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Rattlesnakes in Walmarts, deer in malls

WASHINGTON AND IDAHO 

There are many things to expect when pushing a shopping cart around the outdoor garden department of a Walmart, but a poisonous snake is certainly not one of them. So when 47-year-old Mica Craig of Lewiston, Idaho, saw what he thought was a stick lying in the aisle of Walmart in Clarkston, Wash., he bent down to pick it up. Big mistake! The stick turned out to be a rattlesnake, which latched onto his hand, causing Craig to yell loudly for help before he "managed to shake the snake loose" and stomp it to death. Craig, who was treated at a local hospital with six bags of anti-venom, was told that his hand may be permanently disfigured, reports The Associated Press.

MINNESOTA

It wasn't a snake at the Moorhead Center Mall in Moorhead, Minn., a city of 40,000, that caused pandemonium, but a herd of six disoriented deer that crashed through the mall's windows and doors, reports WDAY-TV. One deer died instantly after plunging through a large window, and another was run over by a minivan, the thrifty driver taking "the dead deer home for dinner." The others made it safely back to a nearby river. Moorhead Police Officer Josh Schroder commented with admirable understatement, "This is one of the most interesting things I have seen since I have been up here."

MONTANA

The founders of al-Qaeda's English-language magazine Inspire may be out of the picture -- a U.S. missile killed them last year -- but their publication is back with new tips for making our lives miserable. However, the latest issue, which urges wannabe terrorists to set fires in Montana's national forests, is marred by faulty research and atrocious syntax, such as "It is of your freedom to ignite a firebomb." Inspire urges its readers to set wildfires "in the valleys of Montana where the population increases rapidly," using handy items you might find around the house, such as a clock, washing machine timer or acid to set the bomb off. Then again, they might as well drop a lit cigarette or place a magnifying glass over tinder in the sunlight, says the Missoulian. Missoula County's Sheriff's Detective Jason Johnson seems unimpressed, given his experience with methamphetamine-makers, sloppy hunters and the other homegrown American types bedeviling the woods: "I'd want to send a message to anybody in our neck of the woods who shares ideas with al-Qaeda," he says. "We have dedicated forces who will aggressively go after anyone who gets into that stuff."

From our friends

HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor

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Barbara Ellis, Denver Post News Editor