Heard Around the West


It all began near Yellowstone National Park with a grizzly bear placidly eating berries close to a road - dozens of people pulled over to gawk. It ended with the bear fleeing and the visitors yelling at each other. There are at least two versions of how the bear jam turned into a bear fracas: Local photographer Charles Bartlebaugh admits "maybe he overreacted" when he broke the camera of a woman from Michigan; the tourist, Alice Crowley, 55, describes Bartlebaugh as yanking her camera away, throwing it to the ground and then stomping on it, reports the Cody Enterprise. Bartlebaugh, who was arrested for battery and property destruction, says things started getting tense after the third of three tour buses arrived. "Several senior citizens got off to get closer," he recalls. When he insisted loudly that they withdraw, a few people took offense, with one saying, "He has no right to tell us what to do." That spurred some people to move ever-closer to the grizzly. Bartlebaugh says that Crowley, who was not with the senior tour group, got within 8 to 10 feet of the bear. Bartlebaugh runs a nonprofit Wildlife Information Center that distributes the brochure, Be Bear Aware He concludes that though his behavior was dramatic, his intentions were good: He pleaded not guilty in county court.

Why would a school administrator near Denver, Colo., steal $395,000 over six years? He was searching for something money can't buy, reports the Rocky Mountain News: self-esteem. "It seemed like it was a way for me to be nice to myself," said Gary Dutra, 49, business manager for the Jefferson County School District. The money taken from the petty cash account allegedly went for high-stakes gambling, trips "and nightclub rendezvous."

Here's a driving tip from Ron Matous, bicyclist and columnist for the Jackson Hole Guide Always yield to bison. While waiting for a herd of buffalo to cross the road recently, he watched a speeding car plow into the lead bull, the impact lifting the animal "into a full barrel roll right over the hood." The two occupants of the car weren't hurt. But "the buffalo hoisted itself gamely to its feet and limped off to join the herd across the road, hindquarters askew, doomed now in any but the mildest winter." Matous says the experience confirmed him in his determination to take it slow. He wants motorists to realize, "You're in Jackson Hole now, home to Vice President Cheney, but more properly belonging to the wildlife that still manages to roam here."

The "eleventy-first" edition of the Cody Boobyprise hit Wyoming towns this fall. It's another one-man show produced by the crusty satirist, Dewey Vanderhoff, who targets - among other things - the New West's sacred and real cows, pretentious cowboy clothes sporting yards of leather fringe and any rural county's half-baked efforts to create a sustainable economy. The tabloid is larded with lots of faux, raunchy and occasionally funny ads; in one, Vanderbilt celebrates an endangered cultural species in the region: a "typical" Liberal. "He's got long hair, drives a Volvo or two, wears Patagonia, not Wrangler, rides a bicycle year-round, listens to NPR all day long, voted for Clinton * twice, doesn't own a single gun, likes cats, tolerates dogs, Environmentalist (big E), democrat, small D, pro-choice on everything. Support your local Liberal. He gives you a reason to get out of bed and start carping about something!"

Spooked by drought this summer, Santa Fe residents scarfed up 10,000 free, low-flow toilets given out by the city. But this, it turns out, was not totally a good thing. Yes, it saved water, but now there's not always enough inflow at the city's treatment plant to make it run right; on some days, it's dropped by about 800,000 gallons, reports the Albuquerque Journal. That creates "the risk that the sewage will clog the pipelines." Once the sewage-treatment system travels down that slippery slope, pipes could corrode and even crack open. Santa Fe's public utilities department director warned that if water use drops any more, he might have to flush sewage into the plant with fire-hydrant water.

Drought has another downside: rats. The highly adaptive rodents have begun commuting to Beverly Hills to partake of the California lifestyle, reports the New York Times. Unlike the East Coast's gritty Norway rat, the roof rat, or Rattus rattus, prefers a warm climate and vegetarian diet. Panicked residents have begun calling "ratologist" Oscar Gonzalez once they spot rats splashing in their pools. Gonzalez, who the Times calls "exterminator to the stars," says rats are the price socialites pay for messing with Mother Nature. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has found a solution that worked for its downtown. A pride of feral cats was introduced to an outdoor flower market ... and "the market has never looked cleaner, rat-wise."

Don't mess with Nike; it puts up its dukes. From its Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the sportswear company recently threatened to sue British brewer Scottish Courage if it didn't pull its ad campaign that used the slogan: "Just 'ave it." Nike, according to The Business Journal of Portland, said this demeaned its "Just do it" slogan. Scottish Courage executives, reports the Guardian,have accused Nike "of lacking a sense of humor."

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ([email protected]). She appreciates tips of Western doings.

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