Heard around the West


Bicycles have been around for more than a century, but they've been getting a new look in the last five years, thanks to battery-powered motors that spin their back wheels. With that assist, hills can turn into no-pedal pieces of cake. In Grants Pass, Ore., the owner of a company called Solar Man says, "When people see me and my wife on these bikes, they call us cheaters; I say, "Yeah, we're cheaters; we're cheating the oil companies," reports the Daily Courier. Gary Thomas and another motorized-bicycle enthusiast, Ray Ogden, say electric bikes can travel at about 15 to 18 miles per hour for some 20 miles, and all for a mere 2.5 cents. But what does a rider do when an uphill looms and juice is running low? Well, a rider can always pitch in by pedaling, and the bicycle guys say they've made refueling convenient by opening a charging station in town; it's powered by solar panels. Best of all, say Thomas and Ogden, the latest electric bicycles aren't like those rackety mopeds of old; their favorite models, the Currie and the Ebike, run quietly.

Still, carless transportation is a tough sell, or so admits former Ford Motor Co. president Lee Iacocca, whose latest gig is producing electric bicycles through his Los Angeles-based company, EV Global. Iacocca says he doesn't want to do away with automobiles; he just wants to substitute an energy-efficient choice for short, gas-guzzling trips, reports Associated Press. Demand for the firm's electric bicycles has been sluggish, with sales under 1,000 per month. But from Santa Cruz, Calif., help may be on the way. County officials there "are practically begging people to get out of their cars and onto electric bicycles," says AP, and to encourage the switch, the county says it will offer loans and battery-charging stations around town.

Corn season is just about over, and it's just a guess, but some may mourn the loss of their favorite and peculiarly engrossing daily activity: watching the corn grow - or at least sway - on the Internet. As Montana's Great Falls Tribune put it, "Iowa CornCam lets Web viewers keep their eyes on the ears," and although nothing moved much except the occasional bee or bird, office workers liked checking in at the site, which encouraged viewers to "cheer as the mighty cornstalks battle wind, hail and rainstorms." CornCam was born, reports Associated Press, when grower Jim Greif and editor Dan Zinkand of Iowa Farmer Today were enduring a University of Iowa football game "in which the Hawkeyes were losing about a zillion to nothing." The corn page - www.IowaFarmer.com/ corncam/corn.html - announces that harvest is coming Oct. 15.

Perhaps it would have been better if Kim Barnes, a former Air Force fighter pilot, had not tried to demonstrate improper gun behavior on his first date with Susan MacDonald, who runs CT scans at a hospital. She was telling him about the gunshot victims she sees at work, reports the Denver Post, when he said he knew just how teenagers accidentally shoot themselves. Then he shot himself, with a 9 mm pistol that fired a hollow-point round through his leg. "I was explaining one thing but a whole different set of circumstances created another," Barnes said. "My finger was nowhere near the trigger. That is a misfire." For her part, MacDonald hoped he recovered soon. She said she looked forward to a second date.

When the salmon flew toward her at a congressional field hearing in Missoula, Mont., Idaho Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage ducked, avoiding most of the rotting fish, which splattered the wall behind her and stank for the next six hours. Reading a statement about the summer's fires, Chenoweth-Hage hadn't at first heard some in the audience of 300 shout "Whoa!" and "No!" as her assailant, 20-year-old Mark Randall from Moscow, Idaho, ran up the aisle, lunged at Chenoweth-Hage, then threw the fish, yelling, "You are the greatest threat to the forest!" Randall, who was out on "supervisory release" for blocking a timber sale in Idaho last January, reports the Missoulian, was charged with felony assault. Apologies were profuse from Montanans at the hearing, from Gov. Marc Racicot - himself the target of zealots who threw bison intestines near him a few years ago - and from Republican Rep. Rick Hill. "I am embarrassed, but also disgusted that the people of Montana could be denied the right to have this hearing," Hill said. "We have to be able to discuss our differences with civility." Chenoweth-Hage, who recessed the hearing briefly to clean off her hair and clothes, later passed off the attack with a quip: "I would like to say that I find it amusing that they used salmon. I guess salmon must not be endangered anymore." Meanwhile, her attacker refuses to eat and has organized six other inmates in jail to accept only vegetarian food, reports AP.

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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