Heard Around The West

  • HIGH COUNTRY NUDES: Outside Helena, Mont., 50 women braved the cold to send a message of peace to the Bush administration

    Katie Knight

President George Bush, reputed to create pet names for just about everybody, has one for environmentalists: They are “green, green lima beans,” according to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

If you’re one of those green beans, you might think twice about getting a divorce. A new study in the journal Nature says splitting the sheet is bad for the environment. Michigan State University ecologist Jack Liu finds that duplicating a household results, not surprisingly, in demand for more stuff, such as building materials and energy, which takes a toll on the environment. What’s more, even though new houses tend to have fewer people living in them, the homes are often larger, reports The Associated Press. The study concluded that overpopulation is less an accurate indicator of environmental harm than the number of housing units. Meanwhile, in the United States, one-quarter of all homes are inhabited by just one person. Says Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute, “Consumption is going to be more central to the issue of sustainability.”

Douglas Herrick, father of the horned bunny dubbed the jackalope, recently died in Wyoming at the age of 82. Herrick, who took taxidermy courses by mail as a teenager, was inspired by his grandfather’s jackalope stories, and in 1939 he brought the legendary creature to life by screwing antelope horns onto a mounted jackrabbit. Now seen on postcards throughout the West, the jackalope won many friends in Wyoming, where, in 2001, a state legislator tried to have it honored as the “official mythical creature of Wyoming.” He failed, but you can still find an 8-foot statue of the hybrid in the town of Douglas, home of the state fair. Many other towns sport similar representations.

Douglas, Wyo., is where team-roping contractor Ken Lacey keeps his ornery herd of chickens. He says lassoing the birds is much like a rodeo event, minus the horses or cattle: A gate opens, a knee-high rooster dashes out and a team of ropers races to take down the bird, reports the Cody Enterprise. Best time so far: 5.3 seconds to “head and heel the rooster.” Hoping to feather their nests for worthy causes, nonprofit groups have taken to booking Lacey’s flock. So far, says an observer, “He’s never had a chicken hurt.”

Cactus thieves have targeted the front yards of some of the retirement communities in Phoenix, Ariz. The opportunistic landscapers often strike when most people are snoozing. “The thieves clearly know we go to bed early,” complained Rose Marie Kery, who lives in Sun City Grand, west of Phoenix. The gloved robbers target the popular golden barrel cactus, which sells for about $150 retail, kicking over the shallow-rooted plant and then dragging it to a vehicle. Demand for cacti in the booming area is high, reports the AP. Last year, close to 39,000 new home permits were issued for the desert city and its sprawling suburbs.

The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colo., has instituted one of those opinion columns inviting readers to anonymously vent their spleens. Here’s a sampling from “You Said It” for just one day: A cheer from one reader for octogenarian columnist Henrietta Hay, for without her, “Grand Junction would be a total right-wing intellectual wasteland,” but a little sarcasm from another, who says, “We do not have a water crisis, we have a water-use crisis brought on by poor planning, too much growth and water greed.” Pithy protesters railed at people who use foul language, at a Lions Club for failing to fly American flags on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — “Are we in redneck country or what?” — and at someone who yearned for an Alfalfas store to move to the area: “If you miss (where you used to live) so much, why did you leave? … and don’t use the word progress.” Last, but definitely not least, one caller found it insupportable that “local grocery stores expect me to put my food in carts and baskets that have never been cleaned!”

Better living through chemistry? A report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a 50-year-old publication of the American Chemical Society, says dairy cows are just getting better and better, thanks to a little tinkering with their genes. In the next 50 years, designers will manipulate milk to make it naturally low-fat, and cows themselves will be retooled so they fart less methane, thereby contributing less to the fraying of the earth’s ozone layer. There’s more, thanks to science: Milk proteins will come not only from cows, but from “recombinant organisms,” such as yeasts.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ([email protected]). Send tips and great photos of Western weirdness, please.

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