COLORADO

Directors, take note: Don't even think about staging a play in Colorado if it features a character with a nicotine habit. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals recently ruled that smoking indoors anywhere in the state enjoys no protection under the First Amendment - and that includes puffing away on a cigarette with a filler that mimics tobacco, such as cloves or other herbs. This is apparently the toughest anti-smoking ban in the nation, reports The New York Times, and three theater owners in Denver say they plan to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, one way to fake lighting up on stage has already been invented. Last year in Denver, an actor with the Curious Theater Company put a cigarette in his mouth, "wagged a finger at the audience," then waved around a jar of dry ice marked "simulated smoke."

 

OREGON

Two thieves who didn't even know their victim played a really rotten trick on a southern Oregon man, reports The Associated Press and kgw.com. In order to cover up a previous theft they'd committed, the rotters put ads on the Craigslist Web site saying that everything at Robert Salisbury's home was absolutely free for the taking, including his horse. Salisbury, an independent contractor, was away when the ads appeared, and when he got home to Jacksonville, Ore., "he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch." What was worse, even when Salisbury explained that the ads were a hoax, people didn't believe him and refused to give anything back, waving Craigslist printouts under his nose. Only a woman who'd come for his 32-year-old horse smelled something fishy; she left a note on his door questioning the giveaway. Some people have since returned the stuff they took, and police are still contacting people who were seen carting off Salisbury's possessions. Detectives traced computer files to Amber Herbert, 28, and Brandon Herbert, 29, who were booked on burglary, theft and computer crime charges. "Meanwhile, Salisbury could not even relax on his porch swing - someone took it."

 

THE WEST AND NEW YORK

Somewhere on the steamy streets of New York City this August, a quarter-acre of wheat will wave in the sun, compliments of the Wheat Foods Council, a national nonprofit based in Parker, Colo. The council hopes the strange sight will entice media, though free samples of baked goods made from wheat and other grains might also engage the press and passersby. The 10,890 square-foot mini-farm of hard red spring wheat won't come cheap: Promoters expect to spend up to $300,000 for their three-day visit to the Big Apple, according to the Capital Press. They might also want police protection. As commodity prices soar, "grain thieves" have been robbing farmers' storage silos. A bushel of spring wheat, which has historically traded between $3 and $7, spiked as high as $24 in recent weeks.

 

COLORADO

Two attorneys spent several hours March 19 arguing over whether a 91-year-old man was healthy enough to stand trial for attempting to rape a nurse at a nursing home in Palisade in western Colorado. The lawyers could have saved their breath. The defendant, a registered sex offender, was not only dead; he'd been cremated almost a month earlier. When informed of this fatal twist in the legal proceeding, Pete Hautzinger, the district attorney for Mesa County, told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, "That's a relief for public safety." Later, the DA apologized for his quip.

 

MONTANA

Maybe the best way to deal with the federal government is to just say "no" and call its bluff. That's what Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer did after the Department of Homeland Security ordered every state to comply with its Real ID Act. There was a risk: Starting May 11, Montanans with unapproved driver's licenses might have been turned away at airports by federal security agents. But as Schweitzer, D, told the Billings Gazette, "We didn't blink, we didn't buckle, and they (Homeland Security) said OK. We gave up about nothing." True, his state had already beefed up its driver's licenses to make them resistant to forgers, but Montana's attorney general didn't even bother to ask for an extension of the May 11 deadline. The state Legislature has been equally defiant. It said the state would never comply with the Real ID law, blasting it last year as "costly, unnecessary, potentially violating privacy rights and a violation of states' rights." A Homeland Security spokesman defused the standoff by saying that a letter from Montana officials about its more secure driver's licenses sufficed as a request for an extension. Now, Montana has until Dec. 31, 2009, to satisfy the still-vague requirements for tamper-proof driver's licenses - or not.


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.