Heard Around the West

  • GOT THE MESSAGE?: Private landowners in the Black Hills of Wyoming tend to discourage hunters

    Mike McClure

Animal rights activists just don't get it: Not all animals are wimps. A 4-year-old dachshund called Brutus loves jumping out of planes, according to his skydiving owner, Ron Sirull, who puts the pooch in a pouch to strap him to his chest. The daring duo took part in an air show at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, reports The Associated Press, despite the protests of animal rightists who called the leap "cruel and exploitive." An old hand at the sport, Brutus has co-dived into thin air 100 times. Says his owner, "The part he hates the most is the sound of the plane taking off. I cup his ears."

Most of us are probably happy to forget the attack ads generated by politicians during the homestretch of the Nov. 5 election. But let's note the restrained response of Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, after she was verbally sucker-punched by Republican opponent Ken Chlouber. Chlouber said of DeGette, "Well, heck, I don't think her own dog likes her." A few days later, the Denver-area incumbent responded in the Denver Post: "My border collie has a Scottish heart, and he was very upset. He does like me. When you start talking about your opponent's dog, it's time for the race to be over."

BooBoo Blodgett won first place in the "Rez Car Parade" in Warm Springs, Ore., a tribal antidote to traditional Columbus Day festivities. Organizers of the third annual event for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs had a ton of fun with their official scoring card, adding points for duct-tape repair, mismatched tires, an engine "loud as a tank" and assorted missing parts. Blodgett's 1977 Cordova was judged the perfect wreck: It sported automatic windows that wouldn't work, an exposed engine, one flat tire and insufficient gas. The out-of-gas situation made Blodgett arrive on "Indian time" to the parade - late - which may have helped him win the first-place prize of $50. The money came in a "waterproof reusable wallet, also known as a plastic ziplock bag." Other winners included Noney Garrison, who decorated her pickup with a rez dog, reports Dave McMechan in the Spilyay Tymoo.

East still beats West when it comes to growing the nation's heftiest pumpkin. A New Hampshire grower holds the record for a giant weighing 1,337 pounds, but a Harrisburg, Ore., firefighter is moving closer after eight tries, reports the AP. Kirk Mombert, 49, just set a West Coast record at the 29th annual Safeway Pumpkin Weigh-Off with his biggie: It weighed 1,173 pounds. At $5 a pound, he and the pumpkin took home $5,865.

Some things never change, and one is predictable outrage at a college newspaper after it dares to write about something controversial - such as what happens when a student makes a routine request for a condom at a campus health center. At Southern Utah University, according to the student paper, University Journal, students wanting condoms first have to walk to a back room for a lecture on abstinence before they can receive prophylactics and advice on how to use them. This is not earth-shattering, but student reporters must have had fun writing the story's headline, "Playing hard to get," and illustrating it with a photo of a condom-clad banana. It might have been the banana that set off the university's president, Steven Bennion, and trustee Dane Leavitt, who happens to be the brother of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. They now insist on a publications council to control content of the student paper. But a branch of the Society of Professional Journalists says censorship at a public institution is a no-no. Meanwhile, the Provo Daily Herald is taking a poll of its own readers, asking the age-old question: Do college journalists need censors?

Say the streets of your rural town need paving and your library lacks a rest room: How far would you go to bring in money? The mayor of Biggs, Calif., a 100-year-old town in the central part of the state, decided she'd ask the 1,793 residents if they'd consider a radical move - changing the name of the town from Biggs to "Got Milk?" That's the slogan of an ad campaign that paints white mustaches on to the faces of celebrities to promote milk. Mayor Sharleta Callaway was the only one of about 20 small-town mayors to respond to the proposal from the California Milk Processor Board, which is looking for ways to celebrate a decade of its advertising campaign. The board promises some money, a Got Milk? museum and other help to any town that takes its name, but criticism of the idea has not been slow in coming. Mike Bottorff, the father of a high school student, wonders if cheerleaders will start wearing udders on their heads, and he asks if the town's police cars, along with the graduation gowns at "Got Milk? High," will be painted white with black spots. Mayor Callaway, who runs a day-care center, says it's up to townspeople to decide whether the switch is worth the money - and, perhaps, the ridicule.

Betsy Marston edits Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in newspapers and magazines around the West. She appreciates tips of Western doings at [email protected]

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