"Going to the prom does not mean that you have to have sex," Terrie Guthrie of Campbell County, Wyoming's Planned Approach to Community Health coalition, pointed out to the Associated Press. The group was alarmed to learn that the teen birthrate goes from an average of three per month to about 10 in January - nine months after the senior prom.
The town of Delta, Colo., apparently noticed the same phenomenon. So it scheduled Abstinence Week for May 5-11. One guest speaker told the county's hormone-riddled youth that "old-style, "safe sex'-oriented education ... has failed miserably'; another exhorted teens to "walk the sexual freedom road, free of STPs (sexually transmitted pains of the heart, mind and soul)," and a doctor who has done "wide scientific research on how to tell real love from romance and sex attraction" presented 14 science-based "key clues' to help choose a love worthy of marriage. He cited known scientific facts as to the effects of premarital sex on marriage, 10 of which are negative.
Meanwhile, in Utah, the birthrate is booming. The average Utah woman has 2.7 children, compared with a national average of 2.0. The Mormon-dominated state is the country's most fertile. The reason - you guessed it - abstinence on prom night.
"As long as people have to maintain chastity outside of marriage, they marry sooner and have children sooner," Marie Cornwall, professor of sociology at Brigham Young University told The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah's birthrate was twice the national average from 1977 to 1982. The high rate was Utah's response to the Equal Rights Amendment, joked Cornwall. "But I can't prove it." She predicted that once the state's business boom slows, economic pressures will lead to smaller families. "They still have to educate them, put braces on their teeth and send them on missions."
Sex aside, the West is heating up from south to north as spring turns to summer. Westerners are perhaps at their hottest and most irritable in New Mexico. A lumberyard there recently asked its customers to leave their guns at the door, annoying some:
"Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Company here in Silver City, and I'm sure elsewhere, is sporting a new sign in the front window. The sign states that handguns are not permitted on the premises," groused Robert P. Anderson, in a letter to the editor of the Hatch County (N.M.) Courier. "I informed the manager that he had just lost my patronage because of the sign." He noted that employees of Blockbuster Video Stores are similarly prohibited from wearing guns.
Heat is merely addling tourists in Utah. Readers Ray and Susan Gronwall heard from a ranger in Utah's Arches National Park that a large motorhome pulled into a scenic viewing area and a man got out to take videos. When a little boy came running out of the vehicle, the man shooed him back inside and said he could see the vista on the video when he got home.
And in the cooler climes of Wyoming, a pair of British advertising executives stopped in Dubois to get some money from an automatic teller machine during a cross-country road trip. The machine wouldn't cough up the cash, but a complete stranger offered them money so they could get a motel room for the night.
Stunned by the act of trust and kindness, the couple - Paul Cryer and Suki Walkden-Harvey - stayed in Dubois for a few days, then a few weeks, and are now planning to stay a few years: Cryer just became the director of the Headwaters Community Arts and Conference Center, reports The Dubois Frontier.
In South Dakota, tenderness even extends to livestock science. "Cows seem to get along with humans who are confident, consistent, emotionally stable, independent and low on aggression," says a study by South Dakota State University assistant professor Mike Brouk, reports the Rapid City Journal.
* Lisa Jones
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