Heard around the West

  • Shoe tree along Hwy. 50 near Middlegate, Nev. - Marilyn Newton/Reno Gazett


Maybe the issue isn't who first threw the shoes. A huge old tree close to U.S. 50 in Nevada - dubbed "the loneliest road in America" - has become festooned with shoes and even pairs of skis and rollerblades.

Stories vary as to how the shoes first went airborne, but one oft-told tale goes like this: A just-married couple stopped by the tree eight years ago and got in their first fight. "He took her shoes, tied the laces in a knot, and threw them up in the tree," reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. "He said, 'If you're going to walk home, you're going to have to climb a tree first.' " This version of the story says the couple made up after he threw his own shoes in the tree. Others say the first shoe-tosser was a woman. But no matter; shoes have been accumulating by the hundreds ever since somebody probably drop-kicked the first one. There's even a plaque that asks passersby to throw a shoe for love.

Luckily, no tourists were poking around nearby. At Yellowstone National Park in mid-August, two dormant geysers suddenly woke up to spew boiling water into the air. Twin Geyser, asleep for 23 years, erupted at 10:30 a.m. with a 70-foot-high hello. It followed its debut with three more spectacular eruptions, reports the Jackson Hole News. Later in August, Hillside Geyser made its reappearance after more than a decade of being missing in inaction. It propelled water 50 feet into the air. Both are quiescent again, but what turned on the tap? Geologist Frank Bliss wouldn't pin it on two recent earthquakes in the area. "There is so much going on here," he explained, "it's crazy."

Is it a cat or maybe a lamb? Residents in Bozeman, Mont., may have been startled when they read a flier that was hand-delivered to their doors. In capital letters, the message from the Montana Department of Wildlife and Parks said: WARNING! MOUNTAIN LOIN SPOTTED IN BACK FIELD! IF YOU SEE OR HEAR THIS YOUNG LOIN PLEASE CALL HARRY WHITNEY ANYTIME. A trespassing cougar had been spotted in a draw that runs through a residential neighborhood. But reader Ray Ring, who lives in the area, reports he has yet to see the lurking loin.

Some people see it as the kind of battle people start once they move next to an airport: They want the planes to quit flying overhead. In Winter Park, Colo., the irritant is train traffic, with its long waits at railroad crossings and shrieking whistle-blasts triggered by train engineers. If you live in town it's hard to miss the noise, reports The Denver Post, especially since a railroad merger last year upped traffic from a dozen trains a day to about 30. Each time a train comes through, it must, by law, blow its whistle so cars can avoid a nasty collision. These days some newer residents of Winter Park, a ski resort town that was once a railroad town, want the trains to lower their decibel level. Developer Jack Dorwart, for instance, built his "Gandy Dancer Townhomes' just 35 feet from the tracks. Thanks to the screeching train whistles, there's been "a screeching halt to sales," he reports. Most complaints come from 8,000 winter visitors who may only stay a few nights; long-term residents, who number 615, insist they still like the sound of a train whistle.

Battle of the bathrooms, continued: The bartender in Jackson, Wyo., who "sat in" at the men's room during the Teton County Fair, has had her day in court, reports the Casper Star-Tribune. Her sentence: If she refrains from visiting men's rooms for six months, her arrest for indecent exposure will be erased. Rona Ferguson, 25, crashed the men's john after becoming frustrated by the long line for the ladies' (HCN, 8/17/98). Ferguson said she had trouble getting representation: Lawyers (presumably male) wouldn't take her case until "secretaries intervened on her behalf."

Would you like to be a rural and remote landowner? The Taos, N.M., Art Association hopes so. Its volunteers are selling 2,500 raffle tickets for $50 each, and on Jan. 1, 1999, one ticket-holder will win his or her 40 acres of "undeveloped real estate," which was donated to the nonprofit group. Translated, that means the land has no services but boasts people-free views and an assortment of piûon, juniper and ponderosa pine. And if "becoming a land baron is not your thing, we'll hand you a check for $10,000 instead!" promises an art association brochure. Turning raw land into money for art is a novel strategy now in its third year for the arts group. It funds plays, art exhibits and film series for 7,000 area residents. To learn more, write the Taos Art Association, 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571 (505/758-2052).

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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