Heard around the West

  • BLOWING IN THE WIND: An unknown artist etched these faces into a dirt embankment on an isolated stretch of Highway 20-26 between Casper and Shoshoni, Wyoming

    Mark Gocke

Is this a tale for Ripley's Believe It or Not? A moose in Whitefish, Mont., threw itself at a car driven by a woman who loves moose so much her license plates read moosie1 and moosie2. The suicidal moose, probably a victim of raging hormones during the rutting season, "really shook up the driver," reports the Hungry Horse News. An up side is that the animal will now feed hungry people. A volunteer with the North Valley Food Bank says one moose provides enough meat for 400 meals.

In Anchorage, Alaska, a class for gifted second- through sixth-grade students got a surprise lesson in animal reproduction, thanks to a drama right outside their classroom window. It all began when their teacher, Doug Weimann, saw a bull moose so huge it seemed majestic. "So, like a dope, I say, 'Come on over, kids, and take a look at this!' " The next thing he knew, a cow emerged and "they were engaging in activities I'd rather my kids not see." Weimann says his face turned red as he told the class, "I can assure you this is a natural act. Now, let's get back to work and give them a little privacy." His students, he reports, took the spectacle in stride. "They're Alaskan kids," he told the Anchorage Daily News. "Any other kid from a major city would have been off task for hours."

Berkeley, Calif., it turns out, likes to laugh at itself. During the annual "How Berkeley can you be?" parade down University Ave., marchers carried placards reading, "If you build it, we will complain" and "Stop it now, before it gets too bad!" Nimby Pride Petitions were also available so that people could fill in the blanks and oppose any and all threats to the local community. Potential not-in-my-backyard threats ranged from a development that "endangers feral cats" to one that "increases taxes or profits." Perhaps unwilling to mock only themselves, some marchers also went after the "United Caffeinated States of Starbucks," reports the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Fake draft notices handed out said that since the company had taken over the entire world, it was time to report for duty or "you'll end up toiling on a third-world coffee plantation." As onlookers joined marchers in this essence-of-Berkeley celebration, there also appeared an army of extra-terrestrial Klingons, a mostly naked man in a green tutu, and a lively group calling itself "Young Republicans for Heterosexuality."

When the federal government brought wolves back to the Yellowstone country, it didn't take long for the smart and adaptable animals to kick out the coyotes in their new neighborhood. Now, wolves are also forging relationships with bison and grizzlies. Even though wolves "are getting really beat up," reports the Jackson Hole News, some are taking down winter-weakened bison, which nonetheless are massive, quick to kick and tough for wolves to get their teeth into. Two wolves in the Crystal Creek pack have been most aggressive, killing six bison last spring. But the wolves have to chow down fast. Yellowstone Park biologist Doug Smith says that in almost every case, grizzlies move in to seize possession, and "as long as the grizzly is there, the wolves check out." Smith says from watching wolf packs operate he's learned a basic technique of survival: "When moose, elk or bison stand their ground, the wolves nearly always back off."

"We tried to warn her," says Portland, Ore.'s Willamette Week, about the visit of Katie McGinty, former head of President Clinton's Council on Environmental Quality, to the green-activist town of Eugene. McGinty came to the college town to promote the environmental record of Al Gore, but "clearly not buying it, a University of Oregon protester shoved a 20-pound chinook in her face."

"Babes in the woods" was a typical headline for the story about mostly mature British Columbia women going naked to protect trees. A 2001 calendar featuring whimsical and strategically staged photos of the women - ranging in age from 18 to 74 - has already raised $675,000 to halt a clear-cut that would take out 10 percent of the trees on Salt Spring Island. Negative reaction has been sparse, reports the Seattle Times, although one U.S. Customs agent was taken aback. Looking at the calendar's cover, which featured two nude women cradling lambs, the man "froze, saying, "I've seen enough."

In Redmond, Wash., a teenager's promise to a dying neighbor saved a 120-year-old red cedar tree. Frequently visited by a bald eagle, the 45 foot tree was earmarked for removal to make way for a sewer line. But retired botanist Barbara Mowbray lived in a condominium nearby, and as she neared death from cancer, she asked her next-door neighbor, Lindsey Miles, 14, to protect the tree when she was gone. Miles said she would, reports the Seattle Times; then, after her neighbor died, she realized suddenly that "a promise means you're going to do something." The teenager appealed both to the mayor and city council and, to her surprise, she says, they told the developer that new sewage pipes must spare the tree.

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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