you turn around, the members of some worthy organization
are shedding their clothes to pose nude for a calendar. The fun is
in the photography, because while the librarians or firefighters
may be naked, they are always strategically hidden behind some fire
hose, book or fence. In Carmel, Calif., a group called the Fire
Belles was immensely pleased when its calendar in-the-buff raised
more than $40,000 for firefighters. But the women were nonplussed
when the city by the sea refused the cash. Officials said the
calendar might "offend sensibilities and expose the city to costly
sexual harassment lawsuits," reports the San Francisco
Chronicle. Calendar girl Paula Weber, at 85 the oldest
Fire Belle, said this made her feel belittled and insulted "by the
people responsible for bringing down a good cause and good people."
biologists have come up with a new job for dogs: sniffing
out threatened and endangered species. Researchers from the
University of Nevada knew that dogs can find the scat of many
animals; now they’ve found that trained dogs are 90 percent
accurate at detecting slow-moving threatened desert tortoises, even
from 200 feet away. The Land Letter says dogs
might one day help save hundreds of the ever-fewer tortoises,
particularly if the animals have to be moved to avoid military
maneuvers in the Mojave Desert.
A blonde bombshell with a big
smile is urgently being sought by the brand-new Atomic
Testing Museum in Las Vegas. Back in 1957, Lee Merlin posed for a
photographer in a bathing suit flocked with fluffy white balls, and
her image was reproduced widely as "Miss Atomic Bomb." She’s
become a piece of our popular culture," says scientist Robert
Friedrichs, who has spent the last six months searching for the
model. He wants to show her how "iconic" the photo has become, he
says, and would also like to invite her to speak at the museum,
developed by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Merlin’s image has come to symbolize the ignorant days of
nuclear testing, when cocktails around the pool were scheduled for
the spectacle of bombs going off, only 65 miles from Las Vegas.
According to 78-year-old Carolyn MacMullen, a fellow dancer at the
Sands Hotel, Merlin was quiet, had a dry sense of humor and was
"very bookish," reports the Los Angeles Times.
But the two have lost touch. As for how Merlin came to lend her
sexy yet wholesome image to something so deadly as a nuclear
explosion, retired photographer Don English recalls that he just
needed a change from the real thing: "We were shooting so many atom
bombs, we tried to do anything that was a little bit different."
Gwen Petersen of Big
Timber, Mont., creates greeting cards for her "Wild Woman
Productions" company, and she’s also developing a newspaper
column called "The Bitchin’ Post," which spurred her to
attend the 21st Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering recently in
Elko, Nev. It’s a great conclave of Westerners, she reports,
but some good performances could also be seen at the Elko airport.
She watched cowboys going through security snake off their
big-buckled rodeo belts, hop around on one foot while removing
their boots, and fish out metal "snoose" cans from tight back
pockets. Petersen said the men looked like a herd of skittish
cattle as they filled up plastic dish pans with their gear. She
laughed out loud until a loud clanging told her she’d flunked
the security gate. Petersen then was "wanded" and her bionic knee
replacement identified before she was free to fly. Once again, she
reports, she’d rendered another airport "safe from threat of
terrorism by disrobing in public."
"Stealth tower" is the new moniker for any cell phone
tower designed to (almost) blend into the scenery. The
Southwest may boast or cringe about its cell phone saguaros, but in
the Colorado Springs area, the Independent
photographed a farrago of ingenious fakes: ponderosa pine trees,
church bell towers, stadium lights, a smokestack, a lighthouse in a
city hundreds of miles from the sea, fatter-than-usual flagpoles,
artworks of dubious quality, crosses, and — perhaps the most
creative — a mining head frame from 1903, recently restored
with the addition of cell phone transmitters inside.
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