Heard around the West

 

There's hot news from Anchorage, Alaska, and many hikers are going to recoil in horror when they hear it.

The red pepper spray that's supposed to ward off black bears may do just the opposite - attract them. Evidence so far is anecdotal, but U.S. Geological Survey researcher Tom Smith (contact him on the Internet at http://www.usgs.gov) says he's seen a bear rolling on a rope sprayed just a week earlier with red pepper extract. It was a lot like seeing "a 500-pound cat with a ball of catnip," Smith says. If either a black bear or a grizzly charges, spraying its mouth, eyes and nose still should work, he says, but spraying the extract on your body or clothes will lure bears. One spray company in Montana, Counterattack, says it will change the wording on its packaging to "bear deterrent instead of repellent," reports AP. Apparently some parents have been dousing their children with the spray. Bear researcher Stephen Herrero, author of Bear Attacks, says the big question is this: Where do you store pepper spray when you're camping in the backcountry? "Do you sleep with it under your pillow?" A bear-proof container somewhere far away might be just right, he concludes.

But that can lead to a problem. Folks in Libby, Mont., complain the bear-proof containers in their town are so tough people "can't physically open these boxes," reports Libby's Western News. You seem to need three hands to stuff garbage in the bins, and some people have been injured when the lid snaps shut. Then, when they complain to the county, they're told no one else has a problem. "Of course not," says local Allyce Hansen. "Our comments are not being taken down."

As the millennium approaches, religious awareness is intensifying. In rural Elbert County in eastern Colorado, after a hawk injured its right wing, reports the Elizabeth News Press, a police officer called the "Rapture Society."

If only it were true. Thomas Stanley Huntington swore that his "California Red Superworms' could chow down on nuclear waste. Poof - no more controversy over shipping, burying, monitoring, and storing radioactive debris for millennia. Huntington sold $15,000 worth of worms - at $125 per pound - to at least a dozen would-be nuclear worm-breeders. They believed Huntington's claim that he had a contract to sell the crawlers to the still-unopened Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M. But the worms weren't super: A grand jury recently found the worm-breeder guilty of fraud, embezzlement and racketeering, reports AP.

Westerners - you gotta love 'em - do love themselves. According to a a survey done for Sunset, a magazine produced in California for readers devoted to "Western Living," Westerners are convinced they are kinder, smarter, taller, richer, fitter and, you guessed it, sexier. "I'm all that," said the owner of a Phoenix cigar stand, John Fearon, puffing on one of his expensive stogies. People in other parts of the country don't go outside as often as Westerners, he added, saying, "It's colder. You sit inside all day and eat." Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch pooh-poohed the survey, saying he found Westerners map-challenged and bewildered when visiting his turf: "I'm always helping them," he told AP. "We think of them as an endangered species." This observation prompted Denver Post columnist Mark Obmascik to list a few of the ways Coloradans trump New Yorkers, beginning with: "Our rodents are bigger. They have rats. We have beaver." What's more, "They have uncollected garbage. We have Rocky Flats." Even better for our region, New York Sen. Al D'Amato can boast only about filling potholes, while our top Republican, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, "prides himself on riding a Harley without a helmet."

A grassroots campaign in Wyoming has begun, called "Let's Fence Yellowstone." Bill Johnson of Kemmerer and Pat Johnson of Marbleton say a 12-foot chain-link fence around the nation's oldest park would keep pesky endangered species such as grizzly bears in and allow the cattle, oil and gas and timber industries free rein to do business outside. The Johnsons are giving away 1,000 "Let's Fence Yellowstone" bumper stickers and planning to take petitions to the steps of the capitol, where they'll tell "Newt and the rest of Congress: This is where the bullshit stops. Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have had enough!" they told the Jackson Hole Guide. A fence contractor told the Cody Enterprise that a 300-mile barrier around the park would cost about $31 million. Yellowstone's annual budget is about $22 million.

Idaho boasts of Olympic gold-medalist Picabo Street, but does the state have a license plate ballyhooing the state's fine skiing? No, says the ski areas' lobbyist, Russ Westerberg, who quickly proposed the slogan: "Ski the Great Potato."

A Utah man thinks he's found a fail-safe way to detect marijuana smokers. Just listen carefully to what people say. The dead giveaway, says attorney Walter Plumb, a father of nine, is an "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." This and other controversial conclusions can be found in a pamphlet that Plumb helped bankroll under the auspices of an educational foundation. He sent 7,000 of the pamphlets to homes in Salt Lake City.


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 bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]

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