinos.


Teton County, the home of Vice President Dick Cheney, and a host of corporate bigwigs and movie stars, topped the list of the richest counties in America for the fourth time in six years. The average adjusted income was $107,694 for 2002, reports the AP, beating out the number-two winner, Fairfield County in Connecticut, by 2 percent. For those Wyomingites whose paychecks aren’t in the six figures, there’s still an inexpensive movable party to be had in Jackson’s Tiki Taxi, "an homage to bad taste and a good sense of humor," says owner Norm Becerra. The vehicle’s jungle-print décor and cheesy atmosphere is his "gift to everyone who isn’t part of the top 1 percent."


Newsweek’s suggestion for "budget travel" may be an expensive blowout for some people. The magazine recently suggested that up to 10 folks rent a 44-foot houseboat and cruise the "hidden coves and orange-maroon cliffs" of Lake Powell. Cost: $1,742 for four days.


Tyler Comeau was taking his very first mountain bike ride in Whistler, British Columbia, racing at 19 miles per hour, when a cougar appeared at his side. "It was keeping up with me for about 15 seconds, and for about 10 seconds of that it was maybe two feet from me," Comeau told Pique newsmagazine. Comeau then rounded a corner, slammed on his brakes "and flew over the bars," yelling "mountain lion" to a friend who was waiting for him. Comeau landed on the ground, facing the lion, which looked both surprised and interested. Comeau then picked up his bicycle "and just started screaming like it was a bear or something." The tactic worked, and the lion backed off. The friend was grateful for Comeau’s wipeout, saying he was a sitting duck for the approaching lion.


The Great Salt Lake, at its lowest level in 34 years and facing a sixth year of drought, now covers a mere 1,200 square miles. At its historic peak in 1987, reports the Deseret News, the lake’s waters covered 3,300 square miles. Less water means good times in small pools for mosquitoes, but hard times for marinas and big boats.

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.