Opening day at the Crow Fair, an accidental Wild West show and a moose miracle

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • TIJUANA The day the border got erased: Artist Ana Teresa Fernández painted a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence sky blue, making it appear as if part of the wall came down, creating a portal between the countries.

    Ana Teresa Fernández
 

WYOMING
There’s nothing like a rootin’-tootin’
Old West-style gunfight in the street to get your heart pumping; you can root for the good cowboys, cheer on the dance-hall sweetie (secretly an armed Pinkerton detective), and jeer at the bullies who get plugged full of lead. This happens six nights a week during the summer in Cody, Wyoming, but better not stand too close. At a recent Friday night showdown, three tourists, a raft and the front of a business were all gouged by real, ricocheting fragments of bullets, fired from a Civil War-era gun. No one was seriously injured, though a Minnesota man and his 3-year-old daughter were treated at the hospital and released, and a 22-year-old New Yorker was assisted at the scene. Just for comparison, Cody Enterprise reporter Lew Freedman went to Jackson, Wyoming, to watch the tourist gunfight that’s been held there for 60 years. The shots fired in Jackson were truly blanks, no spectators or rafts were harmed, and the best joke involved a guy named Lanky Lou, so smitten with a bar girl named Cheyenne Rose that he asked: “Can I have your telegraph number?” Meanwhile, the Cody sachems are investigating what happened and deciding how to bulletproof their gunfighters’ show, which always erupts outside the historic Irma Hotel, Buffalo Bill’s old hangout. At the very whisper of discontinuing the event, supporters made their opinions known to the Cody Enterprise. Said one reader, calling himself Fox River: “Some liberals or effeminate weaklings will start a protest and we will no longer have the gunfight. Also the rodeo will be replaced by a vegan tofu bar and Reiki therapy center.” But ’taint nuthin to worry about, ma’am, as Lanky Lou might say: The gunfight and rodeo are venerable Cody institutions and likely to remain so.

WYOMING
Speaking of roadside excitement,
game warden Todd Graham got a call about an unusual traffic jam near Alpine, Wyoming, south of Grand Teton National Park: A moose was giving birth to her calf right in the middle of a gravel road. “The calf was still very shaky and unable to walk,” Graham said. “If a vehicle came within about 50 yards, the cow would pin her ears back and charge.” So everyone waited — six vehicles on one side of the blessed event, two trucks on the other — and after an hour and a half, with wobbly steps, the calf was able to totter after its mother into a willow patch. There, Graham said, he was surprised to hear the newborn “open up with chirps and whistles.” Two days later, reports Wyoming Wildlife, the pair had vanished into the wild.

THE WEST
In a first for the nation, nine budless marijuana
plants were displayed at the Oregon State Fair in Salem. The exhibit brings pot cultivation into the agricultural mainstream less than two years after Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana, reports the Associated Press. The plants, all judged winners in their categories — sativa, indica and hybrid — were housed in a translucent tent, and no one under 21 was allowed entry. And in another first for the nation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “wind turbine technician” is now the fastest-growing profession, with job opportunities expected to double by 2024, reports the Union of Concerned Scientists.

MONTANA
It was a thrilling sight, and we were privileged
to see it: Nearly a thousand Native Americans, all wearing traditional costumes decorated with beads, feathers, elk teeth and bells, slowly circled an outdoor arena to the steady beat of six enormous drums. It took the dancers more than an hour to enter the moving circle, where hundreds of spectators stood to honor the American flag, held by a woman wearing a war bonnet, and flanked by Native American war veterans. This was the “Grand Entry” at the annual Crow Fair at Hardin, Montana, a four-day event first held in 1904. Nowadays, this get-together, complete with rodeo and various dance, singing and drumming contests, bills itself as the largest outdoor powwow in the United States, and visitors approaching it are liable to see hundreds of teepees erected on the banks of the Little Bighorn River. Not far from the Crow Fair, there’s a very different tourist attraction, and we wish we’d had a day to explore it — the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, where, in 1876, George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry made their disastrous last stand.

COLORADO
Bill Knapp, a resident of Carbondale,
has done Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump the dubious favor of drafting his future concession speech. Speaking for Trump in a letter to the Post Independent, he begins, “I congratulate myself for pulling off the most elaborate con of all time. …You seriously thought I wanted to be president? America, you are all a bunch of fools! For starters, I could not take the pay cut.” 

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write betsym@hcn.org or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.