Heard around the West

  • RISKY RIDE? Eppie goes to town

    Cindy Wehling photo

New subdivisions in the West are apt to ballyhoo amenities such as swimming pools or golf courses.

That's not the case in Front Sight, a dusty village in the making in southern Nevada. There, former Californian Ignatius Piazza offers not one but 13 firing ranges and calls his planned community on 550 acres "the Pebble Beach of firearms training." As a Nye County planning commissioner told AP: "Instead of the 19th hole, they've got the bullet hole." Piazza, who wears fatigues and black boots, insists that he's not involved with any militia group. But he says Nevada attracted him away from his upscale community of Aptos in California because of its "firearm-friendly laws." Nevada, he notes, allows citizens to own submachine guns while California does not. Piazza expects to start moving people into 350 townhomes and 177 one-acre, custom-home lots by the end of next year; meanwhile, some 2,000 students have taken gun classes from him since they began in January.

If a home on the range these days sometimes signifies a firing range, it can also mean monster homes co-existing with the Old West. In Boise, subdivision residents recently shared roads with woollies as some 10,000 sheep trotted their way to summer pasture. One herder, Jose Arrieta, who has worked for rancher Brad Little's family for 40 years, says Boise was once surrounded by open space. Now, he told the Idaho Statesman, it's "people, houses, dogs, mountain bikers, Jeeps, motorcycles." Arrieta says that after one of his sheepdogs - still a puppy - followed a hiker home, Arrieta was charged with failing to buy a dog license. Yet only 60 years ago, 200,000 sheep were trailed around and sometimes through Boise, all of them accompanied by unlicensed dogs. "We were here first," Little says, "but sheep don't have much power anymore."

A California condor released at Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona turned out to be too much of a party animal. In early April, the bird approached a group of river rafters, and the next day it flew onto a small airstrip, where it hung around. "One guy at the airport picked it up and took it inside so coyotes wouldn't get at it," reports AP. The outgoing carrion-eater will now stay indoors in Boise, Idaho, where it is hoped the bird will add its genes to a captive breeding effort.

Flubber, a fake fish, will soon experience a lot more than washateria turbulence. It may be sliced and diced inside the McNary hydropower dam on the Washington-Oregon border. Engineers created the 6-inch faux salmon to mimic how real fish cope with the churning, 10 foot-long turbine blades that make electricity, reports AP. Flubber, crammed with sensors and wires, will track indicators such as velocity, pressure and strain inside the dam's watery chaos. Because migrating salmon have to survive eight federal dams in the Northwest, researchers want to learn if changing the shape of turbine blades will help salmon survive. But is a crash-test model up to the task? Flubber has been "tested with a sledgehammer, a lighted candle and intense water pressure," says engineer Bennie Rinehart. The Energy Department developed the rubbery Flubber at its Richland, Wash., laboratory; it's all part of an $8 million effort to rework hydropower dams so they're less lethal to fish.

In the West, there's the old saw: Don't tell a man what to do with his land. Here's a new one: Don't mess with anyone who lets a dog ride in the bed of a pickup. In Jackson, Wyo., the debate began when Ann Smith saw a dog "launched" from the back of a pickup truck. She rescued the dog, took it to a vet, and then lobbied town officials to ban "loose dogs' in pickups, reports the Jackson Hole News. At first, she found allies galore. One resident said airborne dogs created hazards for other motorists, and Fund For Animals representative Andrea Lococo told the weekly paper, "I cringe, I absolutely cringe ... these animals could go catapulting who knows how far? It's not safe." Others demurred, hoping common sense could replace an ordinance. Then letters to the Jackson mayor, reports the Jackson Hole Guide, struck the Old West theme: "It's my dog, my pickup," though some people tried to imagine truck-riding from the canine perspective. Finally, the Jackson Hole News devoted an editorial to the matter, concluding that "the Wyoming dog today has a keen sense of balance and the ability to see into the incessant, forceful Wyoming wind. Dogs that ride up front are sissies." So far, no law has reined in free-riding pooches, though columnist Mark Huffman may stir up pet-protecters with his suggestion for a contest based on "the beauty of canines in flight." He calls it a "truck-launch invitational."

Locals in Aspen went on the warpath when signs went up at ski resort restaurants banning sack lunches. One eatery also put up a sign at lockers that outlawed their storage. "In other words, purchase something or get out, you little peon!" is how one resident says she interpreted the messages. Could Aspen Ski Co. get away with that? Not if the restaurant is built on national forest land and permitted by the U.S. Forest Service, it turns out. So the signs banning brown bags came down, and the resort issued a statement that "all on-mountain cafeterias' will allow guests to brown-bag it.

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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