Heard around the West
Fourteen intrepid ranch women of Big Timber, Mont., ranging in age from 45 to 77, posed semi-dressed for a 2006 calendar called "I See By Your Outfit." The women don’t take it all off, though sometimes their chaps lack jeans underneath; they mostly tease by standing in front of strategically placed hay bales or fences, insisting that their aim is to be "tastefully naughty." The point of it all is to raise money for the creation of a new arts center in tiny Big Timber. Shirle Norquist, creator of Wild Woman Productions, came up with the calendar notion, and she roped in feisty cowgirl poet Gwen Petersen, along with other locals. The result combines the Old West with the new women, as the color photos show them moving cattle, feeding lambs, hanging up the washing and raising glasses in a bar. The calendar is $19.95 from Riverbend Publishing, P.O. Box 5833, Big Timber, MT 59011, or call toll-free, 866-787-2363.
Jeff Thompson, a seasonal trail crew worker for the Forest Service, was cleaning out illegal campsites at 11,000 feet in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness near Leadville, Colo., when things got dicey: Mountain lions showed up at his tent site, and it was clear they thought of him as prey. On July 22, he filed an understated report to his superiors about the close encounter, and that report has been making the rounds of some agency offices ever since. Thompson is adamant that he tried to do everything right, hanging his food and cooking dinner far from his tent. Nonetheless, when strange noises interrupted his reading sometime after 6 p.m., he looked outside his tent to see a lion staring at him, just 10 feet away. "Once I stood up, I saw three more mountain lions, one to my left and two to my right, behind a couple of trees about 30 feet away." Thompson snatched his sleeping bag and raised it to make himself appear bigger; he also banged his shovel on a rock. That sent two lions sauntering off, but the one closest "ran at me and grabbed my sleeping bag out of my hand." Thompson hit the lion with the shovel, and it scurried away to join the other big cats. Thompson quickly decided to leave everything behind and flee, "when three of the lions came bounding down the hill to follow me." Thompson made noise to try to scare them off and also radioed his partner for help. When he lost sight of the lions for a few minutes, he says, he broke into a run for the trailhead, finally reaching his truck as the light faded. He ends his report as calmly as he began: "I called dispatch, told them I was safe and proceeded to the office." Whew.
The Central Valley of California is regulating everything it can think of to clean up the area’s dirty air, targeting cars, trucks and cow burps. Now, it’s prepared to lower the boom on more than 100 wineries in the San Joaquin Valley, says the Napa Valley Register. Wineries allow ethanol in wine to escape as a gas during fermentation, and this adds to the ozone problems in the valley. Still unregulated, according to The New York Times, are the diesel-powered trains and container ships moving through the Port of Los Angeles.
A clown with violent tendencies has been nabbed: At the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert last year, a man dressed as a clown attacked Dennis Hinkamp of Logan, Utah, and stole his bike to boot. Hinkamp was seriously hurt and had to have two plates implanted in his arm (HCN, 11/8/04: Heard Around the West). It took months, but student nurse Johnny Goodman was found to be the perpetrator after some of Hinkamp’s friends traced him through the Internet to a group called Anarchoclowns, reports The Associated Press. Goodman apologized, saying "I did a horrible thing and I should pay for it. I don’t know what came over me. I’m really not a psycho …"
Two years ago, the farming town of Big Sandy in north-central Montana suffered 10-foot drifts of tumbleweeds that blocked the streets. This summer it’s toads, thousands of quarter-sized toads, clogging the roads, getting run over and making driving in town "a little sticky," reports AP. "At times, you just about can’t take a step," says a local. The amphibians are apparently migrating from east to west, says the head of the volunteer fire department, and they should get where they’re going soon.
Durango’s high school class of 1965 reunited recently, where they compared beer bellies and bifocals, says the Durango Herald. What was new? One graduate said the southern Colorado town had been changed so much by growth that it felt like somebody had stolen the place, while another, Durango local Charles Siegele, noticed, "All these people look so old."
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.