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Know the West

Heard Around the West


Judy Powell says she didn't think twice about walking onto the plane at Los Angeles International Airport with a doll that she'd bought in Las Vegas for her grandson. Toenail clippers may get taken away and destroyed, she assumed, but never a child's toy some 12 inches high. Wrong assumption. The doll was GI Joe, and inside his cellophane box, Joe pointed a tiny rifle. Agents at the airport "examined the toy as if was going to shoot them," reports The Wave, an alternative weekly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though Powell was allowed to head home to England with GI Joe still wearing a helmet and fatigues, his weapon was confiscated.

"A life of crime is pretty tough," said Orem, Utah, police Lt. Doug Edwards in the Salt Lake Tribune. "It's even tougher when you're stupid." A sheriff told the paper about one diligent inmate who earned work-release privileges from jail and rode a bicycle back and forth to his job. He seemed a model prisoner, until the day a deputy looked up and realized, "Hey, that's my son's bike!"

Candidates this election season are sometimes revealed to have done strange things. In Montana, voters noticed that the face of the Libertarian candidate for Senate was turning blue. This was not planned, says Stan Jones, a 63-year-old business consultant and part-time college instructor. He ruefully told The Associated Press he'd been brewing and drinking a concoction of colloidal silver since 1999, in an effort to keep himself healthy. "People ask me if it's permanent and if I'm dead," he said. "I tell them I'm practicing for Halloween." Unfortunately, the skin condition, while not serious, is permanent. Jones is trying to unseat Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the Democratic candidate for governor, Bill Richardson, set an oddball record for handshaking, shutting out the record set in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 8 hours, Richardson shook 13,392 hands, leaving his right hand stiff, sore and in desperate need of ice, he told the AP.

Bumper sticker seen in Montana: "My governor is stupider than your governor." The same bumper sticker is also showing up in Arizona, reports Dorinda Troutman of Hamilton, Mont.

No newspaper likes to print a retraction for sloppy reporting. But a paper covering Western Washington University bit the bullet on Oct. 4 and did it right: "The Daily Evergreen would like to sincerely apologize for an injustice served to the Filipino-American, Spanish-speaking and Catholic communities on the front page of Thursday's Evergreen." The story reported that the first Filipinos who landed in California came on the "Big Ass Spanish Boat." The paper admitted to mangling a translation of "Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza," which, it says, really means "Our Lady of Good Peace." Since buena esperanza doesn't actually mean "good peace," but "good hope," maybe there's another correction coming.

Speaking of political incorrectness, Backpacker magazine probably annoyed some readers with its story about the sex-enhancing pill Viagra. Besides "localized elevation," the monthly magazine reported, Viagra may also enable mountain climbers to avoid altitude sickness and climb higher. Backpacker's Northwest editor, John Harlin, has a racy rationale for taking the drug: "I'm not the young stud I used to be. When mounting virgin 20,000-foot peaks, I'll take every lift I can get."

The Jackson Hole Guide asked a controversial question for its StreetTalk column: How should the state manage wolves in Wyoming? Bissell Hazen's sensible answer: "Let them be, unless they are a nuisance - crashing parties and such."

Rulon T. Jeffs may be a candidate for Ripley's Believe it or Not. When the leader of a polygamist sect of Mormons was laid to rest recently at age 93, "at least 33 sons were his pallbearers," reports the New York Times. Jeffs was survived by some 20 wives - no one is certain of the number - about 60 children and hundreds of grandchildren.

Are we going gaga over canines? In Seattle, 5,000 people and 3,000 pooches took part in a celebration called Bark in the Park - poop bags provided - while in Denver, dogs and their dance partners competed for prizes in the rapidly growing sport called "dog dancing." Fifi, for instance, is a miniature poodle who has won a title for "canine musical freestyle." She dances with partner Judy Thiel, who says, "Rock 'n' roll is really her thing." While dancing to Rockin' Robbin, Fifi wears a sequined dickey or poodle skirt; Thiel's outfit, of course, matches. The best performance Thiel ever saw, she told the Rocky Mountain News, was a woman and her golden retriever dancing the tango together. One human partner said that she'd love to waltz with her dog, Dancer, but "Dancer is into hiphop. There's no sense trying to force a human's preferences onto a canine dance partner." Seattle's doggie jamboree was a lot looser, featuring Frisbee-catching, howling fests and our favorite - dog-human lookalike contests. The event was sponsored by the Seattle-based group PAWS, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ([email protected]). Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column.