At a pizzeria in Telluride, we recently overheard a couple of shopping-bag laden tourists discuss their vacation. "It's like Switzerland," one sighed happily, "only cheaper."


But Colorado is not Switzerland, despite the best efforts of Telluride and Vail. The chocolate here is not nearly as good; our passenger train system is just about nonexistent, and we are not particularly efficient. In fact, the state seems to be in the midst of an epidemic of inefficiency.


In Walden, the Jackson County Star reported, and the New Yorker repeated, "What was reported as possible vandalism west of Walden turned out, upon investigation, to be a matter of shoddy workmanship."


We called the Star to get the details, but no one answered the phone for a long time. Then the answering machine asked us to leave a message, or leave a fax - if it were a Monday or Tuesday. It was Thursday, so we didn't.











Then we received a press release from the Mrs. Colorado - America Pageant, which announced that the search is on for a Mrs. Paonia. This is impressive thoroughness on their part - Paonia lies five hours from Denver and has about 600 women in it. Mrs. Paonia would advance to the state pageant to be held in Denver next June. But the qualifications are daunting: Interested applicants must be married, have lived in the state for six months, be at least 18 and "must live and work in the city limits of Denver."











Grand Junction, Colo., Police Chief Darold Sloan has announced his retirement following his arrest in nearby Ridgway for drunk driving. His blood-alcohol level was measured at .183 percent, well above the .10 level considered legally drunk. The 49-year-old will collect a standard city retirement benefits package, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Then there's the aptly named assistant state veterinarian Dr. John Maulsby. The Colorado Department of Agriculture said he will receive additional training after he tried to euthanize an elk calf suspected of carrying tuberculosis by breaking its neck.











The rest of the West isn't doing so well, either. In Montana, for example, there is some debate over whether carcinogens actually cause cancer.


Doctors - fuddy-duddies that they are - think they do: "Common sense tells us that preventing the flow of cancer-causing substances into Montana water is beneficial," Dr. Dale Vermillion of Billings told the Helena Independent Record. "Toxins and carcinogens discharged in mine pollution can have detrimental health effects for ourselves and our children and they should be kept out of our water."


Vermillion, along with some 150 of his medical peers, endorsed a water quality initiative that would put tighter controls on the quality of water coming out of Montana's hard rock mines. This, of course, raised the ire of the mining industry and its friends.


"I don't know what the number in Montana is for physicians, but 150 obviously is a minority," said Tom Daubert, a spokesman for initiative opponents. "I don't question their intentions, but I question their qualifications and the validity of the analysis they did before reaching a conclusion."











What Jim DuPont does is go to a Wal-Mart or Safeway in Idaho or Wyoming and buy, at retail, enough cases of Pepsi and Coke to fill his Toyota pickup. Then he drives home to Jackson, Wyo., and sells the Pepsi and Coke at wholesale to the airport, hospital and other places with vending machines. It's the American way: buying low and selling high. But not according to the Coke and Pepsi bottlers in Jackson, whose wholesale prices are $1 to $2 per case more than DuPont's. According to the bottlers, DuPont is "transshipping' - a sort of Mann Act for pop cans. So the bottlers are doing something that's also all-American: They're suing DuPont, according to the Jackson Hole News. DuPont, an Osage Indian, is confident he'll win. But meanwhile he's holding on to his day job as a van driver at the Jackson Hole Airport.











Elsewhere in Montana, state Rep. Jim Burnett, R-Luther is trying to put efficiency back into law enforcement. He has introduced a bill that would introduce "public spanking on the bare buttocks' as a form of punishment for those 12 years old and older found guilty of drawing graffiti and other public mischief. "You can fine "em, you can incarcerate "em, but unless you hurt "em, they don't remember it," he told the Helena Independent Record.


*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 editor@hcn.org