Heard around the West

by Betsy Marston

IDAHO

"It’s the ultimate in recycling," says Victor Bruha. He and a friend, Daniel Hidalgo, have begun turning large mounds of bison poop into high-quality art paper. The idea isn’t really new: An Australian company sells kangaroo-dung paper, and in Thailand, elephants supply the needed material in super-sized quantities. But it took months for Hidalgo and Bruha, working in a basement, to find the right recipe, which includes some recycled paper from Bruha’s day job at Modern Printing in Blackfoot, Idaho. The grassy dung is boiled for several hours to remove bacteria and any odor. When it becomes a slurry, it’s screened in a process much like that of traditional papermaking, says the Idaho State Journal. One pile of bison-doo makes about 20 pieces of delicate, finely textured paper. But the two artists don’t stop there; when the paper dries, they add a bison-themed block print, creating what reporter Emily Jones describes as a more unique reminder of Yellowstone "than a T-shirt from Taiwan." The artists’ Web site and company name is also apt: dunganddunger.net

COLORADO

"Dumb and Dumber" is what two bank robbers from Australia have been dubbed for their spectacularly bad judgment, reports The Associated Press. While relieving Vail’s WestStar Bank of $132,000, the 19-year-olds wore ski jackets with badges from their jobs at a Vail ski shop. Their Aussie accents perked up the ears of bank tellers, and they were caught when they tried unsuccessfully to buy one-way tickets to Mexico the day after the robbery. The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia, found the duo sympathetic: "Obviously, these kids are too stupid to be bad." The men pleaded guilty and will be tried later this summer.

LAKE POWELL

Racing the waters now swiftly rising behind Glen Canyon Dam, in early June, a salvage operation found 57 boats resting in the depths of Lake Powell or on newly exposed sandstone ledges. Salvage operator James Cross told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was astounded by the number of boats that had been deliberately sunk, judging from the holes drilled in their bottoms. In some cases, he said, "people were going too fast and hit a mountaintop. Another boat appeared to have sunk when a 4-ton rock landed on it. What happened to those people?" Cross said a submerged aircraft could be seen underwater, and he estimates there "may be as many as 100 sunken craft littering the lake." Cross’ work was hurried, as the reservoir was rising at a rate of up to two feet a day. But before he was through, his boat, the Charity Eden, had the joy of rescuing an exhausted but determined dog that had gone overboard from a houseboat the day before. The dog, Rosie, was paddling madly a half-mile from shore when picked up. It was so tired, Cross said, it just leaned against him as if to say thanks.

NEW MEXICO

Speaking of thanks, a retired 67-year-old furniture salesman just sent $5,000 to the town of Las Cruces, N.M., because a policeman was kind to him 47 years ago. Robert Garrett told the Albuquerque Journal that when he was 19, he and a friend went "bumming" across the country, only to end up in Las Cruces, dead broke. But instead of busting them for vagrancy, a young cop — whom Garrett remembers as a "real little guy" — spent $3 out of his own pocket to put the teenagers up in a hotel. "I’m not wealthy, but I had enough," Garrett said. "I was going to leave it in my will (to Las Cruces), and I thought ‘Why wait until I’m dead?’ " Police officers now working for the town have yet to figure out who that generous officer was in 1958.

ALASKA

Talk about surprises: Ketchikan, Alaska, homeowner Jean Stack was recently startled by a crash in her living room, according to the AP. She wondered at first if someone had thrown something through her window. Then she heard her neighbor, Kurt Haskin, yelling from his deck, and he told her what had happened. Haskin had been watching several eagles fighting in a nearby tree, when one of them swooped into the air and slammed into Stack’s living room window. Haskin described the eagle as flying so fast that it "just grenaded that window." The eagle promptly flew back out again, leaving its dinner behind: a headless 2-foot salmon carcass. As for Stack, she had some serious cleaning up to do: There was glass "from one end of the room to the other," the AP says, and "feathers about eight feet into the room." The fish carcass also had to be removed from the dog’s bed.

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.

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