Heard around the West
OREGON Joseph, Ore.,
population 1,100, doesn’t often get rowdy, so local
police quickly followed up on a complaint June 9, regarding some
noisy teens. A youth group had apparently massed on the sidewalk in
front of their church, where they practiced singing. Here’s
the sweet denouement, as reported by the town policeman in the
Wallowa County Chieftain: "Went by and they
sounded pretty good; no action taken."
ARIZONA The housing market in
suburban Phoenix is so competitive that developers are
creating farms and pseudo-towns as amenities, reports the
Arizona Republic. Santa Cruz Ranch in Pinal
County, for example, bills itself as a "John Wayne-style
development" because its fire station will look like a barn and
some homes will back up against a working farm. The big draw, the
paper reports, is a community of a thousand or so homes that
resembles a real town with real activities, such as "flag football
games and fund-raisers."
The more Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer insists
he’s not interested in being the Democratic candidate for
president, the more the press asks him if he’s running.
"These people are kooky," Schweitzer says of pundits who say
he’s the "best shot to take back the White House." What does
Schweitzer do right? Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic
National Committee, says Schweitzer, 49, is "no-nonsense,"
understands fiscal concerns and has figured out how to win
elections in the conservative West. His stands are a mix of "yes"
on abortion rights and "no" on gun control and gay marriage,
reports The Associated Press. Surprisingly, he chose a Republican
as his lieutenant governor. Perhaps his most endearing trait:
Schweitzer brings his border collie, Jag, to work.
WYOMING Connie Sasser of Casper,
Wyo., knew that her area was zoned light industrial, but
she wasn’t prepared for the huge new neighbor looming over
her house — an 80-foot-tall imitation oil rig that has "more
property rights than I do." Would-be roughnecks use it to learn
what it’s like to live and work on an oil rig. The men are
usually polite, she told the AP; they sometimes stop operations at
noon on Saturdays so she can use her deck. But, she asks, "What
about my right to privacy? This is insane."
ARIZONA Congratulations to Teddy
Draper Sr., the World War II Navajo Code Talker who
received a Purple Heart from the U.S. government this May. Three
hundred well-wishers attended the ceremony at Window Rock, Ariz.,
where Draper, 83, "at long last received the award reserved only
for soldiers whose blood is shed at the hand of an enemy," reports
the Navajo-Hopi Observer. A former Marine,
Draper told the crowd it had taken him "appeal after appeal" over
58 years to receive his medal. Code Talkers such as Draper were
invaluable during the war because they could transmit secret
information in a language the enemy found incomprehensible.
NORTH DAKOTA Computer
analyst Dan McKay recently won the coveted trophy for
purple prose bestowed each year by San Jose State University. Its
model for the first line of a bad novel comes from Edward
Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 book, Paul Clifford,
which begins: "It was a dark and stormy night … ," a sentence
that continues for another 49 words. In manly style, McKay wrote:
"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual
Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly
functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the
intake manifold, aching for experienced hands ..." Well, you get
the gist. McKay won $250 for satisfying the judges’ search
for "writers with a little talent but no taste."
COLORADO Arvada West senior David
McSwane wondered just how far today’s Army
recruiters would go to reel in a teenaged soldier. So the honor
student posed as a potential recruit who just happened to be a pot
smoker and high school dropout. "No problem," said the recruiter.
"I’ll just give you this detox stuff, and we’ll
basically beat the drug test." McSwane then deliberately flunked
the GED, the high school graduate equivalency exam. No problem,
once again: The recruiter "told me how to create a fake diploma to
get in the Army." McSwane told the Rocky Mountain
Bullhorn in Fort Collins that he decided to expose
increasingly pushy Army recruiters because their actions affect the
lives of so many young people. He doesn’t blame the
recruiters themselves; as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal showed, he
said, the Army "lets the little guy take the fall." McSwane, whose
adventures made national news in May, will major in journalism when
he enters Colorado State University this fall.
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