Heard Around the West

by Lisa Jones And Diane Sylvain

Movies about Nevada's casino life always seem to revolve around gangsters, call girls and stool pigeons. In a shocking reversal of that trend, pigeon stools brought down the marquee of the Golden Spike Casino in Carson City this month.





"We are concerned about it," casino co-owner Jim Bawden told the Reno Gazette-Journal in an article sent in by helpful reader Patrick Williams. A crushing load of pigeon droppings caused part of the casino's marquee to collapse onto a heavily traveled sidewalk. No one was hurt, and workers plan to shore up other parts of the marquee bowing under the weight of what the Journal described as "years of pigeon poop."


Bawden and co-owner John Serpa optimistically continue to search for new tenants for the building, which has stood empty for 11 years and is considered by many one of Carson City's worst eyesores.





"We're open to any suggestions," said Bawden.





Also standing empty, for the first time writer Jim Stiles can remember, was Arches National Park in Utah. Back when he was a ranger, Stiles fantasized about finding true solitude there. In November he realized his long-time dream, thanks to the shutdown of the federal government. Stiles crossed a barricade to enter the park's 70,000 forbidden acres. Then he romped past the Devil's Kitchen, took a nap on the empty highway near Balanced Rock, photographed himself in front of a "road closed" sign, and generally tried to get arrested. But nothing happened. "I couldn't find a ranger anywhere," he wrote in the Canyon Country Zephyr. "In fact, I concluded it's almost as hard to find a ranger when the park is closed as it is when the park is open."





What Arches lacked in park rangers, the surrounding county made up for with game wardens - or people claiming to be game wardens. Grand County Councilman John Maynard recently pleaded guilty to impersonating a warden during the fall archery hunt. The eagle-eyed councilman scolded three hunters sitting in a pickup truck with their arrows out of their quivers. From his perch in a nearby tree, he informed them what they were doing was illegal and told them he was a game warden. Suspicious, they drove up the road to a truck they thought was Maynard's and looked back to see the councilman "sneaking around on his belly." Maynard later told the Salt Lake Tribune that he had no intention of deceiving the men. "I was just upset."





In another masquerade, the newly Republican Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell lashed out at a "vile, sophomoric and sexist" attack on him during a Democratic dinner in La Plata County. To the delight of the assembled Democrats, a female impersonator in a Harley Davidson cap mocked the party-switching, motorcycle-riding senator, proclaiming, "I am having an identity crisis."


Afterwards, the senator fumed that the "gross personification of me, "proudly displaying false breasts' as the Durango Herald reported, is horribly crude and demeaning to women."


Jennifer Kessner of Crested Butte, a Democrat, questions Campbell's feminist credentials. In a letter to the Herald, she described an event held at the annual Ironhorse Motorcycle Rally, which the senator sponsors. The event, called the "weenie pull," involves hot dogs, motorcycles and women. We'll leave the details to our readers' imaginations.





Are your imaginations warm? Then you may be able to conceive of Idaho's militia movement cozying up to state legislators to talk politics, give money, and perhaps discuss the relative merits of cowboy boots and jackboots. Samuel Sherman and friends want to form a Political Action Committee. This is the same Samuel Sherman who was quoted in the Boise Weekly as saying, "Go up and look legislators in the face, because someday you may have to blow it off." Some legislators are understandably lukewarm at the prospect of getting together over coffee, or anything, for a chat.





In other news from Idaho, Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth blasted grizzly bear reintroduction in a column in the Washington Times. Chenoweth, always good for a fresh viewpoint on ecology, wrote that reintroduction might bar people from 5,500 square miles in Idaho and Montana.





"To minimize conflict between man and the grizzly, vehicle travel, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing or any other kind of human activity will likely be restricted, if not eliminated," she wrote.


Ted Koch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demurred. "That is completely false," he told the Idaho Statesman. "All you need to recover grizzly bears is not to kill them."





In an apparent attempt to minimize conflict between man and the cow, a herd of seven Herefords from Alberta lumbered away from a Canadian customs checkpoint into the hinterlands of northern Idaho last summer. Frustrated, their owner gave up the search in November, declaring open season on the renegades. The efforts of local hunters to bag a bovine were equally fruitless. It took a pair of visiting New Yorkers who were hunting deer to find six of the cattle on Harvey Mountain, north of Bonners Ferry.





"I couldn't believe what we were seeing," Greg Niewieroski of Watertown, NY, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. "We looked at each other and said, "Holy cow!" "


Then they each dropped a 1,500-pound cow, New York style - with a shot to the head.





The thought of large moving objects disappearing into thin air naturally leads us to Denver International Airport. This month's tragicomic episode highlights traffic control.





"You've never lived until you've got 10 or 15 airplanes pointed at each other at 400 miles per hour, and the screen goes blank," Michael Coulter, president of the Denver chapter of the air traffic controllers union, told The Denver Post. Radar systems at the new airport broke down on 135 out of 181 possible days, according to tower logs obtained by the Post. Among the failures: Airplanes taxiing on the ground disappeared from sight, while weather tracking screens sounded alarms that couldn't be shut off or flashed a big red X that obscured all other information. Perhaps the four Herefords, thought to be at large in Idaho, are actually somewhere on DIA's runways, being mistaken for 727s.








" Lisa Jones and Diane Sylvain





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


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