Heard around the West

  • Cartoon: Buffalo wearing ad banners

    John Potter/Billings Gazette

Are San Francisco residents rude to tourists? Of course! But just to make it official, the San Francisco Chronicle sent a reporter out with crutches. The hobbling reporter then stood in a crowded bus or train waiting to see if someone would give him a seat. The common response? "I got mine." One of the rare times a seat was volunteered, says reporter Steve Rubenstein, he felt guilty but took it. A half hour later the good Samaritan spotted the reporter bounding down the street, carrying his crutches. "You must be feeling better," the man noted, while "odd glances were exchanged." Another test involved helping tourists. Standing on a busy corner and holding a map, the reporter looked around for guidance. He could have waited forever. San Franciscans also flunked when it came to letting a person with only one item go first in a supermarket line. Yet San Franciscans as well as people in Santa Rosa, San Rafael and Palo Alto were all courteous when it came to holding open a door for the next person. That's nice, Rubenstein allows, though he calls door etiquette "a relatively trivial act of decency that barely counts."

"Billionaires for Bush (or Gore)" say their target is Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, since only he threatens the corporate dominance of the Republican and Democratic parties. With tongue firmly in cheek, organizer Douglas Trump explains that plutocrats can always count on candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore, since they do the bidding of Big Money. Come to think of it, Trump adds, Gore and Bush may even be the same person: "We have never seen them in the same place at the same time," he told the Colorado Daily.

Parking lots surrounding giant Wal-Mart discount stores are beginning to fill up with a new breed: camper-shoppers. RV drivers on vacation drive their rigs from one Wal-Mart to another, and once there, park overnight for free - in a manner of speaking. Bargains inside the cavernous stores beckon. Some RVers told the Missoulian that if they shop "til they drop, it's "because of The Wuz: You know, it wuz one price and now it's another." The sleep-over phenomenon at Wal-Mart has not gone unnoticed by campground operators, who see their potential customers now lounging at night between painted white lines on the asphalt. Recently, a campground owner in Durango, Colo., said overnight drop-ins at Wal-Mart were ruining his business.

Yellowstone aficionado Dan Paris lives in New Hampshire but watches Old Faithful every day: He clicks on the national park's Web site and waits for the geyser to blow. So do thousands of other people who visit the park's most popular Web site. But Paris was surprised recently, reports the Billings Gazette, when he saw the "park's solicitation for corporate money pop up above the famous geyser" in an advertising space called a banner. Yellowstone officials say the push for sponsors is just an innovative way to pay for Internet presence and environmental education projects. Critics call it a desecration. "We wouldn't, I hope, put a billboard up next to ... Old Faithful itself," says Jon Catton of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "This is the electronic equivalent of that." The Web site, www.parkcams.com, directs potential corporate donors to the Yellowstone Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support the park. But on June 29, the group canned the solicitation. Park Service Director Robert Stanton said, "Advertising is not allowed in parks and will not be allowed in virtual parks."

Flamingos, spotted cows, statues of jockeys, even cutouts showing gardeners' rear ends - all have found their way onto front lawns. But not for long in Salem and a handful of other Oregon towns, where a recent crime wave struck, and lawn ornaments vanished. Now, two Salem women have been charged with stealing close to 300 of the outdoor tchotchkes. Perhaps some people were grateful to see the lawn statuary go. Reports the Idaho Statesman, "More than 100 pieces are yet to be claimed."

Embellished with statuary or not, lawns can be hazardous to your health. The Ouray (Colorado) County Plaindealer reports that mowers kill 75 people a year and injure another 20,000 in a grisly array of circumstances. Causes of mower manglings range from children falling off riding mowers, to electrocution from damaged electrical cords, to burns from leaking gasoline-caused fires. If you add willful weed-eaters that zing operators with metal chains, it's perfectly clear: Letting lawns revert to weeds is surely the safe and practical way to go.

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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