Heard around the West

 

When two grizzlies in Glacier National Park began snuggling up to tourists, the agency brought in a pack of Karelian bear dogs. These black-and-white canines specialize in chasing their fellow carnivores in a very aggressive way. At least one grizzly has taken the hint. A bear biologist told the Hungry Horse News in Columbia Falls, Mont., "We worked him with the dogs seven times in four days, and now he's staying in the cover and avoiding the trails." Alternatives to hounding are worse: rubber bullets, spurts of red pepper spray and, finally, execution.

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It's not just grizzlies that are a problem in the West. Bill Duncan, in Oregon's Capital Press, writes that he got tired of feeding the deer his lettuce and tomato plants (the only thing they didn't like was oregano), so he surrounded his garden with balloons. When the deer crashed his balloon curtain, he considered lion dung, dried blood and Sweetheart soap. What he won't consider is what he's been told will certainly work: "mark" each row, the way other animals do to protect their territory. Duncan is afraid a neighbor will see him marking and call the cops.

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And reader Greg Poschman of Aspen, Colo., says he read the following on the Internet: A visitor to Glacier National Park attempted to lure a ground squirrel by dangling his car keys in front of the critter. The squirrel, who knew a mark when he saw one, grabbed the keys and ran down a hole. Neither the squirrel nor the keys were ever seen again. A ranger cited the tourist for harassment of wildlife, and a locksmith was called to make new car keys.

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With no apparent irony, the Denver Post reports: "People continuing to flock to Colorado in search of jobs and wide-open spaces will push the state's population to almost 4.2 million by the turn of the century...."

Where in Colorado will they settle? Those who value lively education should head for Montrose, a small town in western Colorado. There high school teacher Kevin Boley teaches history by holding mock trials. Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went one for two in Boley's eighth-hour class. The Montrose Morning Sun reported that a mock jury acquitted FDR of bringing false hope to the American people but convicted him of establishing socialism in the U.S.

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Those in search of a traditional lifestyle and diet should probably bypass Colorado and keep on westering, to Imnaha, Ore., which just held its 10th annual Bear and Rattlesnake Feed. The tiny ranching community attracted what the Wallowa County Chieftain called "a huge crowd" and over 350 people were fed by the time grub ran out. Another 200 people at the feast either couldn't get served or just weren't that hungry.

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If neither Montrose nor Imnaha appeals, and yet you can't stomach going back to your job and life in L.A. or Dallas, look up Floating Preference. This firm's ad in the Aspen Times says it "knows you want to be truly free ... free of the system and free to travel and do what you want to do" all the while "paying minimal taxes." The ad is a little vague about details, as befits free spirits, but it will apparently service "Perpetual Travelers' while helping you with "wealth generation" and tax minimizing.

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Enid Greene, who shortly will bid adieu to her Utah congressional seat because of ex-hubby Joe Waldholtz's acts of fraud, has contracted to write a book to set the record straight. The Salt Lake Tribune said her helper will be writer Lee Benson, who wrote a book about Brigham Young University football titled And They Came to Pass. Hers may be called: In the Beginning, There Was Farce.

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In the boom "n" bust days, the West depended on commodities: beaver, gold, oil shale. Today, economists say, we are diversified and stable. In Idaho, which has diversified out of potatoes into computers, a single high-tech firm, Micron, pays one-third of the state's corporate taxes. Earlier this year, Micron caught cold, and state government is now sneezing hard because the market for the commodity Micron makes - memory chips - took a dive. The state's chief economist sounded a note that could have come out of the 19th century silver era: "I didn't figure the market was going to collapse as quickly and steeply as it did," he told the Idaho Falls Post Register.

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Forget global warming, forget ozone holes. The real trouble with society is lack of "social capital." In the past, writes Harvard professor Robert Putnam, people bowled in leagues and got to know each other. Today, they bowl alone and join impersonal "third order" groups like the National Rifle Association and National Audubon Society. The professor says members of these groups are like Boston Red Sox fans: "... they root for the same interests, but they are unaware of each other's existence." Read all about the ongoing social disintegration in "Bowling Alone, Revisited," in the June 1995 issue of The Responsive Community.

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Putnam, who doesn't say if he bowls in the Harvard Professors' League or just with a few friends, might want to read a recent New York Times article. It reports that with the decline in manufacturing, men no longer drink together in bars after a hard shift. The result of this decline in social capital building: barroom murders have plummeted.

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When Colorado Ski Country USA invited Smokey Bear to its annual ski expo blowout in Denver, the group hoped the bruin might go commercial and reveal that "he's a closet snowboarder," Denver Post writer Dan Meyers reported. Fat chance. The Forest Service regulates the sacred Smokey more strictly than it does a timber cut. Regulations say, "Smokey Bear shall appear dignified, friendly and firm" and "the person wearing the Smokey Bear suit shall use a deep masculine and friendly voice." This isn't as sexist as it sounds. Some Forest Service offices have purchased voice modulators so that sopranos can sound like bassos.


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