Heard around the West

  • ON THE ROAD: Ruth Thomas tours on two wheels

    Scott Murphy photo

"I'm having a ball," says Ruth Thomas of Spokane, Wash. She may be 72 and arthritic, but that doesn't stop Thomas from pursuing a dream.

After the former middle-school science teacher sold her house and furniture and bought a bike, she began an odyssey across the United States, visiting the smallest town in every state and racking up 25 miles a day. "If I want to go five blocks and stop, I can do that," she told the Livingston, Mont., Enterprise. "My way. My time." Thomas says she loves to camp out and admits her only fear is other senior citizens driving humongous recreation vehicles. Seeing the country at slow speed is a dream she's nourished for 60 years: "I might as well have fun instead of sitting in front of the TV and complaining."

A construction worker on his way to work in Roseburg, Ore., spotted a dead deer by the side of the road and then spotted something else - a leg kicking out of the pregnant doe. So Melvin Spencer pulled over and went to work, delicately pulling the animal from its mother's broken body, reports AP. The fawn was alive, "its little legs only about as big as an ink pen." Spencer tore the umbilical cord with his fingers, wiped out the baby's nose and found an old shirt to keep the faun warm. The fawn, now named Chiquita, is an endangered Columbian white-tailed deer, a species that lives a little less than five years. Chiquita was fed around the clock for the first few days by Peggy Cheatam, who works with the nonprofit Umpqua Wildlife Rescue. Cheatam says Chiquita was "the youngest (orphan) I've ever had," coming into her care at three hours old. The deer will eventually be released to the wild.

A 3-year-old boy at a family reunion this summer wandered off from a camping area at Arizona's Mount Graham, baby bottle in hand. Rescuers were frantic, AP reports, searching all afternoon and night with helicopters, hikers and hounds. Then a curious thing happened: Volunteers heard high-pitched singing from about 450 yards above them. But when they climbed the mountainside and called the child's name, he stopped humming and hid from them. At about 7:30 a.m., climbers came upon a blanket spread under bushes, and sitting close by on a boulder sat the boy, humming and unafraid. He had strayed two miles away from the family gathering. Says chief rescue coordinator Patrick Sexton, "He acted upset that we were even there. A little kid like that has no concept of being lost."

Lind, Wash., ended its ancient combine smash-'em-up with four winners recently, and folks left happy, if slightly deafened by the noise of screeching metal (HCN, 8/3/98).Then came the discovery: Two working combines had been vandalized to the tune of $40,000-to-$50,000 in damage, reports Salem, Ore." s Capital Press. Owners usually leave their keys in the harvesters and police think somebody - everyone guesses a local teenager - revved up one of the machines and plowed it into the other. "If it is a kid, it only takes one person to give them away," says Adams County Sheriff Mike Kline.

Three college women from Washington State University in Pullman biked over the state line to Moscow, Idaho, recently and after their eight-mile trip really felt the 90-degree heat. So they stripped down and looked (sort of) like their five bare-chested male friends. Their stroll through town was stopped short, however, when police approached and read them the city's indecent-exposure statute, reports the Spokane Spokesman-Review. The women listened but refused to cover up. Says Natalie Shapiro: "This is a personal issue for me." She called the statute sexual discrimination, since men could go shirtless to get relief from the heat while women could not. Although the statute was not "gender specific," police handcuffed the women and escorted them - still topless - to the county jail. Released a few hours later, presumably shirted, they faced a maximum $115 fine.

Frustrated by the wait for a bathroom at the Teton County Fairgrounds in Jackson, Wyo., a woman barged into the men's room and refused to leave, despite police warnings to "halt, stop, knock it off," reports the Jackson Hole News. Sgt. Lloyd Laker says that the sitter-in insisted, "I am a liberated woman!" Laker add "the incident was embarrassing for the men present and potentially dangerous' for the feisty woman.

A Missoula, Mont., public school outing in a national recreation area north of town turned creepy when two adolescent mountain lions began stalking the group. One of the young cougars approached the group of 25 youngsters and four adults while they were eating lunch, coming within eight feet. Moving on, the group noticed that the lion followed and was joined by another cougar on the other side of the trail. Group leaders were smart: They kept moving and made lots of noise while acting as sentries on both sides of the kids. But the noise had little effect: the lions appeared curious though not aggressive, AP reports. Even more disquieting, perhaps, the 80-pound lions would cross back and forth, from one side of the campers to the other, as they hiked. When the kids' shouting escalated to "wailing," one adult reports, a different approach was tried, "looking and watching." A call on a cellular phone helped, bringing in advice from a state biologist while the group walked for a mile, escorted by the lions. At the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area trailhead, game wardens appeared. But the lions had vanished.

Three young grizzly bears ripping up roots south of Yellowstone's Mammoth Hot Springs, were so easy to watch, they gave tourists bear-fever. For almost a week, the three two-year-old bears hung out close to a highway where their presence created "a hectic scene," AP reports. Visitors jumped from their cars to photograph the sight, darting in and out of traffic. A van broke down and had to be pushed out of the way. An ambulance needed room to drive through. And what were the adolescent grizzlies doing? "The bears tore down a cardboard sign warning hikers about bears in the area and had a tug-of-war with it, ripping the sign to shreds only 15 minutes after it was posted." Thankfully, no one was injured by either bear or car accident, and Park Service staffers, put through their paces to keep the peace, also survived.

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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