Heard around the West

  • Diane Sylvain

Have cows been getting a bad rap? Do their bovine exteriors hide graceful interiors?

Peoa, Utah, resident Randy Barton did not know, but he hoped that dressing cows for the ballet would at least draw an audience and help raise money for the town's two parks. "Clad in nothing but tutus," the Cow Ballet drew crowds, and though they did not dance, says Barton in the Salt Lake Tribune, they did constitute "kind of an artistic vision."

The Cody Enterprise of Wyoming reports the sobering story of a woman who took a big drink after her car spun out of control on an icy highway in 1997. Or perhaps it's a good legal defense. "Rattled" and "upset," Julie Haglund told police, she fished out a half-pint of vodka from her car and downed it, according to court documents. That led to her being charged with driving while inebriated. But while Haglund was later acquitted, the state Department of Transportation refused to return her license. The case was appealed to a district judge, who ruled that since Haglund beat the rap, she must get her license back.

Aspen Skiing Co. is hanging tough: It will not allow snowboarders to mix with downhill skiers on Aspen Mountain. The Aspen Times gave the decision a "pat on the back" in its "pat" or "kick in the pants" issue. But in offering an explanation of Aspen's 8.2 percent drop in skier numbers last winter, letter-writer Sterling Greenwood, in Roaring Fork Sunday, was anything but complimentary: "Maybe dress and grooming codes for employees aren't sufficiently severe? The uniforms aren't starched enough? Or service personnel, already demeaned by drug urine tests, don't show enough of that grinning "step'n fetchit" spirit so charming to tourists?" He warned that Aspen was fast "evolving into a Disneyland."

Getting away from it all is becoming harder. On 13,770-foot Grand Teton, one of the most famous jagged peaks of the West, the beeps of cell phones and chatty conversations have become commonplace. "I just wanted to let you know we made it back to the Lower Saddle," says one post-summiter into his cell phone. Another whips out his phone to make plans for dinner. Listening in while resting on the flanks of Grand Teton, Forest Service staffer Adrienne Sherred had this reaction: If she got hold of one of the phones, she told Associated Press, she'd "chuck it off the mountain." As recently as eight years ago, says climbing guide Al Read, you could climb Grand Teton and find yourself alone at the top. No longer. From July into September, he says, climbers must queue up and wait before ascending the most popular routes.

Backcountry banking is starting to replace the honor system in some national forests. On New Mexico's Cibola National Forest, rangers rarely ticket people $50 when their cars don't display a daily or annual pass, yet many hikers never drop $3 into a box to wander the east side of the Sandia Mountains, reports the Albuquerque Tribune. So forest officials are thinking about placing ATMs at an "informational pullout" to make billing - and collecting - easier. "We don't like giving tickets," explained Cibola Forest spokeswoman Karen Carter.

A dubious tires-to-tomatoes plan for eastern Colorado finally fell flat. "It's a relief," said Delmer Manyik, who lives next to the site of a proposed greenhouse that would have been heated by burning tires. Since El Paso County commissioners granted RipeTouch promoters a permit two years ago, neighbors have feared an onslaught of fumes and smoke. Recently, the county refused to extend the permit after the company failed to clean up its 200-acre site, reports the Colorado Springs Independent. But RipeTouch isn't going anywhere soon. Some 1.2 million tires are now strewn on the property, creating a fire hazard. Last month, lightning struck a manmade mountain of 7 million tires in the San Joaquin Valley of California, sending black smoke some 3,000 feet in the air and sprinkling soot for miles, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Volunteers turning out for California's annual Coastal Cleanup vie for finding the weirdest objects by the shore, reports the Contra Costa Times. Among 251 tons of trash and nearly 21 tons of recyclables recovered last month were these oddities: a bottled love letter, a carved pumpkin full of eggs, false teeth, and, all the way from San Antonio, Texas, a gravestone. The gravestone took the $500 prize for most unusual throwaway.

There was something about tents that a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park found not to his liking. So the 3-year-old bear, dubbed Kelty after a tent brand, squashed, ripped or bounced on eight or perhaps nine tents, reports Associated Press. Kelty's MO had been breaking up tents empty of people. But one night the 180-pound animal pawed and sniffed at several occupied tents in a remote part of the park. Noise from the visiting grizzly roused one camper, who yelled to scare the bear away and then climbed a tree for safety. Sure enough, Kelty returned and "jumped on the tent, breaking the poles and tearing holes in the tent and ground tarp." He eluded capture until park rangers baited him with something he couldn't resist - a tent that was really a trap. Kelty, grown far too familiar with people, was scheduled to be killed because no suitable home could be found. At the last minute a wildlife shelter in Southern California, Wildlife Way Station at Sylmar, agreed to accept him.

Computer jockeys on the Internet keep coining new words:

Ohnosecond: That miniscule fraction of time in which you realize you've just made a big mistake;

Blamestorming: Sitting around in a group discussing why something failed, and who was really responsible;

Dancing Baloney: Little animated figures done by computer that serve simply to impress as in, "This page is kinda dull. Maybe a little dancing baloney will help."

Generica: Features of the American landscape that are exactly the same no matter where one is. "We were so lost in generica, I forgot what town we were in."

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, quirky photos. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]

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