It's not unusual to find strange items along road shoulders, but David Shiffler's discovery along a New Mexico road last October deserves special mention. While taking a pee break, the 3-year-old toddler decided to do a little excavation with his yellow Tonka backhoe. According to The Denver Post, he came back to the car with a one-inch-square fragment, which he claimed was a dinosaur egg. "Yeah, right," replied his dad, who forgot about it until a lecture at a local museum sparked his curiosity. Sure enough, David was right, and as it turns out, it's also the oldest dinosaur egg ever found in New Mexico - an incredibly rare, Jurassic-era find dating back 150 million years.
When paleontologist Spencer Lucas asked David
how he knew it was a dinosaur egg, he looked up momentarily from
his backhoe work. "I just knew it," he
New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is wishing his state highway workers
were as alert as little David. He recently cracked this joke on a
morning radio talk show: "Q: What's big and orange and sleeps four?
A: A state highway department dump truck." Johnson's remark drew an
angry fax from the State Highway Department: "We do not find this
humorous," read the fax. "We take pride in our department and in
our jobs. We are tired of the governor constantly demeaning state
employees," reported the Albuquerque Journal. Johnson's office
backpedaled with another wisecrack: "Q: What is round and brown and
sleeps 26? A: The governor's office."
is a highway project in New Mexico to make the governor proud.
Since the state installed lights along Highway 666 four years ago,
accidents have decreased by 30 percent, reports Indian Country
Today. The credit mostly goes to Nancy Bill, a Navajo employed by
the Indian Health Services. Because virtually all the people killed
along the notoriously dangerous "devil's highway" were drunk
Indians walking between Gallup and the reservation, state and
federal officials had dismissed the deaths as an incurable social
problem. Nancy Bill saw real people behind the statistics and knew
something could be done; she badgered federal, state, Navajo and
local agencies until the lights went on.
that Highway 666 has a better safety record, perhaps another road
can claim the nickname "devil's highway." Washington state sports a
few ripe candidates: Some road beds made of shredded tires are
bursting into flames and oozing oil, according to the Associated
Press. Scientists say they're not sure exactly what's happening to
the submerged tires, but it seems that pressure, water and microbes
are breaking them down much the way vegetables decay in a compost
pile. It also seems to be a matter of thickness; the worst cases
have happened where tires are piled more than 20-feet deep. A
solution may be at hand: Dana Humphrey, a civil-engineering
professor who encouraged the use of the recycled tires, says,
"They're going to go in and take the part that's burning out."
nickname is meant to attract travelers, not scare them away: Nevada
state muckety-mucks recently christened Highway 375 the
"Extraterrestrial Highway," and now signs are up featuring two
spaceships. The highway borders a top secret Air Force range where
the government is rumored to store alien spacecraft. "Trust me when
I tell you there are weird things in the sky here," a local radio
show host told an Albuquerque Journal reporter. "It's an
appropriate name." As hoped, some 1,000 tourists and reporters
stopped in at the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nev., during the April
18 dedication ceremony, to buy plastic alien statues and to talk
about strange stuff in the sky.
there's this classic highway story from Jim Fletcher, an HCN
subscriber from Nebraska. Some years ago, Fletcher tells us, his
friend "T-Bone" was stuck behind a battered pickup truck on a
Montana highway. When he finally reached a place where he could
pass, the truck made a sharp left down a gravel road without even
the hint of a signal. T-Bone blasted his horn and made the old man
stop. "Use your turn signal next time," he yelled. The Montanan
responded: "Sonny, I've turned at that spot for 83 years, everybody
knows I turn there."
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