Heard Around the West

  • BACK OFF! Two great horned owl nestlings in Heber City, Utah, stare down volunteers doing a raptor survey and bird banding

    Dawn Sebesta

Open a Wenatchee, Wash., phone book and you might want to take a bite out of it. A fragrance strip has been applied to the front cover, and instead of perfume, this one sends out succulent molecules of green-apple aroma. That’s fitting, says Jim Hail, co-owner of Hagedone Directries Inc., who came up with the idea, since Wenatchee bills itself as the Apple Capital of the world. "We’re definitely the first in the world with this scented directory," says Hail, who checked with the Guinness Book of World Records just to be sure. The phone book with room freshener has garnered lots of interest. "I even got a call from a journalist in Paris, France," Hail told Capital Press. We think we see a fad spreading. Expect phone books in Idaho smelling of french fries, California directories redolent of red wine, New Mexico’s directories spreading the spicy tang of roasting green chiles, Utah phone books wafting the fresh scent of lime-green Jello dotted with white marshmallows. And if the movement crosses the ocean to Paris, well, we’re betting on phone numbers permeated with French perfume.

Wyoming isn’t about to abandon its cowboy culture anytime soon. A Republican state senator from Casper, Keith Goodenough, tried manfully to push the state in that direction, proposing an amendment that would make dancing the official state sport instead of rodeo. "Dancing keeps people out of the hospital," Goodenough said. "Rodeo puts people in the hospital." Sen. Rich Cathcart, a Cheyenne Republican, scoffed. If Goodenough’s amendment passed, he said, "You can take the bucking horse off our license plates and put a ballerina on them." Goodenough called that objection specious and kept on two-stepping, according to the Casper Star Tribune. He said dancing was better for treating depression than Prozac, and might even help tackle the obesity epidemic in this country. No surprise: His amendment failed, 7-23.

The tourist town of Moab, Utah, was not pleased to learn that a new, 21,000-pound bomb has been dubbed MOAB, which stands for "massive ordnance air burst." Mayor Dave Sakrison and other public officials from Grand County were so distressed they fired off indignant letters to President Bush and members of Congress, reports the Times-Independent. "Our city’s name could be severely damaged by naming the bomb after Moab, thereby negating years and dollars spent in marketing and promoting our town," the letter said. Pshaw, says columnist Robert Kirby, in the Salt Lake Tribune, calling the town’s testy reaction "grumpy" and "symptomatic of the times in which we live when it is deemed morally outrageous to name sports teams after ethnic groups and high school mascots after the devil." Mayor Sakrison remained adamantly opposed. "It’s a weapon of mass destruction," he told the Denver Post. "Let’s face it. A damned big one, too." Moab-the-town can be thankful that MOAB-the-bomb didn’t have its debut in Utah: The New York Times says that when the Air Force tested MOAB in Florida, "tremors traveled through the ground, and the scary dust cloud could be seen for miles."

You may have heard the sad stories about the decline of the sage grouse, its territory degraded by cattle grazing and development throughout the West. But there could be another cause of the bird’s population bust: homosexuality. According to the Web site for Queer Television, female sage grouse watching males birds strut their stuff sometimes mimic what they see. "Some females also chase others in the group and try to mount them, and ‘pile-ups’ of three or four females all mounted on each other sometimes develop," writes Bruce Bagemihl, in Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. Some 2-3 percent of sage grouse take part in gay courtships, Bagemihl says.

Anybody see a size 7? Thirty-three thousand Nike sneakers are floating in the Pacific Ocean near Anchorage, Alaska, after dropping out of a container ship off Northern California. But because the shoes weren’t laced into pairs, it may be tough to find ones that match, reports The Associated Press. The ship dumped its shoes Dec. 15 during a storm; two lefts have since washed up on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. They were sizes 10 1/2 and 8 1/2.

Eighty dogs in Reno, Nev., now know what to do when they see a rattlesnake: Run! When they tried to get close to snakes let loose by a licensed snake handler, the dogs were jolted by remote control through electronic collars. Nevada Wildlife, the publication of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, says most dogs learn in about 15 minutes that rattlers are best left alone.

The scale of everything in California can be mind-boggling. Developers of 5,100 homes proposed near Marysville, northeast of San Francisco, don’t seem concerned that their 2,900-acre tract will cost the Department of Defense an estimated $80 billion to clean up over the next 90 years. The site was used as a bombing range during World War II, and no one knows how many unexploded weapons litter the land. Another obstacle, reports the Sacramento Bee, is opposition from Bay Area anti-sprawl activists and local residents of Yuba County. Supervisor Hal Stocker says the county is "miles from anywhere. No roads, no sewers, no power….All of that would have to be put in." The development, called Yuba Highlands, is not the only one in the works. Already approved are Plumas Lake, which will house 36,000 residents, and East Linda, planned for 20,000 more. "The three projects together would more than double the county’s current population of 62,000," says the Bee.

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

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