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Know the West

Heard around the West


Yes, at first mention it seems bizarre, but it really makes perfect sense: CPR for wild salmon. Fish resuscitation is now a federal- and state-required skill for anglers who cast "tangle nets" on the Columbia River in spring. Chinook salmon can exhaust themselves to the point of death fighting the nets, and if tossed overboard tend to die. So fishermen dunk the 20-pounders in a "revival box" filled with river water. "A small Honda pump starts up," reports Associated Press, "and oxygen-rich river water is circulated over the salmon's gills and mouth." Voila: Gills begin to open and close, the salmon moves, and as 73-year-old fisherman Ab Ihander puts it: "We've actually seen fish jump out of the box." It would be nice if anglers could tell beforehand whether they've netted a hatchery fish - which they can keep - or an endangered salmon, but only finding a clipped adipose fin on the hatchery fish confirms which is which.

Buffalo fever is what must have come over a Texas couple in Grand Teton National Park. Spying a herd of grazing bison, George Denny gunned his BMW sedan off the paved road, reports the Jackson Hole Guide. Park visitors saw him chase the animals across the meadow and drive right into the middle of the herd. The fines 72-year-old Denny might incur are lightweight: $100 for driving off-road in a national park and $50 for harassing wildlife.

"Moscow, home of the University of Idaho, is a liberal anomaly in a staid state," says Associated Press. But is it? Not liberal enough to allow topless carwashers to ply their trade. After a local outcry, five of the 11 women involved in the business were kicked out of their communal home by their landlord. The topless carwash was lucrative when it was open, which was only about five times in the last month. Patrons donated up to $20 for a topless wash.

Patricia Nelson Limerick, historian of the American West, has a suggestion she thinks could save the lives of firefighters. Limerick told Denver Post reporter Susan Greene that she'd like to fight the testosterone effect of the job by ensuring that every firefighter read abridged versions of two devastating books: Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire, about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana that killed 12, and his son John Maclean's postmortem, Fire on the Mountain, about the blowup that killed 14 firefighters near Glenwood Springs, Colo., just eight years ago. Limerick says mountain homes may burn up and turn to ashes, but they don't have to take firefighters with them.

Three cheers for 82-year-old flight attendant Norma Webb in La Grange, Texas, the oldest of Delta Airlines' 19,000 stews. "Her 55-year career has made her something of an icon at the airline," says Cox News Service. She's also something of a philanthropist, giving money to public television and helping send foreign students to college in the United States. And even after terrorists hijacked and crashed three planes on Sept. 11, Webb's love for her job didn't change: "If you have a fear of flying," she said, "you have a fear of living. When I walk on that airplane, I have to believe that everything is going to be OK, and it is."

Glenn Dick of Boise, Idaho, wasn't looking to make a buck; he just wanted a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich from the drive-through window of a Fanci Freez. What he got was a bag full of money: $1,500, packed in four packages just like hamburgers. Left behind was his lunch and two frantic employees agonizing over how to repay the money, says the Idaho Statesman. A half-hour later, Dick returned with the cash. Dick, a real estate appraiser, thought his honesty was no big deal, though "it kind of made for an interesting lunchtime."

Surely someone has said: Nature bats last. In Washington state, Nature or bad luck struck a Washington State University plant breeder who'd spent five years developing an extremely disease-resistant wheat she named Zak. Farmers across eastern Washington planted Zak wheat, but last June made a chilling discovery. As Gretchen Borck of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers sums it up, "We made a bigger, better wheat, and you know what? Mother Nature came back with a better strain of stripe rust." According to the Spokane Spokesman Review, rust reduces yields up to 60 percent, and it may cost farmers up to $20 an acre to get rid of it.

Signs of the West collected by columnist Michael Hofferber in Baker City, Ore., for Capital Press include: "Don't let worries kill you - let the church help." Coloradan Albert Bartlett, stopping for lunch in Buena Vista, Colo., saw a billboard that gave him pause: It urged drivers to "Honk if you love peace and quiet."

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, an essay and opinion service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ([email protected]). She appreciates timely tips about piquant Western doings.