Home on the electric range

  -How would you like it if you lost your jobs, your home and communities just because of an animal no one's even heard of? Is that what America's really about?" Tammy Jo asked every five minutes, every day, until she was unplugged. She is a member of the life-sized robotic ranching family that enthralled visitors at the recent New Mexico state fair. The robots are the latest warriors for the Old West, designed by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. Tammy Jo, Tommy Joe, Ma, Pa, Grandpa, and even Bubba the Bull were programmed to talk about ranchers being unfairly criticized, grazing fees, public lands and the Endangered Species Act as they sat around a breakfast table in cowboy hats. The androids, which cost taxpayers $30,000 of a $150,000 appropriation to improve agricultural exhibits, were a hit with fair-goers, says Edward Avalos, marketing specialist for the state department of agriculture. The reaction was not as positive from members of the Green Party, whose booth sat yards away, reports the Albuquerque Journal. "The Department of Agriculture shouldn't be in the business of funding the beef industry. When are we going to get $150,000 for our point of view?" asked Terry White of the Albuquerque Green Party. A spokesman for Gov. Bruce King said there was no reason to worry about the ranchers' biased rhetoric because "the opinions expressed by the robot family are their own and not necessarily the opinions of the state of New Mexico." The New Mexico Department of Agriculture can be reached at 505/988-6605.

High Country News Classifieds