Heard around the West

  • "Lox 'em up, Joe."

    JOHN REDDING
 

NEW MEXICO

Once arranged in a ring just like England’s ancient Stonehenge, 100 refrigerators are no longer standing in Santa Fe. Strong winds toppled much of the 80-foot-high, graffiti-covered structure, reports the Associated Press, and the rest was dismantled on May 30. “Fridgehenge,” or “Stonefridge,” as it was dubbed, morphed into a cult phenomenon that drew tourists over its nearly 10-year existence. But what did it mean exactly? City spokeswoman Laura Banish said it “started out as a statement about American consumerism and waste, and then it sort of became waste itself.” Adam Horowitz, its creator, said that right from the beginning, bureaucrats debated the message of the piled-up refrigerators, asking: “ ‘Is it art or is it garbage?’ And I’d say, ‘Yes, that’s the point.’ ”

MONTANA

Hutterites, a patriarchal Christian sect of some 5,000 people, allow no dancing, televisions or cars, but members do like to cross the border to Canada to see family members or sell wheat. For that, these days, they need passports. Thanks to the Great Falls post office, “passport fairs” have been held at some 18 Hutterite colonies, and they’ve been so efficient, reports the Great Falls Tribune, that at one stop, 44 passports were processed in 90 minutes. A downside, perhaps, was the excellent food. The Hutterites grow everything they eat, and they were eager to treat postal employees to kitchen tours that featured fresh-baked rolls and chicken pot pie. Said Postal Service worker Jacque Stingley, “We’ve been eating like kings and queens. I’m sure I gained five pounds.”

COLORADO

Eight-year-old Bryan Moore was all set to take his first plane trip when he was red-flagged at the airport in Cortez, Colo. “The lady just bowed her head and said, ‘We can’t get you on the plane, you’re a terrorist,’ ” the soon-to-be third-grader told MyFoxKansasCity, adding that he didn’t think it was fair to bump him from flying for a day “because another man in the world was a terrorist.” Surprisingly, the Transportation Security Administration agreed. No child is supposed to be on the no-fly watch list, said a spokesman. If a kid’s name matches that of somebody on it, it’s up to the airline to make the “necessary changes” and let the child board. Unfortunately, by the time Great Lakes Airlines cleared things up, Bryan’s plane had already left, and he had to wait another day before he could fly home.

COLORADO

Some 200 people celebrated the rerouting of 110-car coal trains around the town of Delta, in western Colorado, by taking nostalgic rides on a vintage 1950s passenger train, reports the Mountain Valley News. Then came the irony: As the train rocketed past fields of corn along a highway, passengers heard talks about safety at railroad crossings. But when folks looked out the window, they spotted a slew of railroad buffs chasing the train with cameras and taking risks like no tomorrow. “My God, there that guy is again,” exclaimed a woman on the train, “and look, he’s driving while shooting video.”

CALIFORNIA

What smells like sweaty feet, has tiny yellow flowers, and is so exciting a find that aficionados around the country are planning trips to Yosemite National Park to see it? It’s the only orchid known to be endemic to the Sierra Nevada range. Alison Colwell, a botanist with the U.S. Geological Survey, spotted the rare plant, which is found only between 6,000 and 9,000 feet, after getting a whiff of the Yosemite bog orchid’s pungent smell. “Eew, what’s that?” she asked herself, then tracked the plant to a wet meadow, one of nine sites for the orchid. Park officials didn’t release details about the location, however, “because they were concerned visitors might love it to death,” according to the Seattle Times.

WASHINGTON

Fifty-seven participants in the Seattle Naked Bike Ride, an event held annually since 2003 to protest pollution, streaked through the city’s parks recently, their bodies painted in bright colors. Their presence was a cheery sight, according to one bystander. But not everyone agreed. After several people complained, police arrested three of the bare bikers — a big change from their usual stance of taking a blind eye, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Here’s the rub: Under Washington law, you can be naked in public as long as nobody is offended. But once someone complains, you’re in trouble. “This is what happens when there’s a communication failure,” said organizer Daniel Johnson. But bare biking will return, he says, next July.

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.