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Heard around the West


When Ed Abbey aficionados get together in Death Valley, Calif., Nov. 6-8, hospital-lab worker Gail Hoskisson is sure to be the cynosure of all eyes. Well, maybe not her, but the vintage vehicle she's driving. It doesn't look like much, this blue, 1973 Ford F100 pickup that has logged 197,000 miles through the deserts of the Southwest.

But this truck is special: Its owner was wildlands-lover Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang. Now, Hoskisson can claim the truck as her own, thanks to her bid of $26,500 at an auction Aug. 16 to raise money for the nonprofit Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Hoskisson says she can't wait to drive the "icon" to this fall's Abbeyfest, which no one plans. Participants know each other only through the Internet; "it's total anarchy," says the Salt Lake City, Utah, resident, "which Abbey would have loved." The truck was donated to the environmental group by Ed Abbey's widow, Clarke.

People who carve their names on top of ancient rock carvings known as petroglyphs usually get a tongue-lashing from a judge and the scorn of those who read about the vandalism. In Utah recently, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell went further; she sentenced a man who carved a swastika into an Indian rock-art panel to two months in federal prison. Michael L. Caruso, 19, thus became the first vandal to go to prison for defacing petroglyphs, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Sentenced to probation was Caruso's friend Curtis K. Cox, 20, who used a rock to imprint his nickname, "Beavis," onto the panel.

Mauled by a mountain lion during a hike near Missoula, Mont., 6-year-old Dante Swallow had no trouble figuring out why he was the predator's target. "I was the last person in line," he told AP, and "he was hungry." A 16-year-old camp counselor, Aaron Hall, saved the boy's life by pulling him from the jaws of the lion, which was killed by game wardens after the attack.

But mountain lions were in the West before we came along with our roads, power lines and houses. That is not true of those bumptious, exotic birds - emus - which can sprint up to 40 miles an hour and leap six-foot-high fences. And unlike Sesame Street's shy character, Big Bird, 150-pound emus can develop nasty and aggressive dispositions. In Eugene, Ore., a pack of emus are running free the way cattle once roamed the range, AP reports. And as livestock, they fall outside the reach of local animal-control people. Perhaps not for long. In her backyard recently, Kay Cope and her grandson found themselves stalked by an emu, which at first seemed congenial, "cocking its little head" and watching her every move. Then one day, as she held her grandson on her hip, the emu started chasing her, first into the middle of the sprinkler, and then around a tree again and again. By this time, the baby was crying loudly, "and this is a kid who loves birds," Cope says. She finally dodged the bird, and made it into her house. Now, emu ranchers and the local Humane Society are trying to find a solution to the wanderings of these bold earthbound birds.

A rancher in Teton County, Idaho, is on the warpath, and potential homeowners are Ken Dunn's target. His weapon is the billboard, which tells potential home buyers in this rural valley close to Jackson, Wyo., what they face if they move in. The downsides: an irrigation canal running through the 14-home subdivision is dangerous and could drown people, mud cleaned from the canal stinks, and plenty of cows hang around near the property. "This is just a way for everybody to know what the ground rules are," says Dunn. Developer Carey Stanley calls the sign a "vendetta" and has threatened to take Dunn to court.

Can a horror movie be in the making? "The panic, the fear," marveled Sgt. Ben Reyna of the Bisbee, Ariz., police department, after something triggered a swarm of Africanized bees to sting everything moving on an otherwise ordinary Aug. 2. Within 15 minutes, reports the Arizona Daily Star, killer bees had surrounded and stung a tied-up Labrador retriever, which died five hours later. The swarm stung eight pedestrians badly enough to send them to the hospital, and the bees even attacked pigeons and other birds in flight. But the most frightening experience was probably that of Debrah Strait, who was driving when bees filtered in through a partially opened window. When she opened the door to let them out - something normal bees would welcome - more bees swarmed in. Screaming for help, she stopped the car and ran to a neighbor, grabbed her hose and tried to wash the bees away. The neighbor reports: "Her hair was literally covered with bees. She had taken her shirt off, and her back and her chest were covered, too." Nurses at a local hospital said Strait had been stung up to 300 times on almost every part of the body, including her ear canals. Luckily, she did not have an allergic reaction to the bees' toxin.

All she wanted to do was finish high school, but a 16-year-old girl in Utah was thwarted by a father who beat her and demanded she become his brother's 15th wife. When Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt was asked about persistence of polygamy recently, he dismissed it as an institution that might be protected as a religious freedom, reports AP. This was not an answer that satisfied many people. A women's anti-polygamy group, Tapestry of Polygamy in Salt Lake City, denounced the practice, calling it abuse of children and incest. That led a group of multiple-wife supporters, Women's Religious Liberties Union, to urge repeal of Utah's century-old ban on plural marriage. Still caught in the middle, Gov. Leavitt now says he's found that polygamy is not prosecuted as a crime because it is difficult to prove, and "if you pump resources into polygamy and cohabitation, murderers and rapists walk."

Felonious logging is a new term in the Jackson Hole News. The paper's police blotter notes that an illegal cut of 30 large pine trees occurred at the home of Brent Hubbs, who had been away on a long trip. Police Deputy Terry Bart said the break in the trees now gives a view of Wyoming's Teton range from the home of the area's former music festival director.

A 300-foot-tall dollar sign, painted by activists with bright green food coloring, recently graced the snowy side of Oregon's Mount Bachelor. Participants at the paint-in said they were protesting recreation fees at trailheads and rivers as the first step in a "corporate-driven scheme to accustom the public to paying for the great outdoors," reported the Oregonian.

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]