Heard around the West


The driver was a Romanian-born mathematician zooming 96 miles per hour through Montana - a state famous for its disdain of speed limits - and he was royally ticked off when Highway Patrol Officer Silkitwa Rivera pulled him over. Constantin Pirvulescu ranted and screamed, the officer recalled, and kept insisting, "There is no limit. You can't do anything." Yes, she could, arresting him for obstructing justice, a charge that was later dropped, as well as failing to drive in a "careful and prudent manner." That's the verbiage that has taken the place of numbers like 55 or 65 in the Big Sky state.

But Pirvulescu was determined to get his day in court because, he said, "I am right." So he drove the 2,000 miles from Houston, Texas, to insist that a speed limit without limits was certainly confusing and inherently unfair. He also insisted that Rivera was biased against him. She had, he said, misspelled his name and gotten the color of his eyes wrong, reports the Billings Gazette. Acting as his own lawyer and using his son as a translator, Pirvulescu also ventured to speculate about the patrolwoman's ethnic heritage - she is part Native American - asking if this influenced her arrests. "No, sir," she responded. "Sometimes it influences the way people treat me." Pirvulescu, who called himself "a citizen of this wonderful world we live on," got his day in court, a long one lasting nine hours. The jury was quicker, finding him guilty of numerical-less speeding in just 15 minutes.

As you will read below, a collection of Western wildlife and livestock recently evaded pursuers for brief, shining moments, with a coyote even commandeering an elevator. But let us start with a less happy account about the demise of a chinook salmon in the South Fork Salmon River of Idaho. It was protecting its redd, or nest, when a poacher decked out in scuba gear illegally speared it. Horrified recreationists reported the underwater poaching, says Idaho Fish & Game officer George Fischer, who found the salmon carcass tied to a log. A sign nearby informed visitors of the presence of spawning chinook. The three poachers from Boise had brought a garbage can along to stash their easy-to-catch prey in; Jason D. Rawlins was sentenced to five days in jail and fined $845 for the scuba-dive attack; his brother James and friend Richard Natale have been charged with several violations.

Thanks to a missing lock on one door and another door mysteriously left open, nine buffalo escaped from an enclosure at the zoo in Oakland, Calif., reports AP. After they were spotted munching on poison ivy and native grasses, zoo workers lured them back just 45 minutes later. Tip for Yellowstone Parkies: The lure was a trail of Wonder Bread.

Another AP story tells a tale so strange that Ripley's Believe It or Not might have devoted a page to it. No one knows what a coyote did to so annoy a band of crows, but the birds dived at the animal as it ran along a downtown street in Seattle, Wash., during midday. A passerby says the coyote ducked through the open door of a federal building to escape. Not a bad move, until the coyote ran into an open elevator and "the door closed and trapped it." The urban coyote then cowered alone for two and a half hours until animal-control workers, described as having "captured" the elevator, lowered a cage onto the animal. No word on the determined crows; the coyote was released in a wooded part of King County.

Another story from Washington state featured a lopsided goldfish that was able to swim upright once veterinarian Charles Coleman removed the "translucent, creepy material" of a tumor from its head, reports the Idaho Falls Post Register. The one-pound carp, named Sharkie, was fortunate to evade the "flush technique," said the vet, who charged Sharkie's owner $100 for the wet work.

In West Valley City, Utah, an emu leapt from his pen and ran down city streets at midnight, hoping, perhaps, to stretch its legs. The big bird - a slightly smaller cousin of the ostrich - wasn't about to cooperate when five men, wielding rope and flashlights, caught up with it. Animal control officer Stan Larsen tried to grab the neck of the four-foot-tall bird, only to have the animal unleash its sharp bill, ripping both back pockets off Larsen's pants and then shredding them down the front. "I have roped a buffalo, chased a bull and wrestled a couple of pretty good-sized pythons," Larsen told AP afterward. "This is the first time I tackled an emu."

Intruding animals (from our point of view) include a beaver that makes nightly visits to a condominium in Billings, Mont. It appeared after city crews spent two weeks clearing trees from the banks of an open storm ditch where the animal had made its home. Apparently hungry and certainly displeased, the displaced beaver toppled a poplar tree at the home of Kathy Stephens. She now worries the animal will take down her utility pole, reports the Billings Gazette.

Maybe the chamber of commerce hired him to put the town briefly on the map. Or maybe he was the real thing - a cowboy in from the range with a powerful thirst. In any case, he wasn't breaking any laws, the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune reports, by riding from bar to bar, tying his horse to parking meters and light poles while he was inside working on his thirst. He wasn't breaking laws, but he was breaking the unwritten codes of the New West. Locals worried the horse might dent their cars and pickups (do horses carry collision insurance?), and bartenders complained the rider was belligerent. After police told him to mosey on, the cowboy cussed a blue streak, perhaps upset that men in blue had come for him, rather than sheriff Matt Dillon and Chester, but then rode off into the sunset.

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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