Heard Around the West

  • Wayne Gustaveson, www.wayneswords.com


Wilderness areas were not created equal. In order to pacify locals and win votes in Congress, most include more than a few reminders of both the old and developed West. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho, for example, grandfathered in outfitters’ cabins and backcountry plane access. Now, the Forest Service wants to allow an outfitter to add three hot tubs at or near landing strips in the Krassel Ranger District. The agency says clients of the outfitter could dunk in the wood-heated, chemical-free tubs during the warm months; then the tubs would be hauled out until next year. This doesn’t sound like wilderness to John McCarthy, longtime staffer for the Idaho Conservation League. "Bombs away on this dumbo idea!" he says. "What’s next, flying solar-powered icemakers in and out for margaritas?"


Never have so many argued so much about so little. In Grand Junction, the brouhaha is over a brand-new logo for the western Colorado town, a growing burg of 40,000. To the outrage of many readers writing to the Daily Sentinel, the logo was designed by a non-local at a cost of $27,000. It also doesn’t capitalize the name of the city, leading one councilman to object because he has a 6-year-old daughter "who is now learning to read." The local Lions Club mocked the controversy, parading through town carrying posters for "logos that didn’t make it." They included: "Road closed, expect delays," "Young drivers suck!" and "Grand Junction — 17 miles east of Fruita."


In a spectacular crash, 17-year-old Taylor Rounds destroyed a spanking-new $6,000 snowmobile. What’s more amazing is that he lived to avoid talking about it, says the Anchorage Daily News. Rounds was bent on "high-marking" the snow on the ridge between two mountains in Chugach State Park. Fueled by teenage testosterone, he sped upwards. What he didn’t know was that the top was knife-edged and the other side even steeper. Cresting the ridge at high speed, he went airborne, riding higher and higher until gravity pulled him down the other side. His Polaris RMK 600 snowmobile bounced and rolled, yet it avoided some huge boulders. Rounds’ only injury was a cut on his head. As for the snowmobile, it’s now "a heap of contorted metal," lying 600 feet below the ridge. Park Ranger Mike Goodwin, who reconstructed the scary ride that Rounds doesn’t like talking about, says it will take a helicopter to remove the wreckage.


Glenwood Springs police stopped entertainer Michael Jackson after he paid a visit to a local Wal-Mart, wearing moon boots, a baggy ski suit and a full-face ski mask. Store employees were understandably concerned: A 2002 robbery and murder at the store remains unsolved. The Rocky Mountain News noted that Jackson, who is vacationing nearby, spoke English with "a bad French accent."


It’s sort of a stretch, dressing up as Jesus and protesting meat-eating at the Columbus-area ranch of actor Mel Gibson, producer of the new movie, The Passion of the Christ. But that’s what Bob Chorush decided to do, flying from Seattle to spread the word to Montanans that compassion means not killing animals. The Billings Gazette said Chorush got a lukewarm response to his sign "For Christ’s sake go vegetarian," though two people flipped him a middle-finger salute. "If three more people go by," he said, "I’ll have a whole hand waving at me." Chorush is used to audacious activism. A month ago he dressed as a cow and demonstrated with the group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in Mabton, Wash., site of the first mad cow case in this country. "Local folks there responded by setting up a free burger-bar right next to Chorush and other PETA supporters," says the Gazette.


Weakest excuse for speeding: "A man cited for doing 50 mph in a 35-mph zone in Dolores explained he was ‘just trying to get to this gas station before I ran out of gas,’ " reports the Four Corners Free Press.

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.

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