Heard around the West

  • CHOOSE ME: Male sage grouse struts his stuff

    Sherm Spoelstra photo

There's a fine art to making enemies, Ed Abbey wrote in Confessions of a Barbarian. He then bragged, "I've become remarkably good at it." In the 10th anniversary issue of Canyon Country Zephyr, publisher Jim Stiles quotes Abbey on a few of his targets:

The young: "I say, oh you young fuddie-duddies, you young fogies, you prematurely middle-aged! You cappuccino drinkers! What right have you to be so wise, so dull, so blasé and jaded, so conservative, so timid, so morose and defensive? At your age? So bored with protest, so disdainful of revolt. What have you done to earn your indifference?"

Babies: "You can always eat them, can't you?"

Moab: "Moab, Utah, a mean ugly little town, run by little ugly mean people."

Communists: "I dislike communists as much as everyone else. I mean, I dislike them as much as I dislike everyone else."

Tourists: "The tourists drift in and out of here like turds floating through a sewer."

Hippies: "I'm tired of 'hippies,' 'freaks,' that whole sick crew. I find, more than ever, that I respect only men - and women - who can act, who can do good things well, who are responsible to others, who are honest in all ways."

Alternative products from our forests seem to be emerging every day, with one even popping up from poop. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that a researcher has produced sheets of paper from mashed and pressed moose droppings. Since moose munch mainly on twigs and branches, the paper, called MoDo, never requires trees to be cut down.

In Rigby, Idaho, the lowly russet potato has gone upscale. Thanks to a "closely guarded" distillation process and fancy French glass containers, potatoes transmuted into vodka are selling in the tonier New York restaurants. Capital Press reports that while Teton Glacier Potato Vodka is produced by teetotalers, mostly Mormon, no one disapproves. The workers "love a company with a good idea," says Gray Ottley, planning manager for Silver Creek Distillers Inc.

Pumping up their chests to show their wonderfulness, sage grouse are strutting their stuff in the spring dawn. The birds march around, chests inflated, to impress the females, who peek out of bushes to decide which bird to bed. But wait: voyeurs are on the scene, peering out of cars. "It's exciting to see the grouse. But what people fail to realize is that they are causing stress to the birds," says Kevin Spence, a biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Male grouse won't reveal their discomfort, "because they're preoccupied with finding the hens," he adds, but females may react by hiding and refusing to mate. So, Spence, who recently saw someone drive "right into the middle" of a strutting ground, recommends long-distance spying through a spotting scope or binoculars.

What did 1,400 Las Vegas Valley residents decide to do one Saturday this April? All gambled they'd find garbage littered over miles of wetlands near Lake Mead, and find it they did, to the tune of 200,000 pounds. The volunteer pick-up was organized by the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee.

Besides litter in all shapes and sizes, Las Vegas is awash in palm trees. "It's phenomenal," says Las Vegas landscaper Ray Hoffman. "Every project that we're doing requires palm trees." The casino Mirage, with its desert-palm theme, may have started the craze almost a decade ago. Now, spotters travel as far as Florida and pay up to $1,000 for a palm. Final cost to the homeowner: $4,000, reports Associated Press.

Some new state mottos proposed by an Internet wag include Kansas: "First of the Rectangle States," California: "As seen on TV," Arizona: "But it's a Dry Heat," Wisconsin: "Eat Cheese or Die" and Mississippi: "Come Feel Better About Your Own State."

On April 21, the Colorado Legislature was scheduled to debate a bill to liberalize the state's concealed weapons law. Many legislators said Coloradans needed more freedom to secretly carry the gun of their choice. The hearing was cancelled because of the murders at Columbine High School near Denver, reports The Denver Post.

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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