Jim Peacock, president of the Utah Petroleum Association, was apparently kidnapped on his way to a meeting with state officials in September. An impostor was sent on in his place. It is the only way to explain why the head of Utah's free-market petroleum industry, in free-market Utah, would be asking the state for welfare payments with this argument:
"It's a shame to leave crude in the ground simply because it's not profitable to lift it out of the ground," he was quoted in the Sept. 29 Salt Lake Tribune. To get the unprofitable crude out of the ground, Peacock is asking the state for tax and royalty breaks.
What a devilishly clever plot to make Utah's oil industry look as if it didn't understand the nature of capitalism and free markets. We hope the kidnapping is solved soon, and that Mr. Peacock is reunited with his family and with his association.
Pat and Mike Boring of Espanola, N.M., write us about a 1,000-pound moose with a yen to see the Land of Enchantment. Somehow, he bulled his way south out of Colorado and showed up one September day near Taos.
The moose probably expected a warm welcome; instead, he got a hot one. State Game and Fish officers, after some vigorous eye rubbing and back-and-forth "Do you see what I see," peppered him with tranquilizing darts. Most bounced off the bull's tough hide. Eventually, he fell into a deep sleep and was shipped back to Colorado.
To J.D. Arnold of Santa Fe, the deportation smacks of hypocrisy. He wrote to the Albuquerque Journal that practically no one is indigenous to New Mexico, especially the Game and Fish Department. "As a community created by many migrants - historical and contemporary - surely we can welcome one wandering moose." Taking up the cause of the "90s, J.D. wrote: "More moose! Fewer Bureaucrats."
Although the moose got the headlines, this decade has been dominated by migrating Californians. And though they are non-natives, no one dares sedate them for shipment back home.
But even without help from game and fish departments, the migratory patterns of Californius mobilius may be changing. A heart-broken Roger Reinhardt, who runs the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver, told AP, "We no longer have that huge influx of Californians in the market."
Not huge, but still an influx. In the first half of 1994, 16,000 persons traded in California driver's licenses for Colorado licenses. In the first six months of 1995, a mere 13,000 Californians traded licenses.
Why the drop? The Sept. 20 Los Angeles Times suggests that people flow downhill as well as uphill toward jobs. And California is producing jobs faster than the nation for the first time since 1980. The job trend, combined with another recent first for California - affordable housing - may be pulling some people out of the pricey intermountain West.
And then there are the non-economic factors. Californians fleeing earthquakes, floods, fires, Gov. Pete Wilson and multiculturalism may be finding that the land to their east has peculiarities of its own. Take last issue's real estate tip about the log cabin near Roundup, Mont., that the IRS was practically giving away. The only tiny problem was a sort of lien: the heavily armed former owner and his heavily armed friends remained aggressively in residence.
By the time you were reading that note, the Freemen had abandoned the cabin and moved by armed convoy, shadowed by wary police, to a new stronghold near Jordan, Mont.
This is the sort of thing that could give some Californians pause. And they may not be comforted by Garfield County attorney Nick Murnion, who told the Billings Gazette plaintively, "When you have a group like this that doesn't believe they have to follow any laws, it gets to be a real big problem."
People who think it is the federal government and not the Freemen who are out of control will find support in the Sept. 27 issue of Westword, a Denver weekly. Writer Steve Jackson describes, kilo-dollar by kilo-dollar, how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the General Services Administration spent more than $250,000 trying to decide if a bunch of rocks in a field near Boulder, Colo., is a sacred medicine wheel. The money went for site visits by archaeologists and Indian tribes as well as engineering studies and the like.
The money-is-no-object approach comes from the feds' desire to build a $54 million, 240,000-square-foot building for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Sewer lines and an access road would skewer the Rock Feature. Despite the $250,000 - Jackson had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get the numbers - the government still doesn't know if the Rock Feature is a medicine wheel.
Some decisions have been made. Clair Green of the U.S. General Services Administration has decided that those who think the Rock Feature is sacred, and who also happen to oppose the NOAA building, are "anti-growth, left-wing radicals and new agers."
Even as parts of the West spin off into worlds of their own, previous backwaters are being snagged by "progress." In a triumphant news release, the National Park Service announces that, after "nearly a century of marginal to nonexistent communications," Natural Bridges National Monument will now have commercial telephone service.
Heard Around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or HCNVIRO@aol.com