Heard Around the West
Spring really is around the corner, says longtime "Far Afield" columnist Bert Raynes in the Jackson Hole News&Guide. With keen eyes, he's observed some of the season's earliest manifestations: "Coyotes in pairs and in groups ... Ravens in mock pursuits. Bald eagles carrying nest materials, horned and great gray owls calling, dippers in noisy, erratic flight. ..." Not to mention "bikes on highways and on roof racks ... really ugly heaps of plowed-up snow" and what Haynes calls "traditional" potholes: "Potholes with a history of decades." Is there anyone who hasn't bounced into and out of potholes during this long and fierce winter?
Orange County recently showed Los Angeles how to turn sewage into drinking water, and the county did it without making everybody blurt out "yuck." About a decade ago, Los Angeles spent $55 million building its own sewage reclamation plant, then closed it down after the public expressed repugnance to drinking water that had gone from "toilet-to-tap." Orange County's approach was to lay on the marketing, wooing and perhaps wowing the public with information provided at neighborhood pizza parties, tours of its new plant and hundreds of public meetings. People learned that the water-reclaiming plant was a marvel of engineering, employing pressurized micro-filters, hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light to remove bacteria, viruses, carcinogens, hormones, chemicals, heavy metals, fertilizers, pesticides, and dissolved pharmaceuticals, reports the Los Angeles Times. In fact, the treated water resembles distilled water, and it's so pure that lime has to be added to keep it from eroding pipes. But the water won't be for drinking right away; it will be "banked" by pumping it into the county's huge underground aquifer. This will help keep saltwater from intruding and build a freshwater reserve for the future, when supplies from the Colorado River and the delta are expected to dwindle. The $490 million plant should help "drought-proof" the region, said a water district manager. Though the extensively treated wastewater isn't cheap at $550 per acre-foot, it's not much more expensive than piping in fresh water, which has to travel all the way from Northern California.
State legislators say the most outrageous things, and sometimes still manage to sway their colleagues' opinion, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City Democrat David Litvack hoped to convince the House that victims of dating violence, age 18 or living on their own, need the legal right to get restraining orders. But his bill died, in part because Kanab Republican Mike Noel insisted that the tried-and-true vigilante way works better: "Usually, the father handles it first, then there is a posse that goes out and takes care of the rest of it as we drag them across the sagebrush." Then there was the debate about funding seven high schools for International Baccalaureate programs, which prepare students for college through rigorous courses. The Utah House passed the funding bill unanimously, but a Senate committee nixed it, in part, because Orem Republican Margaret Dayton said the courses "promote the U.N. agenda" and are "anti-American." Supporters were stunned by the rejection: "If there is any emphasis on this program in internationalism, it is saying we're all human beings," said a high school baccalaureate coordinator.
Orion magazine asked some of the nonprofit leaders in its 1,200-plus Grassroots Network how they cope with success or failure, and how they blow off steam, among other queries. Julianna Forbes, cofounder of Mothers Acting Up in Boulder, Colo., said her team fights stress by running "victory laps around the office table." She also gave a surprising answer to a question about one surprising thing she'd learned on the job: "Earnestness," Forbes said, "can be counterproductive."
Boulder is back in the news, and this time the brouhaha is over a pink-dyed poodle named Cici. The Humane Society got police to ticket Cici's owner, Joy Douglas, for violating a city code prohibiting "Dyeing fowl and rabbits," though the last anyone looked a poodle is neither fowl nor rabbit. Douglas, owner of Zing Salon, explained that she tints Cici with Kool-Aid or beet juice to support breast-cancer awareness; she vows to fight the ticket in court to keep her pet candy-colored. Online comments to the Boulder Daily Camera about this latest media-licious story came fast and furious, though one said, "Please people, for the love of God, stop making up new and interesting ways to make our wonderful city look like a bunch of idiots..."
A 29-year-old man who totaled his car by driving it into a light pole had only a minimal amount of alcohol in his blood, police reported. Yet when asked what happened, the driver answered with one word: "Pterodactyl." No word on whether the pterodactyl failed its blood test. As the Wenatchee World notes, pterodactyls were giant winged reptiles that lived some 65 million years ago.
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.