Congregational minister Glover Wagner of Bozeman, Mont., recently reported on his drive home from Madison, Wis.:
"I walked into an interstate cafe somewhere in North Dakota," he wrote in the pamphlet he regularly distributes to his congregation. "Next to me on the stool sat a toothless man banging on the counter. I couldn't tell what he was angry about, but he was doing his morning ritual to a silent local. 'If you have two fish in the stream, I think I should get one.' Was he talking about taxes or health costs or gas prices? Who knows? I descended into my eggs, while behind me sat a farmer screaming about some needless cat scan for his wife ...' "
Had Reverend Wagner looped south, he could have enjoyed different, but no less eccentric, listening fare. KSLT, a Rapid City, S.D., radio station that recently came into Christian ownership, has not simply limited its offerings to songs with a religious theme. It has limited itself to a single song - Amazing Grace, which General Manager Don Lambert considers the most popular Christian song of all time. "How sweet the sound," he told the Rapid City Journal. "We were blind to have missed the potential before, but now we see it."
But the Dakotas can't lay sole claim to interesting summer activity. For example, if Wagner had overshot Montana, he could have visited Utah State University, where researchers have discovered why some sheep express the "beautiful buttocks' gene and others don't. This is not merely of aesthetic importance: Sheep with the gene produce lambs with less fat and up to 30 percent more meat in their buttocks. Utah State researchers have discovered the callipyge gene (the word is Greek for beautiful buttocks, but researchers pronounce it the French way, calleh-peej) is inherited only from the father, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
In Bozeman, Mont., the American Fisheries Society met to solve its problem: The general public doesn't particularly like fish.
"Look at Barney (a dinosaur with its own TV show for kids)," symposium organizer Robert Wiltshire told the Idaho Falls Post-Register. "We don't have a Barney the fish." The assembled scientists wanted to figure out how to popularize fish, and, in turn, make people more excited about conserving fish habitat. So they brought in Ray Troll of Ketchikan, Alaska, the crooner of such fish-focused rap songs as "There's no nookie like chinookie', mastermind of the "Spawn Til You Die" and "Fish Worship ... Is It Wrong?" T-shirts, and co-author of the man-evolved-from-fish book Planet Ocean, which hammers home the point that our species' evolutionary roots are deep in the water, not in the air, like those of the over-celebrated dinosaur.
Phoenix, Ariz., isn't only unfathomably hot: people there arguably drive more erratically than they do even on the Montanabahn. Municipal Judge David Phares shared with the Arizona Republic some of the best excuses for speeding he's heard so far: A pilot just back from a long trip smashed into another car on the freeway there, but he did try to avoid the collision. "He said, "I pulled back on the wheel and expected fully to go right over him." "
But Phares' favorite involved a woman who was in a rear-end crash. Asked whether she'd taken defensive driving, she answered she had. In fact, she was driving home from the class when she plowed into the car ahead of her.
In Fort Duchesne, Idaho, ranchers Terry and Gwen Sherman swear their property is being frequented by UFOs. The Shermans and their children report seeing three kinds of craft in the last 15 months - a small, boxlike object about 8 feet long, a 40-foot-long variety and a ship the size of several football fields. Terry said he once heard male voices speaking an unfamiliar language. The voices seemed to be about 25 feet above him, but he couldn't see a thing. Local UFO expert Joseph "Junior" Hicks told the Idaho Falls Post-Register, "I think primarily it's research and exploration."
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