Heard around the West

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Old West shoot-outs? Gun battles these days have lost a lot of their family fun. In fact, people firing bullets at each other can be downright terrifying. As moviegoers were leaving a Las Vegas theater last July, many reacted with horror to a volley of gunshots out on the street. What they didn't know - and what they insist no one told them - was that the theater owner had hired actors to stage a gunfight to celebrate the opening of the movie Wild Wild West. People still in the theater couldn't see the gunplay, only hear shots. A half-dozen rhinestone cowboys had commandeered the street to blast shotguns and revolvers at each other. All blanks, of course. Movie patrons dove for cover; others fumbled for cell phones to dial 911. According to the police report, people screamed, "There's people being shot!" and "Run! Get down!" Some teenagers were so upset they couldn't speak. Nine moviegoers said they were hurt, including a 71-year-old woman who reported she was knocked down and trampled, says the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

With friends like these ... A woman walking on the sidewalk in Aspen suddenly felt pain in her left buttock; turning around she saw two men in a van quickly speeding away. It turns out the 20-somethings in the van thought she was a friend of theirs. To say a quick hello they'd fired a gun holding two-inch staples into the walker's rear end. "The men say it was a case of mistaken identity," reports Associated Press. The attackers face charges of unlawfully throwing missiles; luckily, their victim said she wasn't harmed.

In Idaho, one wolf will "live" forever. The animals had been all but wiped out in the state, when, in 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought back 35 wolves, reports the Idaho Statesman. Many locals weren't happy about the return, and one of the wolves was illegally shot by a man who said he was sure it was a coyote. That wolf was then stuffed and mounted - by a taxidermist doing community service for violating federal wildlife laws. Recently, the wolf found a home at Timberline High School in Boise, whose athletic department had raised $800 to match the federal agency's donation of $800 to pay for a display case. All of the high school was on hand when a cloth over the case was removed, revealing the majestic-looking wolf, head raised in a howl. Students, whose mascot is the wolf, were electrified. Applauding, they jumped to their feet and began chanting, "Wolf Pack Power." Bob Ruesink, supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Snake River Basin office, told the teenagers that the wolf was a fierce and successful competitor. "A wolf depends on the pack. He is a team player." Ian Cook, 16, said he thought the wolf was a great symbol for the school. And, he added, "It's part of what I plan for a career later in life - wildlife biology."

A fish with two heads, a monster-size salmon - neither is impossible - but thanks to leaked documents and photos, the New Zealand King Salmon Co. in Blenheim, New Zealand, has agreed to halt its experiments in growth hormone genes. It will also kill all of its engineered fish. The fooled-with fish grew three times faster than the normal rate, reports AP, and chinook, the largest salmon species at 110 pounds, had the potential to grow to a whopping 550 pounds. The tinkering came with costs; growth was accompanied by massive deformities, and scientists worried about spreading altered genes into the wild.

California's Eco-News has great news: A Swedish inventor has developed a refrigerator you rarely have to open. When you switch on a light, the door becomes transparent, allowing a view of the goodies inside without wasting cooling power. And from Tennessee, a company is marketing houses made from the "retired bodies of retrofitted Boeing 727s." For $200,000, MaxPower Aerospace delivers the plane, builds a support column for your new 1,200 square-foot home, and also adds skinny airline closets and cramped kitchen galleys. Even better, if you let the firm reattach the wings, you'll have "a pair of sun decks."

Arizona's tourism office crowed recently about gaining a couple of new national monuments, making the state the most "monumental" of the Lower 48. But while the Clinton administration protected an area rich in petroglyphs near Phoenix and almost doubled the size of Grand Canyon National Park, another state may have one-upped the coup. It's Nevada, where Las Vegas says it is creating its own Grand Canyon - with casino, of course. The new hotel is also expected to emerge in much less than 6 million years.

The sheriff's blotter in the Telluride Weekly Planet recounts a three-day bout of frustration: Feb. 7 began with a report of a dog on the loose; Feb. 8 escalated to a dog harassing wildlife in the same subdivision; and by Feb. 9 a deputy was fed up: "A dog, possibly the same one as reported before, was in the dog-free Lawson Hill area ... If you own this dog, get a clue!"

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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