Heard Around the West
by Betsy Marston
What you surely don’t need when you show up for work is two men walking into your office carrying a goat. Then one says cheerily: “Congratulations, you’ve been goated!” True, the goat is a mini-breed, no bigger than a dog, but it does poop (one goat-handler totes a handy pooper-scooper) and it is, after all, a barnyard animal that’s making itself at home in your office. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: “Goat Insurance” is available from the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho for only $20, thus ensuring that a goat will never come calling. Or, if you prefer, you can rent the little goat for $20 and send it on its way to a good friend in some other office, who no doubt will readily pay $20 to keep said goat in motion. “We’ve only done this for the last two years,” says Red Cross staffer Neal Abbott, “but last month we doubled the money raised for disaster relief to $4,000.” This time, the Red Cross sent four teams armed with goats around the towns of Lewiston and Moscow, Idaho, for seven hours, “going everywhere from law firms and police to funeral homes and elementary schools,” Abbott explains. Everybody had fun, he adds, and nobody except the kids wanted to keep a goat for long.
Twenty-eight years ago, a handful of vegetable and alfalfa growers in Twisp and Mount Vernon, Wash., decided to forgo dousing their land or crops with anything artificial; their approach, they said, would be “organic.” What they began on a small scale was then so new and odd, says Capital Press, that most people didn’t consider it farming. Instead, they called it “gardening.” David Granatstein, one of those early organic growers, is now the sustainable agriculture specialist for Washington State University. He recalls that as far as mainstream farmers were concerned, “we were completely wacko.” How times change. A recent report compiled by Granatstein reveals that in Washington, organics are undergoing spectacular growth, both in acreage, which has jumped 70 percent since 2002 to 64,325 acres, as well as in the number of organic farms — 554, plus 26 more in transition to organic. What’s even better: Organic milk, apples and vegetables are commanding high prices in a burgeoning market. But success has its downside: The Associated Press says that organic milk producers can’t find enough organic hay and alfalfa for their cows, and that demand is growing 20 percent per year.
Outdoor writer Jim Zumbo really messed up when he posted a hostile blog entry about the increasingly popular matte black semiautomatic guns. He called the AR-15s “terrorist rifles” and said they ought to be banned from hunting. The result: Zumbo was “terminated,” as he told the New York Times, from the magazine he worked for, Outdoor Life, and his cable TV show lost sponsors and went off the air. But Zumbo was game to learn more about the lethal-looking assault weapons, so he accepted an invitation from rocker and gun-lover Ted Nugent to visit him in Waco, Texas. Nugent owns dozens of the weapons and insists there’s nobody “who doesn’t have two in his truck.” Zumbo found that the assault rifle was certainly versatile: It can be easily accessorized by adding a grenade launcher, flash suppressor, pistol grip, detachable magazine and bayonet mount, among other expensive military doodads. “Chastened” by the outcry over his blog posting, Zumbo says he came away from his time with Nugent believing that, like it or not, “black rifles are now mainstream.”
Let’s hope the gun owners stay calm: The small town of Olathe, in western Colorado, sports its share of rusting vehicles and other junk, which spurred community-minded people to propose a town-wide cleanup. Lots of people supported the idea, convenience store owner Pam Bernhardt told the Montrose Daily Press. “But then you have the other half that are the ones that need to be cleaned up that are one step away from bearing guns to their backyard.”
News releases go forth into the void, and politicians often wish they didn’t. After Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, R, introduced a resolution designating Sept. 25 as National First Responder Appreciation Day, someone on his staff sent out a press release explaining his motivation: “First responders in Colorado have recently provided critical services in the face of blizzards and tornados. Since I don’t think first responders have really done anything significant in comparison to their counterparts who have dealt with real natural disasters, I have no idea what to say here.” In a quasi-apology sent out later, Allard said, “Please pardon my typo.”
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.