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Know the West

Heard around the West

  A knitting society in Sequim, Wash., is making little wool sweaters to outfit little penguins who were drenched by a tanker's oil spill in Australia. The one-foot-tall fairy penguins need the sweaters both for warmth and for protection. When the penguins preen their bodies the oil poisons them. "They look so cute," said a member of the North Olympic Shuttle and Spindle Guild, who heard the call for knitting help on a Canadian radio station. "You can just see their heads and little flippers sticking out," she told Associated Press.

Sadie Emerson loved her Tiny Boo, a potbellied pig who had the run of the house and who "gave me kisses and was really sweet." Then 50-pound Tiny Boo went wandering. Emerson and her 3-year-old son patrolled the streets of Deming, N.M., hunting for the pet. Stopping off at a party near a mobile home, Emerson noticed that the main course was a big mound of meat. It was the remains of Tiny Boo. Homeowner Robert Bertola, accused of cruelty to animals, claimed that the little pig had "tried to attack him," reports Associated Press.

The Yellowstone Valley Flyer, a newsletter of the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society in Montana, describes a fiery complaint that an Audubon member sent to an all-terrain vehicle advertiser in Field and Stream, the magazine sometimes called the bible of the outdoors. The ad for Polaris ATVs encouraged riders to hit trails that turn into a "rutted track" crowded with boulders, bogs, mud and logs. Montana reader Phil Jacquith let Polaris have it, explaining that bogs and mud equate to riparian and wetland, and that the ad "encourages the mindless criminal destruction of these lands." In between other mentions of "mindless" abuse by reckless ATV drivers, Jacquith explained the public-lands tradition of this country, one derived from sharing a commons that is always in danger of trashing by the thoughtless few. Flyer columnist Robert Lubber says if Jacquith gets an answer from Polaris it might make "interesting reading." The Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society is reached at Box 1075, Billings, MT 59103.

A Mormon carpenter in Powell, Wyo., who hadn't been to church in 25 years, suddenly felt a call to go. But after being told to leave the local LDS Church because he was smoking, Kenneth Albert Wiley, 47, drove his Ford pickup through the church's front doors. Later, he said he wanted to start a new church that allowed smoking and drinking coffee, reports the Cody Enterprise.

Westerners wake up these days and find that on a nearby hill stands a cellular tower - a big and ugly surprise. In Santa Fe, US West has a solution: Slather it with adobe. That way it might fit into a historic neighborhood, says the New Mexican, reporting on a US West proposal to mount a cell antenna next to an adobe-covered chimney. Disguise is not a new ploy; Arizona cell towers have been disguised as saguaro cactuses. But when a tower rises 250 feet, it's tougher to cover up. Santa Fe County is currently fighting construction of a 250-foot antenna between Santa Fe and Pojoaque that will be visible for miles. It's next to an equally large tower built on land owned by Nambe Pueblo, which says that as a sovereign nation it does not need to adhere to the county's planning standards.

Canada gave us lynx to replenish our almost-extinct supply of high-altitude cats and also allowed us to export packs of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park. So what's the problem with giving America 25 grizzly bears? That's overkill, say some Canadian environmentalists, in the Boston Globe. "There's too much of a Wild West attitude down there; too many guns," says Evelyn Kirkaldy of the British Columbia People's Action for Threatened Habitat. "The Americans killed out their own grizzlies, and now they want ours." Canada's spare bears - it has some 10,000 - would be relocated to the 25,140-square-mile Selway-Bitterroot wilderness in central Idaho and Montana. Biologists believe the big bears pose little threat to cows or sheep in the area. But grizzlies might vie for top-of-the-food-chain with hikers. In Canada, bear expert Stephen Herrero says he's all for the bruin drain, calling it the "neighborly" thing to do.

If they'd been smarter about public relations, Sacramento, Calif., water officials would have drowned their money-saving plan in jargon. Instead, they crowed about finding new water for drinking by tapping toilets, and that's when talk-show producers pounced. Yuck! they reacted, not understanding that almost everyone drinks water that has been treated after being flushed innumerable times. State water mavens gamely pointed out that the wastewater would rest underground for five years, cleansing itself in sandy layers before getting pumped up and treated. Now, more public hearings are scheduled to make sure the public understands water recycling, says the Scripps-McClatchy Western Service.

While the "Million Mom March" against handgun violence prepares to crowd the Capitol on Mother's Day, a Utah coalition wants Congress to leave handguns alone. Including groups called Second Amendment Sisters and Women Against Gun Control, the coalition planned a small rally for downtown Salt Lake City. Organizer Janalee Tobias told Deseret News she was fed up with gun haters. It's the "pistol-packing mamas' who can outwit criminals, she said. "Allow mothers to carry concealed weapons to defend themselves ... and confuse the would-be rapist and murderer." Organizers of the Million Mom March May 13 say their target is lax laws regulating handguns.

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]