Heard around the West
California’s Highway Patrol sees a lot of silly
stuff, like the guy crouched down in an open trunk,
gamely trying to hang on to lawn chairs, or the driver in the
carpool lane pretending that a life-size doll of "SpongeBob
SquarePants" was a passenger. Officer Rob Rusconi says he watched a
driver struggle to put on his seat belt, hoping to avoid a ticket,
but when pulled over, the driver insisted that his seat belt had
been on all along. "Being a trained observer," Officer Rusconi told
the San Jose Mercury News, "I asked the driver
if he always looped his seat belt through the steering wheel as he
drove." Officer Ralph Peirotti once followed two rude bicyclists
who refused to budge from the middle of the lane even when honked
at, giving him the finger without looking behind to see who was
complaining. Officer Peirotti turned on his public address system
to comment: "I don’t think you should have done that." He
gave the bikers a lesson in road manners — and a ticket.
MONTANA Tom Kilmer, a
consumer of what he calls "Foo Foo Coffee," has been
comparing the cost of coffee to gasoline, and he’s puzzled.
With fancy lattés and cappuccinos going for $3.50 for a
16-ounce cup at places like Starbucks in Helena, Mont., he figures
a gallon of coffee costs a whopping $14. But no one makes a peep.
So, "Why does everybody start complaining?" he asks, as the price
of gas creeps toward $3 a gallon.
WEST If anything represents the arid
West, it’s the peripatetic tumbleweed, even though
it piggy-backed its way here on flaxseed from the Ukraine.
Orion magazine says this "nondescript, prickly
weed has worked its way into the hearts of people," and now, an
enterprising Kansan, Linda Katz, sells tumbleweeds all over the
world. Katz started her Prairie Tumbleweed Farm Web site in 1994,
as a joke, but to her surprise, people started placing orders. A
museum in Sweden told her it plans to drop tumbleweeds into a "a
boiling caldron of bronze, and thereby secure the free-ranging
shrubs to the premises." This belies Katz’s motto: "If they
don’t tumble, we don’t sell them."
THE BORDER The Mexican government
recently published a 31-page Guide for the Mexican
Migrant, to help illegal workers enter this
country safely. But when The New York Times sent
reporters to Los Angeles to ask if the booklet was useful, Mexicans
waiting for work on the street responded with a resounding "No."
One worker summed up the book’s advice as "trash." But others
offered their own hard-won advice, starting with "Never hire a
coyote smuggler on the border." They urged hiring a guide from the
migrant’s hometown, so if anything happens, "your family
knows his family." Others advised never to rat on a coyote, since
he could implicate you to police as a partner; not to wear heavy
clothing while crossing the river; and before wading in, "spend the
$5 for an inner tube."
Two university students from England plan to
cheerfully break as many American laws as possible this summer,
beginning in California, where they will illegally ride bikes in a
swimming pool. The Guardian Unlimited says the
men will also attempt to flout the law by whale hunting in Utah and
napping in a South Dakota cheese factory. Inspiration for their
upcoming crime spree comes from an Internet site, dumblaws.com.
WYOMING When Wyoming Gov.
Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, wants to make a point,
he’s apt to spout a pithy Westernism, such as, "If they
don’t know where you tie your goat, they can’t get your
goat," reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide;.
The seventh of eight children, Freudenthal grew up on a farm near
Thermopolis, Wyo., and went on to become a U.S. attorney. These
days, Freudenthal has become as well known for his smart politics
as for his folksy expressions, which helps explain how he won
election in a predominantly Republican state. Freudenthal is
considered a maverick, rather than a party man, says Republican
state legislator Monte Olsen: "He’s probably offended just
about everybody, (and) if you do that, people know who you are and
where you stand, and that’s acceptable." The governor says
Democrats everywhere tend to do best when they pay attention to
"kitchen-table issues," which he defines as jobs, child care,
recreation and wildlife. His aphorisms help, too, and they’ve
become so numerous that reporters and staff are compiling a list.
It includes "He is the north end of a southbound horse" and "You
don’t buy a dog and do your own barking."
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a
service of High Country News in Paonia,
Colorado. Tips are often shared in the column, Heard around the