Heard around the West

by Betsy Marston

COLORADO

Headline writers are having a field day in western Colorado with the upbeat story of a "plucky chicken" saved from drowning in a tub, thanks to a man employing "mouth to beak" resuscitation, reports The Associated Press. Chicken-owner Uegene Safken says he first yelled at the lifeless-looking bird: "You’re too young to die!" and then breathed air into the chicken after swinging it around by its legs. The feat made national news, and Jon Stewart’s comedy program plans to visit Safken’s home just outside rural Collbran to film a news spot for the TV show. This may involve a dramatic re-enactment of the rescue, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, with a rubber chicken playing the part of the still-unnamed buff Orpington. But stories of miraculous poultry are not new to the region. The town of Fruita, for instance, annually celebrates the bizarre survival of a headless chicken named Mike, who lived for 18 months after a beheading that didn’t take. "His owner put feed and water directly into Mike’s gullet with an eyedropper," says AP. "He was a popular attraction until he choked to death on a corn kernel."

WYOMING

Outdoors columnist Bob Meinecke writes about the outdoors with authority in the Cody Enterprise. He loves to say, "Remember when …" as he launches into accounts of the amazing sights he’s witnessed in the wild, like the time he and his young son saw three different bobcats in a day, and each cat eyed them before moving on. Another time, they watched while two huge bull elk interlocked antlers and shoved each other around for a spell, and then "walked away into the timber together, like two buddies who’d never had so much as a cross word between them." Meinecke was alone — except for his dog — the day he blundered into a bear, but it was the bear that backed away after deciding Meinecke "looked a bit too untrustworthy." Meinecke also saw a magpie try to kill a mouse by flying into the air with it and dropping it, over and over. More gruesomely, there was the time he watched a terrified jackrabbit run across the snow, squalling in terror, "a tiny ermine dangling from its blood-soaked neck."

ARIZONA

Ann Coulter, the brainy blonde bombshell of the political right, accused an Arizona county attorney of anti-conservative bias after he dismissed charges against two men who allegedly threw pies at her during a speech in October 2004. But according to the Arizona Daily Star, the charges were dropped because both Coulter and the arresting officer failed to appear in court for the scheduled trial. A new court date may still be set.

NEW MEXICO

"God helps those who help themselves," says an entrepreneurial monk named Brother William, who hopes he and his fellow religious can brew beer on the grounds of the Pecos Benedictine Monastery near Santa Fe. Donations can’t always be counted on, he says, so financial independence makes sense. A brewery also continues a centuries-old tradition. Brother William told the Albuquerque Tribune that "At one point in medieval Europe, there were no other breweries but monastic breweries." The joint venture of the Pecos and Abiquiu monasteries cleared a legal hurdle when the county commission "gave its blessing" by a vote of 5-0; state approval must come next.

ALASKA

Can there be too many bald eagles? Some residents of Homer, Alaska, population 4,200, emphatically say "yes." They’re fed up because the 12-pound birds with their seven-foot wingspans and powerful talons have become so numerous that they’ve "run amok," says the Washington Post. Local veterinarian Ralph Broshes says the eagles bang into cars, get tangled in fences, "and their copious droppings are fearsomely stinky." The big birds also prey on cats and small dogs, and have wiped out visiting sandhill cranes. As many as 650 eagles winter in the area, with 150 eagles congregating at the end of the Homer Spit. There, the birds rendezvous with 81-year-old Jean Keene, known as the "Eagle Lady." Nearly every day, from December through April, Keene throws fish in the air for eagles to snag, while delighted tourists gaze in awe and snap photos. She’s been doing this for almost 30 years, but a backlash is growing, and wildlife biologists have begun protesting the perpetuation of Homer’s "welfare eagles."

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. E-mail: betsym@hcn.org

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