Heard around the West

  • Clancy, Mont., resident Karole Lee was backpacking in Colorado when she and her canine hiking partner chanced upon this list of warnings. "It made me nervous to continue in any direction," said Lee

    KAROLE LEE
 

UTAH

Some people in rural subdivisions worship the wandering moose on their doorstep; others go for their guns. Jack Fenton, a worshipper in Summit County, says he was thrilled when a yearling moose moseyed up to his front door to nibble on a wreath. But his neighbor shot and killed the moose — and also sent a stray bullet through Fenton’s door, into his living room. The shooter may face charges of illegally killing wildlife and firing guns in a subdivision, reports the Park Record.

THE WEST

What with mad cow disease and depressed markets, it’s tough for cattle ranchers to find anything to laugh about. But Tam Moore and Peggy Steward, writing in the Capital Press, found jokes circulating in cattle country. After one rancher told another he had to shoot a cow, he was asked: "Was it mad?" "Well," said the rancher, "it wasn’t very happy about it." The writers also note that the word "downer" has entered the language in new ways. It used to mean sick yet still-walking cattle headed for slaughter. Now it means anything on the fritz, from downer cars to downer computers. And, of course, there’s the inevitable T-shirt with an up-to-the-minute slogan: MY COWS ATTEND ANGER MANAGEMENT.

NEBRASKA

It’s a tall order, living in a house that’s smarter than you are,so controlled by computers you can order doors to open, heat to come on or water to move, and they will oblige. That might just be why Don and Charlene Zwonitzer are having a hard time finding a buyer for their Atlas-E missile site in Kimball, Neb. Or maybe it’s the idea of living Hobbit-style under the prairie, some 60 miles east of Cheyenne, Wyo. The remoteness is a plus, insists Don Zwonitzer, a retired engineer, who says the treeless property is a snap to defend, ideal for "protection from natural and man-made disasters like tornadoes and civil violence." The "house" is built to withstand a one-megaton nuclear bomb exploding as close as 1.6 miles away. The couple spent five years sprucing up their concrete and steel bastion, glassing over the silo’s "flame pit" — a three-story vent originally intended for exhaust gases coming from a fired nuclear missile — to make a greenhouse. Underground safety doesn’t come cheap: The Zwonitzers are asking $25 million for their home under the range.

CALIFORNIA

Meanwhile, in the hot and dusty Smoke Tree Valley of Southern California, a former newsman with a bad attitude, who admits he "was not a good employee," lives on a 10-acre homesite he calls Rancho Costa Nada — "It costs nothing." That’s close to the truth: Phil Garlington bought the land for $325 at a tax sale five years ago. Then he built a shelter of sandbags faced with salvaged lumber for $300. Garlington "is what Huckleberry Finn would have been like had he lived to be 60," says the San Francisco Chronicle. Life on the "ranch" — 53 miles from the nearest traffic light and reachable only by 17 miles of washboard road — isn’t easy. Summer temperatures can soar to 120 degrees; sex is like water: "You have to go to town to get it;" and there’s the occasional warplane practicing bombing runs. But Garlington loves the surreal stillness that descends on the desert at night. As for others following his lead, he says, "If you are not broke, you are not going to do this."

CALIFORNIA

"This is wonderful," gushed tourism boss Anne LeClair, upon hearing that 400 reporters would converge on Burlingame, 15 miles south of San Francisco. She and other residents predict the press will spend money like water while covering the lurid trial of Scott Peterson, charged with the murder of his pregnant wife. San Mateo County in Silicon Valley has languished economically since the dot-com bust four years ago, which helps to explain LeClair’s jubilation. "You couldn’t hear us screaming?" she asked the New York Times. But if another town hosting a hot trial — Eagle, Colo. — is any guide, the press can be a cheap date. Eagle is the town where basketball standout Kobe Bryant will be tried for sexual assault against a local woman. Even though 60 photographers and reporters crowded the courthouse for preliminary hearings, Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that sales tax revenues stayed flat. The reason: "They’re probably buying a lot of fast food."

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

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]