Heard around the West


Somewhat of a ham when it comes to boosting Idaho’s agriculture or timber industry, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has obligingly posed for photos standing next to a large person peering out from a bulging potato costume. But his Web site, www.senate.gov/~craig/frontpage.htm, recently featured the beaming Republican senator showing off his perky six-month-old West Highland terrier. Craig invited kids throughout Idaho to come up with an appropriate name for the girl puppy, a name, perhaps, like Spud. What he got after the irreverent Boise Weekly asked its readers for suggestions was far edgier, a cornucopia, in fact, of epithets and insults, such as Brighterthanowner, Verybadmansdog, Satan’s Girl, Ecoterrier, Gunnut, Timberslut, Redneck, Corporatewhore, Lobbysbuddy, Sellout, Snotweed, Treehater, Fascist, Boisecascade, Potlatch, Moraless, Log, Smog and Nazi — to name just a few. An aide says more than 500 children sent in names for the pup. Fifth-grader Patrick Stokes sent the winning moniker — Tattie, which is Scottish for potato.

"Small-dog owners beware" was the headline on a statement from wildlife refuge biologists on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, after the owner of a 20-pound poodle witnessed five bald eagles dining on her dog. The big birds are getting more desperate, Kenai refuge officials told the Anchorage Daily News, because "suitable prey" like snowshoe hare are in decline.

In Anchorage, some other big birds have become prey. Dennis Harrison, 37, was sitting in his apartment cleaning his rifle near an open window when he saw a raven outside, perched on a light pole. "He said it looked pretty as a picture through the scope and he shot it," reported an attorney for the Interior Department. But Harrison wasn’t finished. Through his scope he saw a second raven, so he shot the black bird as it took off. When a third raven tried to fly away, he shot that, too. Neighbors who heard the shots turned Harrison in, reports the Anchorage Daily News. He forfeited his rifle, was fined $1,000 for violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and also was required to pay $750 to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center. Staffers there saved the life of one of the birds, though a wing had to be amputated. The raven now needs a permanent home.

Tumbleweeds get a bad rap in Idaho. They can’t help blowing into contaminated wastewater at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. And when the wind blows them out again, they’re "hot." The New Scientist says researchers noticed that tumbleweeds stack up against a high fence around two contaminated ponds, "forming a ramp other weeds could climb over." INEEL says it has built higher fences to keep the resourceful weeds in. But then there are the ducks — 21 species that touch down on the waste ponds, says researcher Ronald Warren. No problem, he assures us. If you ate one, "the maximum radiation dose you’d get would be less than you’d get from a dental X-ray."

A cooked chicken just got a Seattle television reporter in big trouble. John Curley, pretending to stew the bird in Yellowstone Park’s Geyser Basin, was filmed as he left the boardwalk, dug a hole and buried the fowl. Later he was shown uncovering the crispy critter and taking a few bites. Park officials did not find what KING-TV called a joke very funny: "Not only is it illegal; it’s very dangerous to wander off the boardwalk in thermal areas," said Yellowstone spokeswoman Stacy Vallie in the Billings Gazette. TV representatives insist the chicken was pre-cooked, and "since people got brains in the park," nobody is likely to practice underground baking.

Congratulations to the Grand Canyon condor who laid the first egg produced by the endangered birds since captive rearing began in 1986. Unfortunately, the egg, found in a cave, was cracked, though biologists crowed to Associated Press that it was a wonderful start. "The birds in the wild are trying to learn how to do this on their own," said Jeff Humphrey, condor recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "They don’t have a frame of reference where they’ve seen other birds do it." Only 160 of the giant birds survive in the world, and those in this country have been raised by unseen biologists. The female condor that attempted parenthood in Arizona was six years old and had been cruising Grand Canyon since 1997.

Waiting in line at the post office recently to buy another round of one-cent stamps reminded us of the story of a 4-year-old once mailed as a package. May Pierstroff was put on the Northern Pacific train in Grangeville, Idaho, in 1914, and picked up safe and sound by her grandparents in Lewiston, Idaho, later the same day, says writer Charles Pezeshki. The charge was 53 cents — "the going rate for mailing baby chicks." She also rode in the mail car with postage stamps attached to her coat. "Word of her excursion soon prompted the post office department to forbid sending any human being by mail," adds Pezeshki, who read about the parcel named May on forgottenrails.com.

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]

High Country News Classifieds