Heard around the West
by Betsy Marston
COLORADO The sex-change
doctor who created an unusual kind of economic development for the
former coal-mining town of Trinidad, Colo.
, died last
month at the age of 82. Stanley Biber began operating on men who
wanted to be women in 1969, and over a 34-year span, according to
an obituary in the New York Times
"movie stars, judges, mayors — everything." His patients
included three brothers who became sisters, and a man who became a
woman and later married a gynecologist who, Biber believed, never
knew his wife was a transsexual. Biber practiced general medicine
for 15 years before pioneering his operation on a local man, a
social worker who’d been living as a woman. To perform his
first sex-change surgery, Biber said, he had to work from a set of
hand-drawn diagrams he obtained from the Johns Hopkins University
Hospital. Word spread after that, and soon Trinidad became known as
"the sex-change capital of the world." The patients and their
families boosted the local economy, although at first, Biber had
some work to do convincing locals that treating "gender dysphoria,"
the feeling of being trapped in a body of the wrong sex, was a
legitimate medical activity. It probably helped that Biber, a
5-foot-3-inch-tall MASH unit surgeon during the Korean War, fit
right into rural life. He was elected a county commissioner, owned
a ranch and participated in cattle drives. It is estimated that
over the years he performed 4,000 sex-change operations. His work
continues today in Trinidad under the supervision of Dr. Marci
Bowers, a woman who, until a few years ago, was a man.
OREGON Can too much rain make you
Judging by The
contest asking people to create a new
state motto to replace the current — and sappy —
"Oregon: She Flies With Her Own Wings," the answer is a resounding
"yes." Finalists included "Oregon: If You Lived Here, You Could
Have Killed Yourself by Now," "Oregon: If She Had Wings She’d
Fly South for the Winter," and "Oregon: Where Lewis and Clark
Discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder." Drum roll please: The
second-place winner for a new state motto was John Baur’s
"Oregon: No, You’re Saying It Wrong." First place went to
Randy Yearout’s "If the Rain Don’t Kill You, You Can Do
It Yourself." Thanks to reader Val Rapp for sharing the news.
CALIFORNIA Sometimes, a
news story blows up: Readers express outrage, and editors struggle
to explain what they’d been thinking.
recently in San Luis Obispo, Calif., to editor Jim Mullin after his
alternative paper, New Times
, published a lead
story headlined, "Meth Made Easy." It wasn’t just that the
paper told how easy it was to find the ingredients for making the
addictive drug; it also printed a recipe. As Mullin explained in
the next issue of the weekly, "The outcry, the condemnations, the
threats that followed have left us humbled and distressed."
Hundreds of letters, phone calls and e-mails flooded his office, he
said. Some read the story as condoning and even promoting the drug.
Others expected more attention paid to the ugly consequences of
meth addiction. One reader noted that "the only person she (writer
Alice Moss) interviewed was someone who claimed to be a
‘recreational user.’ Let me tell you, he won’t be
one for long. This is the illusion of that drug … It turns
the nicest people into complete monsters." Another reader mockingly
said, "I whipped up a little meth according to your instructions.
I’ve gotten smarter, breathtakingly laid, horribly emaciated,
dentally challenged, somewhat paranoid, brutally arrested, unfairly
convicted, partially rehabilitated, and saved by Jesus. Thank you,
Dan-I-Forgot-My-Last-Name." Clearly taken aback, Mullin said he
continued to hope that a dialogue would lead to greater
understanding. Mullin resigned from his post at the paper Feb. 18.
NEVADA Three cheers for two
companies that have selected southern Nevada to be the site of "the
largest solar energy project of its kind in the world."
The Associated Press says Las Vegas-based Powered by Renewables
Corp. and a Baltimore firm plan this year to build an 18-megawatt
photovoltaic plant to sell power to the military. The facility
would cost $115 million and be bigger than what is now the
world’s largest, a 10-megawatt photovoltaic plant in Germany.
WASHINGTON Those hand-held
Global Positioning Systems don’t just help hikers or hunters
find their way out of the backcountry.
In Spokane, a few
minutes after a bank was robbed, police stopped the getaway van and
went right to a bag stuffed with $37,920 in cash. They were helped
by the GPS device "that bank workers had tucked inside," reports
AP. The amazed bank robber commented, "You guys are good!"
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
© High Country News