Heard around the West

 

Does everyone become slightly unhinged when one year lurches into another? We detect a certain recklessness in late 1996-early 1997 news reports. Some stories feature surliness and hostility, while others reveal a plucky determination to survive anything - even a flood in the middle of winter. We begin with the better news, although it features a couple in rural Oregon who lost their house to a swollen river.

It was a dark and stormy night in Pleasant Hill, Ore., when Judy McCay and her husband Rick were ordered to evacuate. He headed for the barn at 3 a.m. to save the horses; she slogged through swirling waters for the car while holding their cat, Kissy. The torrent swept her off her feet, the terrified cat clinging to the top of her head. McCay, 57, managed to grab a tree limb, where she held fast for half an hour. What saved her? "I just kept yodeling and yodeling," she told the Associated Press. The determined yodeling attracted a fire department volunteer, who said it was miraculous he heard her voice. The cat, who was not a yodeler, was not so fortunate and disappeared in the swirling waters.

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Another miracle may have occurred in western Nebraska on a different, moonless night. A mysterious train without whistles or lights blasted through more than 50 crossings, ran three railroad stopsigns and came within seconds of hitting a farmer and his pregnant wife in their pickup. No one was aboard to yell at; the rear engine was operating by remote control. The real mystery is how the 55-car runaway broke free. AP reports that angry motorists, frustrated by being blocked by the train, may have separated the cars.

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Over in the skier haven of Aspen, Colo., community safety officials say their patience may also be exhausted; they "aren't going to tolerate any more crap," reports the Aspen Daily News. Dog crap, that is. But they may have to scoop up their outrage: "Another day, another dump," said the owner of a black Lab mix who was fined $25 for refusing to remove his dog's poop. "For $25, they (the officers) can clean it up."

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For real spleen, however, the prize goes to columnist Jim Shumway in a Blanding, Utah, newspaper called the Blue Mountain Panorama, also known as the "Blue Mountain Paranoia" to Bluff reader Gene Stevenson, who brought it to our attention. Shumway does not like environmentalists, whom he calls "close (sic) minded, atheistic, one world government, free loading, parasites." He writes that his New Year's resolution is to show up in hell where he is certain all tree huggers go, "and I am going to hunt those low lifes down. And I am going to kill them, kill them, kill them ..." Shumway says he wishes 1997 to be "a year of miracles for all those who love America." He also tells us the devil in hell is going to be ticked off because assault rifles have entered his kingdom.

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No one was angry at anyone on Vail Mountain New Year's Day when two skiers saved a 10-year-old girl from England from injury. The visitor had gotten tangled up in her ski poles and was dangling 20 feet above the snow from a chairlift. The skiers below convinced her they'd catch her, reports the Vail Daily. She took their word, dropped, and they safely broke her fall.


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