Heard around the West

  • Steve Mandell photo
  • A cow exhibit in Chicago by artists from all over thecountry

    Steve Mandell photo

A rodeo held in Aurora, Colo., in July attracted 114 gay men and women to compete in he-man stuff like bareback bronc-riding. "We are true to the Western spirit," said bull rider J.D. Norton in The Denver Post. "We are cowboys and cowgirls, even though we have a different private lifestyle."

Because it's not professional rodeo, a few of the rules were less stringent, such as a six-second requirement for staying on a bull instead of the eternity of eight seconds. But many of the contestants knew their stuff: they compete on the regular rodeo circuit and use aliases here to protect their privacy. The rodeo was billed as the oldest and largest in the gay cowboy world, attracting some 1,200 people to the Denver suburb. All got to see an unusual competition called "camp." Teams in this category competed in decorating a steer's tail with ribbons, drag racing in drag from the back of a steer, and "goat dressing." That's trying to introduce fashion to a presumably reluctant goat. As for the rodeo vendors, some featured classic gear like chaps while a few offered flashy feather boas.

Sports Afield, the quintessential hook-and-bullet magazine, has abandoned the turf it's held for the last 113 years for "yuppie-type sports," reports the Wall Street Journal. Instead of targeting avid fishermen and grizzled hunters, the magazine will play to urban types who climb rocks, mountain bike, windsurf and kayak. "The readership of this magazine was getting on in years," said Sports Afield editor John Atwood. "We still have hunting in the magazine, but it's not blood and guts, rack 'em and sack 'em." Hearst Corp., owner of the magazine, identifies the desired new reader as a "cross-recreating sportsman." Ad pages are up.

An animal breeder in Marshall, Texas, has created a new breed she calls "Twisty Cats" because the animals' front legs are deformed, lacking forelegs. Vickie Ives Speir says she doesn't intend to sell the cats she bred from polydactyl - extra-toed - animals, but she does intend to register the animals as a breed. She says the pathetic-looking cats feel no pain and can move around normally. Animal-rights activists have erupted in "a fury of online anger," reports Earth Island Journal.

Do Westerners have a sense of humor? Not in a certain ski town that has had a $12 million arson. Vail's number-one jokester, Packy Walker, got bounced from the town's July 4th parade because his entry punned on the word "lynx." Walker is notorious for his stunts: One time he had friends strap him to the front of a pickup, then roll him into a game-check station. He has also strolled down a Vail street wearing a sign: "Will work for Viagra." What got him in trouble this year was Vail's expansion onto possible lynx habitat on undeveloped Forest Service land. Walker's costume? He dressed up as a Scottish golfer and carried a sign, "Save the Links." On its own hook, Vail Associates withdrew its innocuous float from the parade "given everything that was going on at the time," reports the Vail Trail. Protesters of Vail's expansion were also missing from the July 4th parade; they were told they'd applied too late to enter a float.

The lust for a jungle gym may be a trend. A New York Times columnist says the "artificial wilderness experience" is the new craze. Examples are a Los Angeles proposal to build a manmade reef that's perfect for surfers, and a Minnesota mall that features a "rainforest cafe." The cafe includes wild animals lolling around a waterfall.

Updating Henry David Thoreau's love of the simple life in the newspaper Earth First!, "Uncle Ramon" offers tips on how to engage in civil disobedience and still escape humongous fines from judges. Ramon, finally free of logging-protest lawsuits in Idaho after five years, says declaring oneself bankrupt is the ticket. First, you wean yourself from working and owning stuff, he advises; then you pay the government any back income taxes, all student loans and a fee of just $175. Sure, you're bankrupt and broke, he admits, but an immediate boon is disgrace - -you finally will have achieved absolute "black sheep" status in your family." That frees siblings and other relatives to reap high self-esteem from not being a bum like you. Stripped of everything from televisions to cars, you will then depend on the kindness of strangers and can work as an unpaid activist full time. And if you are pursued by the federal government, as former insurance executive Robert Amon, aka Ramon, was, you can always head to a Mexico beach, where he counsels: "Get a nice tan. To hell with it!"

Crowding the steps of the Utah capitol one Saturday last month, all-terrain vehicle owners and others rallied against establishing a huge chunk of wilderness in Utah. Conservationists have urged the protection of more than 9 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands, saying the state's wild lands are too spectacular to turn into roads and strip malls, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Protesters at the rally said more wilderness was a "lock-up of public lands," and one, cowboy poet Derrel Spencer of Escalante, Utah, concluded his verse with this not-so-veiled threat:

... Cuz killin', it ain't right.
But don't expect to take our land without a fight.
The fire's ragin' once again in the Western man's eyes
And these Eastern folks are getting
thicker than flies.
We're tying our ropes to 12 coil knots.
Our guns are loaded, our hammers are cocked.
So you boys best help us find a solution.
Or pull your hats down tight and get ready for the

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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