Heard around the West

by Betsy Marston

UTAH

Lake Powell, now at just 52 percent of capacity, might as well be called The Incredible Shrinking Reservoir: Its twice-extended boat launch at Bullfrog "resembles a tilted airport runway — a concrete slab more than a quarter-mile long," reports The Associated Press. Multiple bathtub rings are visible everywhere along the shore, and when the deeper channels get crowded, as they did on the Fourth of July, small boats are apt to topple in the wakes of bigger ones. Yet the drought that began in 1999 brings benefits, says interpretive ranger Terry Bell, who works for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: "Scenery-wise, it’s better, and you have more beaches for camping." Rich Ingebretsen of the Glen Canyon Institute, which wants to un-dam the Colorado River, also sees a bright side: The reservoir has begun to drain itself. "You can only store surplus water," he points out, "and there’s no surplus water."

NEW MEXICO

Weekly papers in the West’s rural towns used to feature "Doings with Dotsie"-type columns, confiding who motored where to shop or eat dinner, which lanky kid just won the state track meet, and the really fine news that a quarter-inch of rain has just fallen. Today, if you pick up a copy of the weekly Lincoln County News, published in Carrizozo, N.M., you can still read an old-style gossipy column about the tiny Corona area. The news-gatherer and writer is 98-year-old Geraldine Perkins, who is blind, almost deaf and recuperating from a stroke. For more than three decades, reports the Albuquerque Journal, she has worked the phones to relay the minutiae of her community. She’ll feature the woman who got thrown off an all-terrain vehicle by a butting cow, thus landing her name on the "hurting list," and she’ll pass on the fascinating tidbit that "a big bull snake, with head held high, fully five feet in length, was going down the road Friday …" Perkins, who had hoped to be a surgeon, was studying pre-med when an eye disease abruptly changed her plans. After teaching public school for a while — an occupation, she jokes, that made her turn to drugs — she became one of the state’s first female pharmacists, in 1929. Perkins started writing her column in the 1970s, and now dictates it to her 65-year-old daughter, Sherrill Bradford, who types it into a computer. Bradford often tries to persuade her mother to change a word or add a comma, but rarely wins a point. Has Perkins ever run a correction? Her indignant answer: "You mean, did I ever say somebody killed somebody and they didn’t?" As for the question she asks everyone, it hasn’t changed: "What do you know?"

NEVADA

A bear cub with a he-man appetite and no concern about cholesterol amazed some 30 people in a parking lot on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. The animal climbed into the front seat of a 1964 Buick convertible, opened a cooler in order to dig out (and swill down) a vodka and tonic, a beer and a Jack Daniel’s mixer, and then scarfed down a pizza topped with barbecued chicken and jalapeño — all the while leaning against the car’s blaring horn. "People were screaming at him, the horn was going off, but he was completely unaware," resident Jerry Patterson told the AP. At times, the bear put his paws up on the dashboard as if ready to go for a ride. But 20 minutes later, after his messy meal was consumed, the bear jumped out of the vintage car and loped off.

WYOMING

Denver Post columnist Rich Tosches bemoans the many tourists to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming who arrive clueless about wildlife. Last year, the drivers of motor homes and cars ran over 130 elk, bison and deer. "Australians might throw a shrimp on the barbie," Tosches quips, "but in these parts, a lot of people throw a large mammal on the grille."

IDAHO

A 12-foot-long Burmese python failed to distinguish an electric blanket from a rabbit and so devoured both in Ketchum, Idaho, reports The New York Times. The snake’s owner said the blanket was used to keep the 60-pound snake warm; unfortunately, the blanket became entangled with the python’s dinner. Two doctors made a foot-and-a-half incision in the snake to extricate not only the queen-size blanket, but also its control box and plug. The python was expected to live to eat another rabbit.

OREGON

When a handsome patrolman comes to your door — even if only to check on a complaint from neighbors that you’re too noisy — you have to take action to bring that "cutie pie" deputy back, right? Wrong, if you call 911 to do so. The 45-year-old woman who just wanted "the cutest cop I’ve ever seen" to pay her another visit was arrested in Aloha, Ore., on charges of misusing the emergency dispatch system, reports AP.

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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