"While 200 students studied quietly at their desks, Johnny Jones threw principal Bob Smith out of his fourth-floor office window."
A similar lead out of Steamboat Springs, Colo., in early August might have read:
"While 20,000 tourists, including members of 72 in-line hockey teams and 110 softball teams, enjoyed themselves in this four-season resort high in the Rocky Mountains, 400 members of the Hells Angels brawled, took over the town and blocked police from entering a motel where two men had been shot. The police were allowed in after all the evidence had been removed."
Kim Vacariu, who edits the Steamboat Springs Review, says the invasion of the bikers didn't bother him much: "That great big toothless guy who physically blocked me from delivering newspapers to the Iron Horse Motel lobby seemed nice enough." But Vacariu worries what the town's boosters will do next, since their track record is, well, poor: "Not only do we bring in groups that don't spend money, we bring in groups packing concealed weapons." And the boosters in this town, Vacariu fears, may feel under pressure to do more boosting, what with the Vail ski area gobbling up the resorts of Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone, giving it the clout to dominate Western skiing.
In Aspen, Andy Stone, who edits the Aspen Times, expresses the same fear: "Suddenly "Vail" is six mountains ... two more mountains than Aspen" and roughly four times more skiers.
"Now they (Aspen's economic gurus) will tell us we need to expand the airport to handle not 737s, but 747s ... Now we need to bulldoze those little lodges and build a dozen new Ritz-Carlton hotels."
Stone suggests that Aspen doesn't really have to grow. "We need to keep in mind that all we really need is our fair share ... just enough of a mouthful to keep us healthy and happy."
Militia members worried about the loss of personal freedom may want to check out Casper, Wyo., as a refuge. During that town's rodeo parade, a 33-year-old woman ran naked down the street with the words "Social Security sucks' printed on her back. She wasn't totally naked. Streaker Kitten L. Reynolds told the Casper Star-Tribune after her eight-block trek that she was wearing white lace socks: "I got some class." Because her streak was a protest, Police Lt. Jack Watters told the paper, she was in little danger of being arrested.
For years, the Forest Service's Smokey Bear has begged smokers and campers to crush out cigarettes and drown campfires. Recently, Smokey went beyond begging. The federal government wants two campers to pay $8.5 million to cover the cost of an April fire that burned part of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico and threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory. The two plaintiffs are unemployed, and one of their attorneys asked: "Why is my government spending my tax dollars in such an absurd way?"
Had the Dome Fire in the Santa Fe National Forest burned down the Los Alamos lab, it might have saved officials there some embarrassment. The atomic facility revealed in August that someone had walked off with 15 signed, framed prints, each 11'2 by 2 feet in size, by photographer Ansel Adams. The prints, worth $48,000, had been in a closet during a renovation of the closely guarded lab.
Trish Winslow of Gunnison, Colo., claims that she heard the bartender on the Durango/Silverton narrow-gauge railroad in Colorado ask: "Why did the Anasazis build their houses so far from the highway?" And retired geography professor John M. Crowley of Missoula, Mont., swears that the following is true:
"While I was going through Canadian customs at Coutts, Alberta, the officer told us about an American couple that came through in a VW with skis on top and asked: "How far is it to the Arctic Circle? We want to go skiing before nightfall." "
The lieutenant governor of New Mexico is the man who reviews "volumes of information" on wolves. He then transmits these volumes to the governor, who uses them to oppose the reintroduction of wolves to New Mexico.
So when Albuquerque schoolchildren wrote to Gov. Gary Johnson to say that wolves are cute and cuddly and should be roaming free, Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley composed the governor's reply:
"We have a lot of wolves in New Mexico that live in the wild. Most of them are in mountain areas ... In fact, if you ever see a wolf in the wild, please tell your mom and stay away from it."
In fact, if any of the kids who got the letter see a wolf in the wild, they should tell their mom to get them new glasses. Biologists say no wild wolves remain in New Mexico. Bradley admitted to the Albuquereque Journal that he may have exaggerated. "But I am not convinced that we don't have one single wolf in New Mexico."
What do planners from small towns in the West do for fun? At the opening reception of the Western Planners Conference in Idaho Falls recently, they had to get the signature of someone who had never been to Yellowstone, did not lose power during the July and August blackouts, and who knew someone named Nolan or Rollan. These were easy. The hard part in a roomful of planners from small towns was finding someone who had never had a Freeman or militia member speak out at some of their public meetings.
Among the prizes: hot CDs with titles like 1992 Census of Agriculture, Geographic Series B, U.S. Summary and County Level Data, and gift certificates - but only from small town merchants. Strip-mall merchants were not welcome.
* Ed Marston
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