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Know the West

Heard Around the West



Editorials across the country spanked Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig for wielding his formidable clout just to bring what the New York Times called “wasteful pork” to Boise — in this case, eight C-130 cargo planes that the Air Force supposedly promised to Boise’s Air National Guard seven years ago. Only four planes have been delivered, so Craig used an obscure Senate power called a “hold” to block the Senate from approving promotions for 212 Air Force officers until the rest of the planes showed up. Craig finally let the promotions go through in late June, but says he’ll continue to “use all resources available to make the Air Force uphold the commitment they gave to me.”


In a town of richy-riches, Ryan Vallejo feels sorely abused. Working as a cook in the resort community of Aspen, Vallejo tried to save money for an apartment by living in a tent in the White River National Forest. But on July 21, he told the Aspen Daily News, he “became the victim of a terrible crime.” All his possessions — tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and clothes — were stolen. Several people told him a “loud group of kids” was seen around his campsite, and he found a T-shirt nearby that said “Aspen Junior Hockey League.” A distraught Vallejo is offering a $100 reward for the return of what he considers his “home.”


Don’t even ask how hot it is in Phoenix; it’s too darn hot. On July 14, when the high was 116 degrees, it “cooled down” only to 96 degrees — the hottest night in Phoenix history. The New York Times counted the ways the heat was oppressive: flip-flops melted into asphalt, a woman fainted headfirst onto the sidewalk and then had to be taken to a burn unit, and planes flying in to the city bounced on the heat waves rising from the desert. The relatively good news is that Phoenix averages only about 90 days a year of 100-plus-degree temperatures.


Since when does a newspaper urge its readers to break the law? When “odious admission fees” pile up. In Twin Falls, Idaho, a Times-News editorial told readers that if they enter the Sawtooth National Forest, “don’t buy a permit. If the Forest Service writes you a parking ticket, don’t pay the fine.” The paper also supported the towns of Ketchum and Hailey, after both banned banners across their main streets exhorting hikers to buy Forest Service permits. “Promoting civil disobedience is an unusual position for this newspaper,” wrote the Times-News. “But this fee program is both insulting and dishonest.” Taxes already support the federal agency, the paper pointed out, and piling on fees equals “the coercive democracy you’d find in Castro’s Cuba.”


Is civil disobedience catching? A group of Bitterroot Valley residents has decided to ignore “No Trespassing” signs on property owned by singer Huey Lewis, and just go trout fishing there this August. The anglers, including Ed Sperry, a former justice of the peace and Jim Shockley, an attorney and state legislator, told the Missoulian their right to access is guaranteed by Montana’s Stream Access Act. But the place where the two plan to fish — Mitchell Slough — is a hotly contested waterway, with some landowners like Lewis calling it a private ditch and others who fish calling it a natural stream. Sperry says he believes Lewis “stole” part of the Bitterroot River by fencing people out. “Dolly Parton gets to go fishing there, and all their friends,” he said. “But people in the Bitterroot don’t get to go there.”


A wood chipper is not the tool of choice for killing chickens. Yet the owners of a Southern California egg farm insist they did nothing wrong when they chose that bloody method to destroy 30,000 live, quarantined birds, reports The Associated Press. This has incensed some chicken farmers as well as animal-rightists, who say tougher laws and enforcement are needed to ensure humane treatment of livestock.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column.