Heard around the West


There's yet another use for duct tape, one more innovative than the last one you might have thought of - such as wrapping up like a bullet for Halloween. Duct tape came in handy at a Montana airport after a botched takeoff knocked "stewardesses on their butts" and busted the lens on a navigational light, reports the Hungry Horse News. Not a problem after the crew duct-taped the damaged light and arrived at Minneapolis before dark. Passenger Howard Steel, who kept an eye on the taped light while in the air, said the duct tape "held spectacularly" despite high-altitude cold and the 563-mph speed of the plane. "Only in Montana," Steel mused afterward.

Someone at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel in western Colorado had fun writing a headline for a column about what some call The People's Republic of Boulder. Boulder is the town where some citizens lambasted a production of the play Grand Hotel, because actors playing Roaring Twenties types smoked on stage, and the town bars smoking in all public places. Now, the Boulder City Council is considering a ban on outdoor couches near the University of Colorado, because sometimes students torch the furniture after football games. Meanwhile, state legislators have gone gung-ho for guns: The Colorado House approved a bill requiring sheriffs to issue a concealed-weapon permit to anyone who already owns a gun and who can pass a background check. The headline on the column: "When couches are outlawed, only outlaws will be couch potatoes." In his spoof of Boulder debating the weighty issue of "upholstery-related violence," columnist Gary Harmon says, "Industry officials ... noted that most of the furniture involved in the victory conflagration was cheaply made, hard-to-regulate love seats. We call them Saturday Night Specials ... Many didn't even have consumer-warning tags."

Ernie Franke of Krazy Ernie's Emporium in Thompson Falls, Mont., blasted his computer monitor with a 20-gauge shotgun recently, explaining: "Fish and Game has taken all the fun out of this job." The job was issuing hunting licenses, but the state's automated system was so screwed up, he told the Livingston Enterprise, it wouldn't print a license. At the same time it would debit his account to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Franke said he plans to sell his store.

When is a clear-cut not a clear-cut? Perhaps when you can disguise the logging or even make it pretty. That's what Washington state foresters have concluded after a two-year study found that "people don't like clear-cuts." Peter Goldman, with the Washington Forest Law Center, said that what the Washington Department of Natural Resources needs isn't "aesthetic logging" but stricter regulation.

Here's another nifty mnemonic for remembering the names of the rock layers of Grand Canyon. This one describes what you would see when going up the river from Lees Ferry, says Bill Wolverton of Escalante, Utah. "Many Canyon Walls Know No Capitalist Exploitation," which stands for Moenkopi, Chinle, Wingate, Kayenta, Navajo, Carmel and Entrada. Unfortunately, you can't do that, he says, "because the best canyon walls have been the victim of capitalist exploitation."

Commissioners in Catron County, N.M., who have always favored livestock over wolves or mountain lions, now have a new villain: goldfish. Commissioners recently told the state they approved the poisoning of Quemado Lake, whose prolific goldfish are outcompeting trout. No one knows how the goldfish got into the lake decades ago, and theories range from a dumped goldfish bowl to anglers using goldfish as bait. Reporter Janis Marston says it is known why the tiny fish are flourishing. The string of mild winters throughout the Southwest has kept goldfish from freezing back during the winter, she says, and starting in the late 1990s, "Quemado Lake's water began turning bright orange." New Mexico's Game and Fish Department plans to poison the goldfish with rotenone and then restock with trout.

The New York Times can be sooooo sarcastic. In its new weekly section, Escapes, the daily focused on monster-log cabins and a truck so mammoth the photo is captioned: "Jurassic parked." Here's how a Telluride, Colo., second-home owner describes his 11,000-foot cabin in the woods: "You walk in, put the fireplace on, and you're your own man." A headline on the story is more direct: "A return to nature, mostly by cutting it down." Writer Matt Richtel lets a developer say it all when he pronounces a 15,000-square-foot second home built of logs far more enticing than a grove of aspen trees. "Aspens," says the developer, "are like weeds around here." In his review of the new Ford truck called the Super CrewZer, Jim Motovalli works hard to like the $83,000 vehicle he tries out, but can't. It's just too dumb: "You can admire the Super CrewZer the way you admire an F-15 fighter plane," he says, "although neither one needs to be in a suburban garage."

Nevada has found a new way to get more bang for the truck. In just a few months, residents can pay extra for a license plate that features a rising mushroom cloud from the explosion of a nuclear bomb. The startling design might not have been popular during the 1950s and early 1960s, when tests of atomic bombs were routine in the air above the Nevada desert. But these days the words A-bomb and "collectible" somehow share the same sentence. The contest for a nuclear-themed license plate was sponsored by the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, and winning sure surprised the first-time designer, Rick Bibbero. "I thought they would choose something that was not so aggressive," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. The license plate is already proving popular: More than 250 people have signed up as buyers.

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].

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