Heard around the West

 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may be in terminal decline, but its spirit lives on over at the Federal Highway Administration. The FHA recently rebuilt Highway 9, from Murray, Idaho, to Thompson Falls, Mont., and the new road is so high and so water-resistant that during wet periods it backs water into Murray, population 63, as well as anything BuRec ever built.

When the town complained, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported, an agency engineer told residents to move their houses and shops to higher ground. Later the agency softened, and told the town to hire an engineer. Residents couldn't afford an engineer, but they did hire a lawyer. Just in case their lawsuit isn't heard before the next rains, they have bulldozers standing by. Lloyd Roath, who runs the Sprag Pole Bar, says: "If it means taking out that road, we'll do it. We're not risking our homes anymore."

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How can salmon be endangered when you can buy them in cans in supermarkets? asks Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth. But millions of shoppers, seeing the same tins of salmon, reached an opposite conclusion: They decided that the food industry would shoot, can and sell the last bald eagle if someone were willing to buy it. So they've stopped buying salmon, according to the Wall Street Journal, and Alaska, where salmon are plentiful, is hurting. To help their state, Alaska's free-enterprise, anti-handout senators, Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens, pressured the Department of Agriculture to buy $14 million in surplus salmon for school lunches.

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Rats are famous for abandoning sinking ships, but six of Robert Dorton's pets stuck with him through two days of concussion grenades and tear gas canisters. Dorton was holed up in his Billings, Mont., motel room to keep police from confiscating his rats as health menaces. Although the rats didn't abandon Dorton, they did save themselves by climbing up on a cupboard when police flooded the room to dislodge Dorton. The rats are being cared for by a veterinarian while Dorton is in a psychiatric ward, the Billings Gazette reported.

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Everyone knows small towns are populated by innocents. So when District Attorney Frank Daniels in Grand Junction, Colo., presented a murder case, he worried about shocking the courtroom. He warned the jurors, the Daily Sentinel reported, that "they would visit a world they wouldn't know about, wouldn't like and would wish didn't exist." This nether world included a witness who said she earned enough through prostitution to support her and her boyfriend's $1,000-a-day drug habit. A little arithmetic shows that she had scores of clients a week. But the DA didn't ask where all the johns came from. We assume, from Daniels' concern about the jurors' delicacy, that none of the clients came from Grand Junction itself. Perhaps they visited from Denver and Salt Lake City, just five and six hours away, respectively.

It's a bigger mystery than the murder.

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Reader John Rosapepe writes that biologists who have been prowling the hills above Washington's Methow Valley in a fruitless search for wolves are looking in the wrong place. They should visit the local food store, where a clerk told a tourist: "Yeah, they're here. They've been harassing cattle and llamas and now they are even into stalking cross-country skiers. It's all because they are protected under that damn Endangered Species Act."

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The Alliance for the Wild Rockies is your typical grassroots environmental group: always short of money. Now, according to the Alliance's Networker, the drought is over. It seems that Rep. Charles Taylor of North Carolina, during debate on the salvage logger rider, promised to personally pay $1,000 for each salvage logging sale that contained live, green, healthy trees. That may have been a big boo-boo. The alliance just sent Taylor a bill for $350,000, for 350 salvage sales in the northern Rockies that it says contain live trees. The group wants its money quick so it can investigate other sales and earn thousands more.

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In urban areas, each religious group generally has a cemetery. But small towns have trouble filling up even one cemetery, so ecumenism is usually a necessity. The mining boom town of Tin Cup, in western Colorado, came up with a middle way in the late 19th century, establishing one cemetery with four separate knolls: one each for Catholics, Jews, Protestants and the "Godless," according to the Colorado Central Magazine. The cemetery has long since become overgrown and the grave markers have eroded, but Eleanor Perry Harrington, author of I Remember Tin Cup, and June Shaputis, author of Where the Bodies Are, have located approximately 90 graves. The cemetery has been fenced against cattle grazing, and restoration work has been done on the Protestant and Catholic knolls, Harrington writes, but the other two knolls are still in disrepair.


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 editor@hcn.org.