Heard around the West

 

We should all have the problem Mark Wattles has just south of Portland. "I have a lot of money. I don't know what to do with all the money I have," he told the Oregonian. Hollywood Entertainment Corp. president Wattles does think he needs a bigger house, so he's building a 50,000-square-foot mansion on the shore of the Willamette River. It will include a basketball court and a 4,000-square-foot swimming pool, where, he promised his neighbors, "your kids will be playing." Every neighbor but one seems tickled pink by the fun to come. The holdout is Rebecca Ceniga, a blueberry farmer on 10 acres who also works for Clackamas County in the planning department. Ceniga worries about the example set by the county in allowing a $5 million house on land that was supposed to be protected from development and maintained for farms. So she keeps appealing the county's go-ahead while Wattles keeps building. Wattles is sure the rift would end if only "Rebecca would accept a loaf of bread ..." Instead, she says, she's wondering how to preserve Oregon's land-use traditions as newcomers stream in.

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In several Colorado towns, a different kind of activism has sprung up: bee promotion. Lyle Johnston in Rocky Ford told Westword that if he didn't send his "tiny little athletes' to California, that state's almond crop would crash. Ann Shurtleft, a fiber artist and multiple sclerosis sufferer from Pagosa Springs, says if she didn't allow her honeybees to sting her 40 times on the leg each day - all the while uttering "a few choice words' - she would be unable to walk. Beekeeping is a vocation few seem to take up these days, yet without this skilled migrant labor force there'd be fewer fruits and vegetables (HCN, 1/20/97). At a recent annual meeting of bee growers in Glenwood Springs, Shurtleft warned that "if you're not concerned about the fate of bees, you should be."

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Becoming a bee baron is one thing; raising ostrich or emu is another for those who yearn to ranch exotic animals in the New West. Then there's snails. LeRoy Flanders in Marcola, Ore., says he's the only Northwest grower of European brown-garden snails. They're "not real bright," he says, "they just eat and climb." The slimy livestock are also succulent - restaurants prefer the French name escargot - and easy to maintain in their tiny Tupperware corrals. Minor drawbacks exist, rancher Flanders cautioned the Eugene Register Guard: Local police keep dropping in, convinced that his artificially lighted greenhouse harbors marijuana plants, and "nothing smells worse than a bunch of snail poop."

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Except, perhaps, grape juice to the hundredth power. Biologists at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo., hope spraying industrial-strength grape juice on the grass will shoo Canada geese away from Front Range playgrounds and golf courses. The 155,000 wintering geese deposit bacteria with their droppings, which may pose a risk to health as well as shoes. Since deterrents such as fireworks and decoy predators have failed to drive away the geese from their cushy suburban quarters, the potent grape spray will get some trials. When Denver's Cherry Hills Country Club tried the grape repellent last year, however, grounds supervisor Doug Brooks told AP it not only didn't work well, "but you can still smell it there."

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When Idaho's Republican Sen. Larry Craig picks a fight, it's generally in defense of overdogs. In the latest case it's auto racing legend Bobby Unser, who got caught in a two-day blizzard during an illegal snowmobiling trip into Colorado's South San Juan Wilderness. After the Forest Service cited Unser for violating the 1964 Wilderness Act, which prohibits motorized vehicles in wilderness, Sen. Craig found the agency's enforcement of the law outrageous. "I would like to think that the Forest Service does not normally put strict adherence to policy ahead of common sense and the well-being of people," the senator huffed to AP. Unser insists he didn't see any signs about entering a wilderness area. But then he made a misstep. He told Ron Jablonski, public affairs officer for the Rio Grande National Forest, that he wanted his snowmobile back. "We're working with him right now to try to get his sled out of the wilderness because that's where he told us it is," Jablonski said. Unser goes to court in Monte Vista, Colo., where he could face a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.

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In the spirit of Valentine's Day, the Chicago Tribune tells of a "boudoir in the sky" for Los Angelenos with plenty of money and elevated tastes. For as low as $429, you and a close friend can join the "Mile High Club," a group united by a desire to have sex on airplanes flying at least one mile above the ground. Privacy is assured, says Nick Edgar, owner of Mile High Adventures, who's thinking of franchising the business. Not everyone on the ground thinks the club is a fine idea. "People are fornicating over our city," railed Gerald Silver, a member of a homeowners' group in the San Fernando Valley. "It is not the kind of thing that they should be flying out of our bedroom community."

From reader Larry Smith comes a romantic personal ad he commends for its honesty in Montana's Yellowstone County News: "Healty (sic) 74-year-old cowboy with no teeth or eyes seeks female partner, ages 55-65. Must be able to cook and keep my home clean. Willing to share my home and love. Call Jack ..."


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