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Know the West

Heard around the West


Who hasn't bought a gadget or item of clothing that makes no sense but embarrasses us forever? The unscrewable ceramic soap dispenser, the one-cup hot plate, the rhinestone-edged tie, the round ice-cube maker - all mock us: "You are a foolish consumer; you buy useless objects!" A public TV station in Salt Lake City, KUED Channel 7, capitalized on this angst underground at a swap meet recently, reports the Salt Lake Tribune; it was organized as part of a year-long focus on ramping down consumption.

Up for grabs were objects that probably never should have been thought up, much less produced, including a clear plastic box with a screw top that turned oval eggs into square ones. Why? "You can put your eggs onto square crackers," said the device's owner, Linda Hartwig, who confessed that it made little sense to her. A dog collar that shocked a barking dog - not only every time it barked but also every time it moved - was offered for exchange, along with plastic rain pants that didn't breathe, guaranteeing wet legs no matter what, an automatic card shuffler for the lazy-handed and a tiny microwave designed for a sandwich in a box. Every example of can-do but why-bother manufacturing found a new home at the swap meet, sparing a Utah landfill just a little longer.

In the spirit of modest living, two men in eastern Oregon near LaGrande have begun a new form of virtual giving called "Save-A-Tree." It works this way: You buy a large fir or pine on their wood lot in the beautiful Blue Mountains, then you receive a certificate of ownership and map showing your tree's location. The tree, "the one thing God put on the Earth you don't have to ship," says one of the men, stays put, never to be logged. Homer Abell told the Oregonian he got the idea when he heard a radio ad for a service that names stars for anyone who pays a fee. Abell says he's made and lost a couple of fortunes trying to market quirky inventions, such as an electronic seat belt, but he's thrilled with this latest notion. "Why not give somebody something they can really put their arms around?" he asks. His partner, brother-in-law John Kimmelshue, says he loves keeping trees growing because he used to work as a sawmill manager: "I was cuttin" "em down and workin" "em up. Now, I'm tryin" to save them." You can reach the business through a Web site, www.saveatree.com.

Trees can inspire passion, from reverence to greed. The latter seems to have inspired a logger in California who cut down some 200-year-old trees that were growing in California's Sequoia National Forest. Jimmie Ray Derington, 49, got nabbed, however, and charged with theft and depredation of government property, both felonies; now he's been ordered to serve two years and nine months in prison, the second-stiffest fine ever imposed for timber theft in the United States, reports Associated Press. Derington, who "still does not accept responsibility for his actions," was also ordered to pay $309,140 for stealing the 180 old-growth trees.

Breasts may be many things, ruled a district judge in Moscow, Idaho, but they are not "private parts," which means that three women who went topless during a sweltering day last July did not break a local law prohibiting indecent exposure. Washington State University student Lori Graves, 29, was surprised and delighted by the decision, which averts a trial. "I don't think anybody is going to rush out and run around topless, but it wasn't about that," she told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. "It was about the freedom to do it when it is prudent to do so."

It was the 17th annual Kiwanis Follies in Jackson, Wyo., recently, and everything was fair game for mocking except the over-reported doings in the Oval Office, reports the Jackson Hole News. "People are just fed up and said, 'Don't even bother,' " said one Kiwanis member. So local stuff got the needle, starting with "Urethra Franklin" getting busted for insisting on using a men's room (she pleaded not guilty "by reason of incontinence." ) "What began in the can ended with a cancan" - by men dancing badly while dressed scantily as women. Pilloried along the way, and raising a healthy $11,000 to benefit the community's children, was the government's attempt to turn the backcountry into a paying proposition. A wildly popular skit featured a "dude, she-dude" and friend trying to enjoy the "wildermess" while a stampede of cattle thundered by, followed by a stampede of park officials. They demanded permits, photo IDs and blood samples before relieving the dudes of their tents, Wonderbras, bongs, sleeping pads, and last but not least, climbing pitons.

The bard was a birder, crows Ed Stokes in a column by his friend, Bert Raynes, in the Jackson Hole News. He proves his point by myriad quotes from Shakespeare's plays. From Macbeth alone come many lines that indicate the bard was a bright-eyed fellow who well observed the skies: Act 2, Scene 4, "a falcon, tow'ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and killed," Act 4, Scene 2, "For the poor wren will fight, her young ones in her nest, against the owl" and Act 4, Scene 3, "There cannot be that vulture in you to devour so many ..." Stokes vows that the most beautiful line ever written in the English language can be found in Shakespeare's Macbeth. It, too, features a bird: "Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to th' rooky wood."

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]