Heard around the West


How do we resemble our fellow Westerners - the black bears? Let me count some of the ways.

  • We like to share dessert. Near Ketchum, Idaho, a 225-pounder broke into a home, opened the freezer and pulled out half a gallon of rocky road ice cream, reports the Idaho Express. When the home's residents saw the bear ambling back for more, "they threw a second half-gallon out the door." At the nearby Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant, a bear opened a screen door, then the freezer, grabbed a mud pie and walked out. Said owner Bob Dunn, "He looked like a man in a bear suit."
  • We take out the garbage. Trinidad, Colo., is a "town under siege" from up to 20 bears, reports the Rocky Mountain News. The animals are kicking dogs off porches, "tossing trash cans like toys" and dumpster-diving as a group at a Wendy's parking lot. In Aspen, Colo., a bear found a screen door open at an empty home in the posh Starwood subdivision and invited himself into the kitchen. There, he found six bags of trash ready for the next day's garbage pickup, reports the Aspen Daily News. When former tennis ace Chris Evert and husband Andy Mills came home that night, they found the bruin sampling leftovers strewn on the floor.
  • We overindulge - and regret it later. One bear got lucky in Pueblo, Colo., finding a door open at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant. The bear guzzled some four gallons of raspberry tea syrup over the weekend, tracked another gallon of the purple goo through the warehouse, then sat around recuperating from what The Denver Post called "a sugar hangover." "I think she could have had an upset stomach," guessed forklift operator Frank Lile.

Reptile thieves made it oh-so-easy for police in Rock Springs, Wyo. A few days after two men burgled a store specializing in iguanas, chameleons, scorpions and turtles, they called the shop to ask for advice on what to feed their cold-blooded pets. Two reptiles, unfortunately, had died under the inept care, reports the Sheridan Press.

A dove, mad for her unhatched chicks in a nest inside an 18-ton semi-trailer, followed the truck for 20 miles to Klamath Falls, Ore., forcing the driver to drive so slowly he nearly lost his job, reports the Idaho Statesman. Operations manager Chane Hull says he was "furious over where that driver was," but relented when he heard that a bird was flying as fast as it could to keep up with the truck. Though the trailer is one of only two owned by Jefferson State Rock Products, the company says the rig will stay put until the dove's eggs hatch.

Oregon State University demonstrated a robot that allows cows to choose when and how often they will be milked. Cows wander over into the milking parlor whenever they feel the urge, reports the Capital Press, and after a bar-coded tag is read, a robotic milking arm goes into action on the animal's four teats. "The individual cow is the decision-maker with the Bou-Matic Robotic Milking System," says a flyer for the device, which was developed jointly in Wisconsin and Europe. The machine isn't cheap at $200,000, but it lasts up to 20 years, and Oregon promoter Dave Stephens says that it reduces stress on cows and saves on wages for workers. Dairy farmers can get a free trip to Wisconsin to see a Bou-Matic robot interact with bovines; call Stephens at 503/655-5981 for details.

In plenty of time for the 2002 Olympics, the state of Utah has liberalized its Byzantine liquor laws. Now, restaurants can leave drink lists with patrons, waiters can ask if you want wine with your dinner, and billboards can promote liquor companies and products. The decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a lawsuit brought by club owners, the magazine Catalyst and an individual, represents the end of a time when "the state's nondrinkers took priority over free-speech rights," says the Salt Lake Tribune. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control commissioners are holding hearings on the new rules, which could be loosened further.

In another example of court-ordered liberality, a bus driver in Salt Lake City has won the right to change his name to Santa Claus. The request from David Porter went up the ladder to the Utah Supreme Court. It ruled 4-1 that although his choice of name might be "unwise," Porter intended no fraud. A lower court, reports Associated Press, had decided that a bus driver named Santa Claus would "create confusion."

Republican Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard got an earful from some constituents when he headed down to Cortez recently. After the conversation turned to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reports the Cortez Journal, one man in the crowd said he had 51 years in the oil and gas business and was confident that he knew what would happen in Alaska once we allowed drill rigs: "It will look prettier and more pristine than it did before." Another resident urged Allard to keep federal lands open for energy exploration in the Lower 48 "instead of shutting it down to provide places for people to hike who won't even work for a living." Readers Tim Hovezak and Leslie Sesler from Dolores say the other big topic Allard heard about was gravel pits along the Dolores River.

It's new - the Cody Coyote, a supplement to Dewey Vanderhoff's occasional newspaper spoof, the Cody Boobyprise. It's littered with loony stories and satire, such as the page about the new U'All Mart featuring "a cart, a wheelbarrow or a forklift" for all your shopping needs. The biggest has a capacity of 16 tons. "Only a few dozen Mom and Pop stores in a 100-mile radius will have to close their doors," thanks to U'All Mart, "and only a few hundred folks will be put out of work." For your very own copy, contact [email protected] or call 307/527-6020.

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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