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Heard around the West

  Snowmobilers may be another breed. "I tolerate cold real well," Dr. Bruce Hayse told the Jackson Hole News. Riding around on frozen Jackson Lake, Hayse says he suddenly felt the ice give way; in less than a minute, he found himself swimming. As he looked up at the Tetons from his hole in the ice, Hayse says he realized he'd been expecting a disaster like this to happen for years. "If you're going to die, it's a beautiful place to happen," he recalls thinking. Not about to give in, he swam toward an edge of ice and tried again and again to lift himself up. Finally, he got a grip and hauled himself out. But afraid he'd plunge through the ice again if he stood, Hayse crawled to shore on his belly. He then lumbered - encased in ice - to a highway to hitch a ride. Hayse says a person has up to 45 minutes before succumbing to hypothermia in the water; he credits rough-palmed mitts for helping him hoist himself onto the ice. As if one immersion weren't enough, however, the Jackson physician put himself back in the lake that afternoon. This time he wore a wet suit. He dove 12 feet into the frigid water to hook his snowmobile for retrieval later this winter. Hayse says he now has a tip for snowmobilers: Wear a life jacket when out on the ice.

Never satisfied with being just a blonde, empty-headed babe, Barbie has morphed into yet another persona: Tlingit Barbie of the Northwest Coast. Though she wears a striped blanket and her black hair is held back with a headband, she still stands on tippy-toes, primed, perhaps, for wearing a pair of pricey Manolo Blahnik heels. She also sports a waist that would measure 17 inches around a mere mortal, reports the Anchorage Daily News. Though Mattel Corp. acknowledges some off-the-mark generalizations in its description of Barbie's tribal ways, Tlingits interviewed in Anchorage said they were pleased to see the $25.86 dark-skinned doll. Said Rosita Worl, a Tlingit who works as an anthropologist, this Barbie shows people that "we're still alive."

Lost and probably bewildered by concrete - that was the plight of two young cougars who wandered through pre-dawn Salt Lake City recently. The cubs were spotted at South Temple and Main Street at about 4:30 a.m., reports the Salt Lake Tribune, whereupon police began to give chase. Pursuit split up the siblings, one finding refuge behind a concrete planter in front of a Subway Sandwiches shop, the other hiding in bushes in Dinwoody Park. Searchers swelled to 14 officers but all backed off when their presence sent the Subway cat airborne, trying to jump through the shop window. Even after getting hit by a tranquilizer dart, the feisty cougar wiggled through a net and again ran through the city, a line of officers racing to keep up after it. A state conservation officer finally nabbed both wildcats. He said they were probably motherless - and certainly clueless about life in the big city.

In the Jackson Hole area of Teton County, Wyo., commissioners have tried to hold the line against conspicuous consumption, barring houses larger than 10,000 square feet. They say the monster homes drive taxes up and working people out of town. But there have been a series of flagrant breaches, reports the Jackson Hole News. They range from building houses on other people's property, to a homeowner who recently added an entire floor and a couple of thousand feet - after his house had been inspected. That same homeowner now wants the county to retroactively approve 15,000-square-foot houses on properties larger than 10 acres. Jackson Hole Guide columnist Jonathan Schechter calls that appeasement. "It's gut-check time for the county," he says. "The only way to send a message is to make him tear the whole thing down. A fine won't do it." There is some support for village-size houses. Resident Alex Mason says, "The only thing I see wrong with a 15,000-square-foot house is that I can't afford one myself."

And in Colorado Springs, developers are feeling thwarted because the city insists on involving community groups in building decisions. This hijacks the development process, complained builder Bill Schuck in the Wall Street Journal. In a novel redefinition of democracy, he added: "You can't be an elected official and let people dictate the law of the land."

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]