Heard around the West
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently visited a factory that makes luxury recreational vehicles, those behemoths that look like city buses and sport monikers like Inspire, Allure and Intrigue. In a press release, Country Coach Inc. president Jay Howard said he was pleased with the secretary’s support for his company’s high-end mobile homes, and added that Kempthorne told him it was his aim to balance "accessibility with the purity of our national park experience." Country Coaches feature diesel engines, bodies that expand sideways to add rooms, lengths of up to 45 feet and price tags that easily top $1 million. Kempthorne said his favorite was the 2007 Allure with the 42-foot floor plan.
A bachelor farmer or rancher working in the Central Valley of California area surely needs Hollywood’s help in finding a wife, right? That’s what the producers of American Idol assume, so they’re creating a reality TV show called The Farmer Wants a Wife. The program pairs each of six eligible farmers with three city girls "who are fed up with the Los Angeles dating scene," reports the Bakersfield Californian. After a few days together — perhaps feeding the hogs or irrigating the fields — the farmer gets to pick the gal he likes best. But will rural guys really jump at playing the television game? Richard Jelmini, president of the Kern County Farm Bureau, doubts it: "The people doing the farming are very conservative type of individuals who don’t do that type of thing." Another farmer from the region suggested the TV producers might have better luck with sheepherders.
At the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, marriage is the last thing on anybody’s mind. "There is no T-shirt too obscene, no tent-side solicitation too crude," reports the Denver Post. Booze, nudity and deafening music are de rigueur, or as one camper put it, "People are laid-back and just looking for some fun. … I’ve seen many, many, many breasts."
Pity the poor camper who hears a call of nature during the night but doesn’t look where he is peeing. Jerry Mersereau, 23, fell 20 to 30 feet off a cliff in Mount Hood National Forest while searching for "a place to relieve himself," reports The Weekmagazine. Now, he is suing the U.S. government for failing to anticipate that the cliff was dangerous; he’s also asking for compensation for his "mental anguish."
The agricultural work ethic is alive and well in Washington state, especially when the crop is marijuana: "We’re struck by the amount of work (illegal growers) put into it," said Rich Wiley, head of the state patrol’s narcotics program, in the agricultural weekly Capital Press. "They often run individual drip lines to each plant and are out there fertilizing them." Most of the camouflaged pot farms were in eastern Washington on national forest or state-owned land, and many went undetected this year. The Air National Guard, which spots many illegal pot plants from above, has been diverted to fighting in Iraq.
Meanwhile, on the slopes of a canyon within the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, a woman intent on scattering her mother’s ashes walked into what might be the largest marijuana farm ever found in the state, reports the Arizona Republic. The growers weren’t around when police found more than 30,000 plants, some nine feet tall, that were watered by a sophisticated irrigation system. This is the sixth "marijuana garden" shut down in Arizona this year; in 2005, busts yielded 220,000 pounds of pot with a street value of some $110 million.
If you’re defending a man accused of kidnapping, maybe you should come to court on time instead of 90 minutes late, speak clearly rather than slur your words, and perhaps it would behoove you to leave behind your companion, described by the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a "young woman wearing a black halter top and tight pants." But attorney Joseph Caramagno made all of those mistakes, annoying Judge Michelle Leavitt so much that she ordered Caramagno to take a Breathalyzer test right in the middle of the courtroom. The disheveled-looking attorney passed — barely. His blood alcohol level was .075 in a state where the legal limit for driving is .08 percent. The judge declared a mistrial.
A big bird with a bad grip caused 2,000 people in Las Cruces to lose power for an hour. According to The Associated Press, the bird — probably a hawk — dropped a bull snake onto an electrical power line, instantly shorting it out. No word on the snake’s condition.
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.