Heard around the West


From the EPA joke network comes a sampling of signs seen across the United States, the first at a Santa Fe gas station: "We will sell gasoline to anyone in a glass container." On the window of a New Mexico dry cleaner: "38 years on the same spot." And in the window of an Oregon store: "Why go elsewhere when you can be cheated here?" Someone at the Environmental Protection Agency routed this to us by oh-so-convenient e-mail, which leads us to a confession.

A seemingly incredible story recounted here, about an Arizona suicide who jet-propelled his vehicle into a cliff, turns out to be a "netmyth," so, yes, incredible. Dave Myers of the Arizona State Patrol says he gets a call about the story every few months: "It keeps us on the map."

Don Robinson of Oregon's Post Register-Guard alerted us to the hoax. The perpetrators tried to strike again with another so-called Darwin Award, given to the person who helps the gene pool the most by bumping themselves off in a spectacularly dumb way. The latest yarn concerns a man who goes airborne to 11,000 feet in a lawn chair borne aloft by balloons. The man packs a rifle to shoot the balloons down one by one to land; he drifts over an urban airport, looking alarmingly like a terrorist, and so on, but no, it didn't happen. Netmyths, a sociologist told the Washington Post, travel almost as fast as the speed of light.


Let this column be a celebration of compendiums, a lust for lists. Comments from hikers who signed in last year at trailheads within Wyoming's Bridger Wilderness ranged from testy to - that word again - incredible:

"Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands";

"The places where trails do not exist are not well marked";

"Too many rocks in the mountains";

"The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals";

"Need more signs to keep the area pristine."

We recall what someone wrote in a register at the summit of one of Colorado's peaks: "Adequate view, pleasant surroundings. Not bad, God."


Retorts are the object of a list compiled by Jack Gilluly in his new publication, Anaconda Profiles: A Newsletter of Progressive Commentary for Southwest Montana. Gilluly, recently retired from the downsizing Montana Power Co., helps people lob insults in politically correct ways, to wit: people aren't stupid, they are merely "a few feathers short of a whole duck," "as smart as bait" or "the wheel's spinning, but the hamster's dead." Gilluly also covers contentious issues, such as increasingly blocked access to public lands; he can be reached at 820 West Third, Anaconda, MT 59711.


In Indian Country Today, based in Rapid City, S.D., an advertisement from the Disney Corp. lists what it's looking for to portray the Wild West abroad: "Native North American Men, age 18-35, excellent bareback riders," plus a Chief Sitting Bull look-alike and cowboys who can rope and ride. They'd be bound for Disney's Wild West Show in Paris this summer. The old West lives again - in France.


A different kind of list dominated an AP story from rural Colorado City, Ariz., after polygamist Alma Aldebert Timpson died at the age of 92. He left 66 children and an estimated 347 grandchildren - enough relatives to populate a small town. Timpson was jailed during government roundups of polygamists in the 1940s and served a year in the Utah State Prison for "unlawful cohabitation." He was released after signing a pledge to renounce plural marriage - a pledge he broke. Repeatedly, apparently.


Armed greenies are scattering around Utah's wildlands - armed with cameras and notebooks, that is. Seventy environmentalists are walking the routes rural counties have put on maps to test whether they truly exist. The more roads - real or phantom - the less chance for a wilderness designation. Those participating in this roadkill rendezvous may have hiked right into the Great Old Broads for Wilderness as they took on the "good old boys." The broads were to hike on federal allotments in the Escalante area in early May to document any evidence of overgrazing in these canyons.


Other Westerners are on the move this spring, but they're swapping jobs and states. Here's a rundown:

* Ken Rait has left his position as issues director of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to replace Andy Kerr as conservation director at Oregon Natural Resources Council. But it takes two to fill Kerr's shoes; Mark Smiley went on board there last fall as executive director.

* Paul Pritchard, the 25-year president of the National Parks and Conservation Association, has left his post, which will be temporarily filled by bank executive William Watson of Wichita, Kan.

* Reeves Brown will leave his job as head of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association to run his family's Montana ranch; Kent Lebsack will move from the Washington Cattlemen's Association to fill Brown's niche.

* The virulently anti-green Hatch, New Mexico, Courier, which billed itself as "the most cussedly independent weekly in the West - and proud of it," has gone extinct, ceasing publication on Feb. 27. The Weekly Alibi in New Mexico says owner-editor Susan Christy will take on a new weekly, The Dispatch, in Hatch.

* In Missoula, the dean of the journalism school at the University of Montana has been dismissed after three years. Frank Allen, a former writer for the Wall Street Journal, is appealing his ouster, and some of his students have begun a protest to support him '90s style; they've created a Web site where you can sign a petition or write a letter: www.marsweb.com/wes/speak.html

* While you're surfing, Webwise, drop by Tom Pringle's mad cow disease Web site, which sports a snarling red-eyed cow and nearly 3,000 articles for the bovine-obsessed, or merely hypochondriacal. The address is www.mad-cow.org.


One final list, by an anonymous writer of haiku and forwarded by journalist Ted Williams, features that Jello of meats, Spam:

Silent, former pig
one communal awareness
myriad pink bricks

Pink beefy temptress
I can no longer remain

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 [email protected]

High Country News Classifieds