Heard Around the West

  • Would you like leeches with that? This sign was seen in Shoshone



Non-Californians might assume that living close to nature is a wonderful thing. Not so at Del Webb’s Sun City in Palm Desert, a 1,600-acre gated community for 9,000 people. Residents complain vociferously about sand in a nearby nature preserve that won’t stay put. “We are getting buried,” said Dennis DeBorde, 74, at a public meeting held to address the problem. Sand blows onto yards, into swimming pools, and what’s worse for some residents, onto a golf course. Cameron Barrows, the director of the nearby Coachella Valley Preserve, tried to put the problem into perspective, reminding the crowd that 95 percent of the active dunes and many endangered species had been destroyed by development — including the building of Sun City, a decade ago. “I watched the bulldozers come in and wipe (species) all out so you guys can live here,” he told The Desert Sun. That failed to impress DeBorde, who doesn’t think “fringe-toed lizards have constitutional rights.”


After her 90-year-old mother died in California, Nancy Londelius found two books that had been borrowed from the Salt Lake City library back in 1927. One of the books, Little Masterpieces by Charles Lamb, was published 104 years ago; the other, about colleges, came out in 1915. Luckily for Londelius, the librarian forgave all fines: At the rate of 10 cents a day, the bill came to $5,548, reports the Deseret News.


Maybe there’s a hex on the property. Ken Lay, former chairman of the plundered corporation Enron, tried to sell a four-bedroom house in Aspen for $6.1 million, which is what he and his wife paid in 2000. They had to settle for $5.5 million, reports the Wall Street Journal.


Come fall, sage grouse in the West show up at their traditional breeding grounds, called leks, to strut, puff up their chests and make booming noises. The display signals “I’m your best hope for future fecundity” to the female grouse peeping out from behind sagebrush. But in Jackson, Wyo., pumped-up males not only have to compete against each other, they also have to contend with giant jets. Part of a lek has been paved for a runway and incorporated into the Jackson Hole Airport, which is inside Grand Teton National Park. This September, a 737 sucked up a sage grouse during takeoff, destroying both an engine and, of course, the bird. The plane stopped safely, reports the Jackson Hole News and Guide, but repairs to the Continental Airlines jet are estimated to cost between $200,000 and $250,000.


An “emergency phone” installed in the office of North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven rang a surprising three times during its first week on the job of enhancing homeland security. Who was calling? Two telemarketers and one wrong number, reports Econews in California.


A man in Laramie, Wyo., is on the warpath against town officials who want him to cut down weeds in his yard. But what’s growing isn’t weeds, insists gardener Pete Gardiner: It’s a wild landscape in the midst of urban ugliness, featuring alfalfa, tansy-mustard, wild lettuce, yellow dock, gumweed, bluebells, lovage, blueflax and a “wonderful old cottonwood.” Gardiner’s been charged with “Failing to Keep Property Free of Weeds.” But he says Laramie has never defined exactly what a weed is, just that it can be “any undesired, uncultivated plant that grows in profusion so as to crowd out a desired crop, disfigure a lawn, etc.” Gardiner bristles at the notion of a lawn being disfigured by “free-growing” plants. His dispute with the town began almost four years ago, and judging by Gardiner’s persistence, it may not be settled anytime soon.


Humming might have been a better occupation for a Winston, Ore., driver. Nineteen-year-old John Nunes was singing along with Justin Timberlake to “Rock Your Body” when a bee flew into his mouth. While trying to extricate it, he drove down a 15-foot embankment near Days Creek, Ore., reports The Spokane Spokesman-Review. He escaped with minor injuries; no word on the bee.

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

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