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for people who care about the West

Handbook to ranching; pizza-loving bears; high hopes for medical marijuana

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

It’s hard not to wax rhapsodic about the poet and essayist Linda M. Hasselstrom, whose 17th book, Dakota: Bones, Grass and Sky, was published this year. Her mostly short poems are frank yet lyrical, and their subjects range from the appearance of her own aging body to reprising the worth of an old cow found frozen stiff on the range. Nothing about her life — which, to an outsider, seems close to a never-ending slog — is sentimentalized. In an essay about learning ranching from her father, she said he told her that a life spent working the land imposed stark choices. For example, he said she could watch all the barn kittens freeze to death in the harsh South Dakota winter, or she could take responsibility. A feminist and a conservationist, Hasselstrom made her choice. Here’s the end of her poem, “Spring”:

It’s spring;

Time to kill the kittens.

Their mewing blends with the meadowlark song.

I tried drowning them once;

It was slow, painful.

Now I bash each with a wrench,

Once, hard.

Each death makes a dull sound,

Going deep in the ground

Without

Reverberations.

The poem “Handbook to Ranching,” which is dedicated to her father, offers more of his spare approach to raising cattle: “Don’t spend any money,” “Don’t get caught in a storm,” “Get the calves fed and watered before noon,” “Never call a veterinarian if you can avoid it,” and finally, a warning: “You can never tell what a bobtail cow will do.”

UTAH

In an announcement sprinkled with puns, 83-year-old Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said it was “high time” to back medical-marijuana research. And because Washington is so much at war with itself, he had “high hopes” that his bipartisan bill could be a “kumbaya moment for both parties.” Hatch’s bill has support from Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons as well as Republican Sens. Cory Gardner, Colo., and Thom Tillis, N.C., reports the Huffington Post. Hatch spoke about a friend in Utah with seizures who must take 17 pills a day. Marijuana could “significantly help my friend,” Hatch said, “and help him lead a regular life.”

THE WEST

Flying a small, single-engine plane, Todd Rudberg had just touched down at Nehalem Bay State Park in Oregon near the Pacific Coast, when an obstacle came into view: It was an elk running in front of his still-moving plane. According to the Oregon State Police, Rudberg could not avoid hitting the animal. To add to the pilot’s landing difficulties, another elk appeared and ran into the plane’s left wing. The collision spun the plane around until it stopped, totaled, although Rudberg and his passenger were unharmed. Both elk were killed, but the police report ends on a positive note, since wildlife officials were able to salvage “a large quantity of elk meat.”

And in Estes Park, Colorado, a video cam at Antonio’s Real New York Pizza caught a bear and two cubs looking very much at home in the night kitchen, reports the Denver Post. After ripping a window out of a wall, the bears moved to the refrigerator, opened the door, and began eating pizza dough. They followed that feast with plates of salami and a visit to a trash can. The next day, the restaurant’s owners had a surprising message for wildlife officers: “If bears break into our stores, please don’t shoot them. Every dumpster in town is now bear-proof. … I believe it would have been much better to have left the old dumpster tops in place because they wouldn’t become desperate enough to break into houses or businesses.”

THE WEST

Caroline Slater, a retired California professor who worked for decades in multicultural education, made news recently by acting to right a historic wrong. She gave $250,000 to the Ute Indian Tribe in Utah in an attempt to compensate for land belonging to the tribe near Craig, Colorado, that was stolen by white settlers in 1881. After the Utes were forced at gunpoint to move to Utah, some of the land they’d occupied in Colorado ended up in the hands of Slater’s great grandparents. The property was sold decades later, reports The Associated Press, with the profit going to Slater and her siblings. Now, Slater’s check will help pay for construction of a new tribal high school.

THE NATION

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has what you might call an interesting view of history, as reported in the Washington Times. When asked on Fox News whether Confederate-era monuments should be removed, he said that none should be destroyed: “Since we don’t put up statues of Jesus, everyone is going to fall morally short. I think reflecting on our history, both good and bad, is a powerful statement and part of our DNA.”

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