In the TV studio, the faces of the journalists questioning the four Republican would-be candidates for Idaho governor sometimes registered dismay, other times wonder. They simply could not believe what they were hearing, when Walt Bayes declared his "main loyalty" was to God and against vile affections and wickedness, when motorcyclist Harley Brown boasted that he had a "master's degree in raising hell," when international businessman Russ Fulcher said that what Idaho needed most was "more access to natural resources," or when incumbent Gov. Butch Otter declared his intention to keep battling same-sex marriage "all the way to the Supreme Court." But it was Brown, in black leather cap and vest, and Bayes, whose white beard descended to his chest, who stole the show, steering what could have been a formulaic Q and A into unexpected and sometimes wacky territory. Describing fellow bikers and himself as "cop magnets," Brown differed from his three opponents by supporting the right of gays to marry, identifying them as fellow sufferers of discrimination. But then Brown revealed his true purpose, admitting that the governor's race was merely "a stepping stone to the White House (and) I need practice, practice. I don't want to say stuff like, 'Sorry if our bombing caused you any inconvenience.' " Displaying slightly less ambition, the Bible-quoting Bayes frequently denounced abortion and talked about going to jail for homeschooling his 16 children, five of whom became rodeo cowboys. He also criticized the Republican Party for degenerating into "half Democratic Party members and the other half is Communists." As the program trailed to an end, Brown tried to help voters: "You have your choice, folks – a cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker, or a normal guy." It was Gov. Otter, perhaps the normal guy, who insisted that Idaho public television include all the Republican candidates in the race for governor. But even though it went viral on YouTube, the four-man show probably did little to boost the state's image.
OREGON AND THE WEST
Persistence, strong legs and a lot of luck paid off recently for a wolf called OR7. The wolf became famous in wildlife biology circles after leaving his pack in northeastern Oregon in September 2011 in search of a mate. OR7 roamed for thousands of miles, and now, thanks to a remote camera in southwest Oregon's Cascade Mountains, we know that he finally found what he was looking for – a bright-eyed, coal-black female. OR7's GPS collar places him in the same vicinity, and "it's likely the pair spawned pups," reports The Associated Press. OR7 is remarkable not only for the distance he traveled, but also for the incredible dangers he dodged, from getting shot or run over by a vehicle to simply starving to death.
The University of North Dakota was among the first colleges in the West to offer degrees in drones, more formally called unmanned aerial systems, and now Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, has added a drone class to its aviation program. Finding a textbook for the class, though, seemed almost impossible until recently, says aviation professor Scott Wilson, who's helping train pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration has also been slow to deal with the phenomenon, delaying drone regulations until 2015, reports the Billings Gazette. The rules so far remain basic: Don't fly drones above 400 feet, avoid conflicts with other aircraft, and stay at least five miles away from airports. Wilson says job opportunities for drone operators are numerous, ranging from crop dusting, search and rescue operations, police work and all kinds of photography. Within the next five years, Wilson predicts, "there will be 10,000 (drone) operators," with jobs paying as much as $100,000 a year. Drones, however, can be intrusive, as "wildlife paparazzi" in Zion National Park recently buzzed a group of bighorn sheep from on high, scattering lambs from their mothers and generally causing chaos, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Zion Superintendent Jim Milestone says that drone operators may not intend to harm wildlife, but the little planes have become a form of harassment, with about four incidents occurring every week. At Zion these days, staffers especially worry about unmanned planes bothering a condor couple that appear to be caretaking an egg. If so, it's a big deal: Condors usually lay only one egg every two years. Drones are illegal within all national parks; if parks decide to crack down, which so far they seem loath to do, drone operators risk a fine of $5,000 and six months' imprisonment.
Welcome, Diesel, a baby boy born recently in a Walmart parking lot in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was the store's first birth, reports the Billings Gazette, and certainly unexpected: Mom Alesia Medeiros said Diesel arrived six weeks early, missing the presence of his dad, Chris Senff, who was working in the oilfield.
Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.