Heard around the West

  • Cartoon of Joe Camel

    Eric Scigliano

Pity poor Joe Camel, the billboard cigarette huckster now out of a job. "Cancer-mongering just ain't the same without Joe Camel," laments Eric Scigliano in the Seattle Weekly. But thanks to the e-mail grapevine, folks in Washington state have come up with new careers for the cool spokes-cartoon. Our favorite: Filling potholes with tar from his own lungs. If this doesn't pan out, Joe Camel could change his name to Joe Crack: "Please don't tell me this stuff is bad for you, too!" Or he could take his habit abroad and get work "spitting on the tourists at Euro-Disneyland." A last resort: wangling a cushy aide's job with cigarette industry supporter, Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.

Buffalo, Wyo., can never crow that it's a city, what with a population of 4,000, but its residents are anything but slow. When a publicist for the Rolling Stones faxed the Buffalo Bulletin recently about an upcoming local appearance of the ageless rock band, editor Robert Waggener played blasé. No, he told the publicist when she called, he would not promote the Stones' concert because it promised little local appeal. What, yelped the irate flack; Mick Jagger was not worth a story? Well, answered Waggener, he was sure to rate press coverage in Buffalo, N.Y., where the Stones were probably headed, but not in Buffalo, Wyo., where they were not. The Casper Star-Tribune reports that the band's publicist was chagrined.

Is there no end to the good things cows can do for humans? The newest boon is an "eau de bovine" that helps kill mosquitoes without benefit of pesticides. It was concocted in a laboratory by Alvin Wilbanks of Jonesboro, Ark., who has found a way to imitate the odor of a cow's wet mouth. When octonel, a chemical that smells like cow's breath, is released in a bug trap, mosquitoes seem to agree that this is a delightful attractant. They flock to the bug zapper and self-destruct, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Forget Alfred Hitchcock's screamer, The Birds, about dive-bombing birds with sharp talons. These descendants of dinosaurs often do nothing but good. In Spokane, Wash., a peregrine falcon flies morning patrols to keep sea-gulls, ducks, red-tailed hawks and other birds from jamming into planes at Fairchild Air Force Base. The flights save lives and money since just one bird flying into an engine - something the Spokane Spokesman Review likens to a vacuum cleaner sucking up a sock - can do up to $8,000 damage.

Near Fort Collins, Colo., hawks, eagles and other feathered predators are the bane of pigeons just trying to do a good job. To get photos back fast to customers on river trips, raft owners have trained a fleet of pigeons to tote rolls of film for quick developing, a job of "pigeon-towing" the birds do admirably. But if the birds aren't in good shape - -just like an athlete," says Dave Costlow, co-owner of the rafting company, Rocky Mountain Adventures - pigeon-poaching predators are likely to eat a worker for lunch. Besides fitness training, the success of the pigeon express lies in designer gear for the birds: tiny backpacks of stretchy Lycra with Velcro straps, reports AP. The film each bird schleps during a 30-mile trip weighs one ounce, which is no small amount for a pigeon. Since 1995, boasts Costlow, the plucky fliers have lost only two rolls of film along the Cache La Poudre River.

What do you see when you're sitting in a privy? Usually, a roll of toilet paper, a bucket of lime, a wasp, a fly and the occasional black widow. Hiker Mary Watson told Pack and Paddle magazine of Port Orchard, Wash., that she wants to see poetry on a privy wall, something from Christopher Fry, perhaps, who wrote the play, The Lady's Not For Burning:

Out here is a sky so gentle
Five stars are ventured on it.
I can see
The sky's pale belly glowing and
growing big,
Soon to deliver the moon.
And I can see
A slittering smear, the snail trail of the sun ...

She also suggests an excerpt from A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, which sent us tapping into cyberspace for other ideas. Here's a sampling from "The best of the worst country music song titles' which might go real good on a privy door:

She Has Freckles on Her Butt She is Pretty
I Changed Her Oil, She Changed My Life
I Wanna Whip Your Cow
If You Don't Leave Me Alone, I'll Go and Find Someone Else Who Will
If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?
Mama Get the Hammer (There's a Fly on Papa's Head)
My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend, and I Sure Do Miss Him
You Done Tore Out My Heart and Stomped that Sucker Flat
They May Put Me In Prison, but They Can't Keep My Face from Breakin" Out
You're the Reason our Kids are so Ugly

Heard Around the West welcomes other suggestions for "privy readings."

Grizzlies don't like to play nice, it seems. In Alaska's Katmai National Park each summer, 40 to 60 bears wander around right near a lodge deck that 200 visitors crowd onto each day. Though the bear-watching is spectacular, the National Park Service says 200 people is just too many, and the potential for injury is growing. Last year the grizzlies ripped into the septic system, causing $25,000 in damages; earlier this month, reports the Washington Post, the bruins smashed windows, ate about 100 paperbacks - mostly pulp fiction - and totaled both a clothes dryer and cash register. These details do not deter the determinedly pro-tourist Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. He pooh-poohs the wrath of bears and says the agency should be trying to lure more people to the park. To make sure the Park Service does his bidding, Stevens attached a rider to the Interior Department spending bill that would bar any money for moving the Brooks River Lodge. He seems to have missed a warning from the park superintendent that was quoted in the Anchorage Daily News: "You never know what's going to be a food source for those guys."

It's over, but everybody had a ball at the 15th annual Testicle Festival in Clinton, Mont. Some 10,000 people gathered at the Rock Creek Lodge near Missoula to eat tons of what are euphemistically called Cowboy Caviar, Montana Tenderloin or Rocky Mountain Oysters. During the five-day, fracas-free celebration, the bites of bull were filleted, marinated, breaded, deep-fried and served with hot sauce, and washed down with 1,500 cases of beer. As "Testy Festy" promoter Rod Lincoln put it, "Every place should have a signature event, something that gives you identity," reports the Salt Lake Tribune. "Life's too grim. You've got to have fun."

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]

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