Heard around the West
UTAH Filmmaker Michael
Moore really knows how to energize people. His
Bush-bashing documentary enraged so many Park City residents that a
movie theater added a disclaimer, saying Fahrenheit 9/11 did not
represent the views of the management. That a disclaimer was
considered necessary disturbed several readers of the Park
Record, who praised the film for highlighting "crucial
questions about the ‘necessity’ of the war in Iraq."
Another reader, Roger Strand, labeled Moore a "Jabba the putz,"
among other epithets, but he concluded his letter by urging
"everyone to think for themselves, investigate both sides of all
issues, pray for guidance and vote their conscience."
NEW MEXICO It’s sad when old
giants die. As drought continues throughout the West,
downtown Santa Fe has lost at least eight cottonwood trees along
the pitiful Santa Fe River, mostly a trickle now, says the
Santa Fe New Mexican. But instead of turning the
old trees into firewood, the city’s pest manager, Fabian
Chavez, had a brilliant idea: Why not find artists to transform the
trunks into sculpture? Artist Don Kennell was first on the job,
chainsawing a tree trunk into a fish swimming upward through
flowing water. Kennell said he chose that theme because he saw a
photograph of people fishing in the river 60 years ago. "The river
was full of water back then," he said. Santa Fe will pay the artist
$1,000 for his work and another $7,000 to
santero Jose Lucero, who will carve images of
archangels into seven other cottonwood trunks.
WYOMING Columnist Bert
Raynes in the Jackson Hole
News&Guide;, admires the imaginative terms people have
come up with to describe assemblies of animals over the years. One
of his favorites – "an intricacy of hawks" — was coined
by a famous observer, Henry David Thoreau. He shares the vivid but
less well known "gulp of cormorants, scurry of squirrels, tiding of
magpies and unkindness of ravens," and suggests that all of us try
to hang a moniker on a gathering of somethings. Two from Raynes: a
shrewdness of apes, a drift of fishermen.
burials are coming to a grassy site near San Francisco,
says The Associated Press, and relatives of the deceased just need
strong backs, a couple of shovels and a Global Positioning System.
Developers of "Fernwood Forever" in Mill Valley say bodies "will be
placed in biodegradable boxes or shrouds and interred in
nondescript graves that mourners can dig themselves." Graves
won’t be completely anonymous: Strategically placed "native"
boulders will act as guideposts, while the GPS system will pinpoint
a grave’s location. Cemetery co-owner Tyler Cassity, 34, who
grew up in the burial business, says the organic cemetery
won’t allow formaldehyde, used to preserve bodies, or floral
arrangements at funerals. But Cassity says it will protect 32 acres
of open space and allow people the often-expressed wish to be
"buried naturally under a tree."
WEST "Before the going got tough,"
says Reuters News Service of the Lewis and Clark
Voyage of Discovery 200 years ago, "the tough went shopping." The
young explorers, anxious about their digestion, toted 600 "bilious
fever" pills — also known as thunder-clappers — along
with opium, inkstands, sealing wax and "portable soup." The soup
contained boiled-down beef, cow’s hooves, eggs and
vegetables. Twenty-eight months and 8,000 miles later, there was
still lots of soup left over.
A Lake Tahoe homeowner who left kibble out for
wildlife now owes $2,300 to his neighbor. It seems a black bear,
attracted by the free food, was even more excited by the
neighbor’s truck, ripping it apart to the tune of several
thousand dollars, reports the AP. Recently, a district court judge
said Douglas County had the right to enforce its code, which
prohibits attracting bears through negligence or sharing food.
NORTH DAKOTA So far, nobody
wants to own up to owning five marauding bison near
Mandan, N.D., that are breaking through fences, shooing cattle out
of their pastures and doing whatever it is they want to do. Rancher
Kevin Schmidt told the Bismarck Tribune that
he’s so fed up he’s thought about getting his gun:
"They’ve been eating my grass, which I barely have enough of
to feed my own cattle." Though the sheriff’s department has
called 25 ranchers, no one has claimed the behemoth strays.
Meanwhile, Schmidt, with no hint of irony, said he "wishes
they’d go back to where they came from."
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