Heard Around the West

  • Preparing for takeoff: Sheep know a rocket launcher when they see it - even if it is disguised as a truck ramp

    Mike Atherton

Los Angeles Times columnist John Balzar says it's no secret: The Bush administration "hates" environmentalists. "I cannot see another way to explain the endless string of one-sided decisions and the dripping condescension with which they are delivered," Balzar writes. "In a feather-brained brief, the administration argued that conservationists should consider the upside of bird deaths at a remote Navy live-fire range. 'Birdwatchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one.' Besides, the government added, Navy bombardment keeps away people who might otherwise disturb the birds."

In Northern California, many environmentalists are alarmed because the Forest Service has proposed logging some of the bigger trees in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, plus two national forests. The federal agency said scientists need to test logging different kinds of trees - including old growth - to see what works best to halt wildfires, reports the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps "distressed" is too mild to describe the response from Linda Blum. She's a member of the nonprofit Quincy Library Group, which worked hard on a plan for the Sierra Nevada to protect both giant sequoias and the spotted owls that need huge trees to survive. "They want to see what owls will do if big trees are logged?" she asked. "I know what they are going to do. They are going to fly away and not come back."

Pick a card and become a county commissioner: That was the game recently in Goldfield, Nev., reports The Associated Press, after a tie vote of 107-107 by ballot. Yet when the candidates drew their cards, each picked a jack out of the deck. It was a good thing Nevada's state archivist, Guy Louis Rocha, was on hand. He'd seen two other races in Nevada decided by chance, he said, and in one, both candidates drew eights, forcing a second draw. This time, Rocha declared that spades were high, which made Democrat R.J. Gillum's jack of spades the winner. He'll get to help govern a county nearly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island, but with only 1,000 people. That's about one inhabitant for every three square miles.

A fast pull, zoop! and duct tape can remove a wart with less pain than freezing the pesky growth with liquid nitrogen, reports ECONEW of California. Well, anyone who has ever duct-taped the flapping sole of a sneaker or hiking boot knows uses of the tough tape are legendary; it was just a matter of time before a wart connection became the subject of a medical study. But now, it seems, duct tape can even become a fashion statement. Three people in Monument, Colo., have started a business called Ducti, making wallets from a high-quality duct tape that doesn't fray. Kids who see the silver wallets think they're cool, reports the Denver Post.

To spice up their lamb in Virginia City, Nev., some 130 years ago, miners slathered the meat with hot sauce, says Sheep Industry News. How do we know? Archaeologists recently found a bottle of the fiery stuff on property where the Boston Saloon, a major eatery of the mining town, still stands. No one knows if the hot sauce - concocted of aged red peppers, salt and vinegar - originated in Virginia City or was shipped from Louisiana, where the Tabasco version was born.

Manufacturers of rugged outdoor gear now face a rival from the East - Japan's largest recreational retailer, Mont-Bell. At its new store in Boulder, Colo., the company sells specialty items, such as 1-pound sleeping bags and tea sets for mountain climbers. It also features outfits for practitioners of the latest craze in Japan, called "shower climbing." To show off equipment needed for this "wildly popular sport," reports the Rocky Mountain News,< the company built a two-story waterfall.

In Montana, the saga of a wounded grizzly and her three - count 'em - cubs remains a cliffhanger. Shot in the head by a deer hunter, the sow grizzly continues to nurse her cubs even though she is partially paralyzed and slowed up by "hibernation lethargy," reports the AP. State wildlife officials have kept close watch on the family as the bear recuperates from the Nov. 19 attack. Says Mike Madel, grizzly bear specialist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, "We have baby-sat her and the cubs; someone, either wardens, myself or a technician, has been there." While the 500-pound mother bear can apparently smell and hear, she still can't see out of her left eye. Madel says it's a good sign that she's moving the family toward higher ground, since they need a protected place to den for the winter.

People have written serious books about Bigfoot, the furry and elusive monster of the West, but now the truth is out: It was all a hoax perpetrated by Ray L. Wallace, who died recently at age 84. In 1958, Wallace and his brother, Wilbur, used 16-inch wooden carvings of feet to plant mysterious footprints around a bulldozer in Humboldt County, Calif. The Humboldt Times in Eureka, Calif., then coined the term "Bigfoot," and films and photos of the creature proliferated - many of them also created by Wallace. The story, as the saying goes, had legs that will probably never stop moving. Says the Seattle Times: "The debate about Bigfoot's existence rages on."

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

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