« Return to this article

Know the West

Heard around the West


Reading a book in these tense times can get you kicked off an airplane - not just once but twice. It happened in Philadelphia to 22-year-old Neil Godfrey. The book was Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey, and Godfrey was carrying it when he tried to board a plane to Phoenix. Noticing a security guard staring fixedly at the book's cover, Godfrey, too, looked down and realized he might have a problem. The cover of the 1991 book features an illustration of a hand holding sticks of dynamite, summing up pretty much what Abbey's character Hayduke, a radical environmentalist, was up to in the Southwest. Godfrey told the Phoenix City Paper that he was questioned by airport officials for so long that he missed his plane.

When he called his mother for consolation, she volunteered to call United Airlines to plead his innocence. After she explained that her son was a reader of novels and not a terrorist, the airline relented and Godfrey was once again set to fly to Phoenix. This time, though, he carried a Harry Potter book. It didn't help. Everybody in the airport seemed to remember him and the dynamite on the cover of his Abbey book. Godfrey says his luggage was searched yet again and an escort assigned to take him through security "while at least 15 law enforcement officials looked on." After being searched one more time, he was still not permitted to board. Godfrey and his parents have lodged complaints but were told that it is up to the airlines to determine who gets through security. An airport spokesman added that "stories like Godfrey's are likely to become increasingly common."

It was the middle of the night in Albuquerque, N.M., and things must have been excruciatingly slow on the crime front. Two men in the police department did what comes naturally: They indulged in a snack attack. Not so naturally, they blasted off in the police helicopter. As luck would have it, somebody saw the chopper on its errand of Krispy Kreme retrieval and blew the whistle. Both men have been disciplined, says the Idaho Statesman, because "the men broke departmental rules when they set down in the chopper to get a box of doughnuts."

Don't be picking on pigs, says a swine judge at the Arizona State Fair. "Everybody thinks that pigs smell," says Mark Hogan, a Ph.D. candidate, "but I'm here to tell you that humans smell worse, OK?" Well, OK. The judge then spelled out for the Arizona Republic what he looks for when 4-H kids parade their porkers around the ring. "The particular pig I select will be sound and it will be big and long - just like a perfect bodybuilding pig." Not shy about voicing his opinions, Hogan also had advice for cooks who mistakenly fear "a certain parasite" that we're guessing is the one that burrows into muscles and is called trichinosis. Hogan says pigs no longer carry the disease, so pork need only be cooked to an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Few people know this, but the official cooking pot for Utah is the Dutch oven. It was designated in 1988. Every member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America was recently told this factoid in a press release from a company that makes cast iron skillets. Many firms have begun tying their products to the upcoming Utah Olympics, and Dutch ovens just got a grip.

More advances on the food front: If you want a square meal, go to Japan, where Japanese farmers are forcing watermelons to grow in box-shaped molds. This makes for easy storage, though the cost is a bit steep at $82 a melon, reports Northern California's Econews.

It is definitely not a good idea to punch your bride of one day, says a justice of the peace in Jackson, Wyo., who ordered newlyweds from Denver to live separately until appearing together at a hearing. Robert Grogen tried this excuse: His wife hit him first. According to the Jackson Hole News, Susan Grogen blamed her husband's fisticuffs on too much celebratory drinking at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Judge George Kuvinka wasn't impressed by any of it, telling the bride, "It seems like you should dump this guy."

By omitting unnecessary words as writer E.B. White ordered us to do, journalists have lost a lot of flair in 100 years. Here's part of an Aspen Times hunting tip from October 1901: "Should the elements remain peaceful until after the expiration of the open season, there is a reason to believe that many deer will escape the hunters, who for various reasons do not generally storm the more elevated retreats of the animal." We're guessing that means lazy hunters pray for snow.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (www.hcn.org). Bizarre, quirky or quintessentially Western stories can be sent to her by e-mailing [email protected]