Heard around the West

  • Private tree farm near Loomis, Wash.

    photo courtesy Mark Sheehan
  "Quirky" is how the American Journalism Review describes the mottos of many newspapers, and in the West, one of the longer missions is stated by Washington's Wenatchee World: "Published in the apple capital of the world and the buckle of the power belt of the great Northwest." An in-your-face message comes from the Aspen Daily News: "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen' - always a good rejoinder after the Police Blotter comes out. The Mason Valley News in Yerington, Nev., boldly stands up for itself as "The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Yerington," while the Durango Herald in southern Colorado borrows a 1917 quote from writer William Allen White to assure readers: "There are three things that no one can do to the entire satsfaction of anyone else: make love, poke the fire and run a newspaper." The Anderson Valley Advertiser in Boonville, Calif., refers to its stories - or perhaps its ads - in its motto: "Fanning the flames of discontent." Going farther afield, The Perry Daily Journal in Oklahoma lays it on the line: "If you would avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing and be nothing," while the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Ill., also revels in frankness. Its aim: "To fear God, tell the truth and make money."

It was news to us that the semen of an elk - once it is removed from a captive animal - isn't just semen. It's given a name, and not just Joe or Bill. When the male components of elks-to-be were raffled off by the Colorado Elk and Game Breeders Association in Denver this winter, semen up for grabs by elk breeders carried monikers like "Stealth" and "Starwar II," though another was just plain "Al's Son."

Climbers in the Bureau of Land Management's magnificent Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, Nev., thought they'd found a fast way through the desert toward a back canyon. They were glad to find a route, they told the quarterly, Mountaineer, because they'd lost the trail several times. Then, says one climber, "my partner yelled that he had found a cairn and that we should go in its direction." But the cairns led the climbers on an erratic path. Finally, one noticed something funny about the rock: "It was steaming." The cairn was really human waste covered - barely - by rock. The couple concluded that the whole time they'd been faithfully following the trail of cairns they were really outlining an informal "designated outdoor bathroom."

The Mountaineer shares another true story of bizarre camping, this one from somewhere in the Rockies. Out for a night of drinking and tall-tale swapping, young men from a local town built an enormous bonfire with logs they'd conveniently found in the forest. In the morning, the men were awakened by a troop of furious Boy Scouts, who had spent a week preparing the logs as waterbars to rehabilitate a trail. That's not all: The carousers had "left a huge burnt spot in the middle of a meadow and littered it liberally with broken beer bottles." The Mountaineer is published by the nonprofit group, The Mountaineers, 300 Third Ave. W, Seattle, WA 98119.

Lacking insurance but not insouciance, a red fox strolled into a Sun Valley, Idaho, medical center recently. The Idaho Mountain Express said the curious animal had almost reached the emergency room when it was spotted at 6:30 a.m. Workers raised a ruckus, which frightened the fox; police had to lasso it before releasing it "just outside the door."

St. George, Utah, is bracing itself for an onslaught of Africanized or "killer" bees, which have already killed 1,000 people around the world as well as thousands of livestock. The hot-tempered bees were spotted only 37 miles away, in Mesquite, Nev., where they attacked a public-works employee. The Salt Lake Tribune says a swarm of 20,000-30,000 bees "can launch an attack within seconds'; so far, bees have killed six people in this country since they entered Arizona in 1990. St. George has outfitted its firefighters with low-tech but effective gear: netting for helmets.

Just as some rural towns in the West get their first drive-up liquor and fast-food stores, a town in California has begun debating whether to outlaw drive-throughs, reports Santa Rosa's Press Democrat. Critics say they contribute to air pollution because cars in line idle their engines; drive-ups also encourage more development planned around automobiles.

In Nome, Alaska, it's still Christmas, reports the Anchorage Daily News. A town tradition began when residents placed their post-Christmas trees on the ice, dubbing the result "Nome National Forest." For months the trees sit - until a spring thaw swallows the green relief whole.

Portland, Oregon's Willamette Week says the state's Green Party is girding itself against a sneak attack from the Transcendental Meditation movement founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The "Yogi-inspired Natural Law Party" crashed a Green Party convention in Seattle and came close to getting their presidential candidate nominated by the group. Green-pick Ralph Nader defeated the upstart by only five votes. Since then the political meditators have taken over Reform Party caucuses in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, bumping Pat Buchanan off the ballot. But Oregon's Green Party now boasts 5,000 members, says an organizer, and this time around candidate Nader "may have a pulse."

Riding all-terrain vehicles anytime, anywhere may feel like a great getaway. But they're not such a great "getaway car." Montana's Livingston Enterprise reports that when a prison escapee robbed a bank in Helena and tried to escape on a stolen ATV, he didn't get far. Three bank employees chased the 26-year-old, who was slowed down when his ATV became entangled in a barbed-wire fence. Despite his three handguns and a knife, the robber was wrestled to the ground by police.

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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