Heard around the West

  • Jeep Safari gets off to a quiet start was the headline that accompanied this front-cover photo in the Moab Times Independent

    Lisa Church


Under the headline "Say what?" Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reporter Michael Bender let a legislator’s faux pas wave in the breeze. State Sen. Mark Hillman got so fired up during a debate about a renewable energy bill that would almost certainly put windmills on his turf — the state’s eastern plains — that he joked: "The reason eastern Colorado is so windy is because Kansas blows and Texas sucks." Afterward, a chastened Hillman said, "I’m sorry. I guess that refers to something else."


Sometimes animal-lovers tangle with the wrong homeowner. Tamar Sherman, member of a group called Dogs Deserve Better, explained that she entered a man’s backyard a few months ago to pet his dog and give it water because the dog seemed neglected. Now, she has a criminal record. Dog owner Ron Berki told the San Jose Mercury News that his reaction on first seeing Sherman behind his house was: ‘Who … are you?’ She told me, ‘I’m here to pet your dog.’ " Berki called the police. Sherman pleaded guilty recently to trespassing and prowling, but told The Associated Press that she "just wanted to find out if a dog that seemed to be in distress was OK." Berki, an attorney, said Sherman should have rung his doorbell to ask.


Trust Idaho’s Legislature not to bother with foolish consistency. Recently, it protected the food industry against litigious fatties, those folks who blame their obesity and health problems on places selling fatty foods. On the other hand, lawmakers banned smoking in restaurants and most other public places, because cigarette smoke increases the cost of health care. Legislators also became parental, outlawing body piercing and tattoos for anyone under the age of 14, except in the case of earlobes. The Idaho Statesman collected some choice quotes during vigorous debate on these issues. State Rep. Leon Smith mocked a fellow legislator for pursuing obesity-related bills, saying of Rep. Margaret Henbest, a nurse: "There’s Little Miss Skinny, doing her thing again." Philip Behm, a Boise resident testifying for a ban on smoking in restaurants, said: "Having a ‘no smoking’ section in a restaurant is like having a ‘no peeing’ section in a swimming pool." Protesting the smoking ban, Boise resident Dave Martin suggested, "What we need to do is ban the Legislature."


If you’re even thinking about burglarizing a restaurant, here’s a word to the wise: Don’t pee in the snow before you leave. That’s a lesson learned by Robert Gray, 25, who left his calling card in yellow on the restaurant’s roof. Elko police matched DNA in the telltale snow to Gray, who admitted burglarizing a jewelry store as well, reports the AP.


Most annoying ad for ripping up public lands: Kia’s promotion of its midsize sport utility vehicle, the Sorento. Magazine ads show the SUV zipping along a mountain ridge, and ask readers to choose when it’s appropriate to drive off a paved road: "If traffic is congested, when instructed by a patrolman, or if it’s a two-lane highway." The ad, touting the SUV’s whoopdedo 4-wheel drive, offers another choice: "Whenever you damn well please."


April brought rain to many parts of the West, but was it enough to send the very hairy Phillip Box to the barber? Box, a farmer in Tucumcari, sports a bushy mustache and seven-inch beard because he’s on strike: "I’m not going to shave or cut my hair until the drought breaks." Box told the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union that he must receive irrigation water to survive, and last year there was none from his irrigation district in the San Miguel Valley — a first since the system was built some 50 years ago. Box has asked the federal government for disaster relief on the ground that drought is an "Act of God."


Holy cow! Better make that three feisty cows, all heroines of Disney Pictures’ new feature-length cartoon, "Home on the Range." The trio saves their Western dairy farm by capturing a rustler who lures bovines off the ranch with a hypnotic yodel. Though online reviewer Jerry Beck finds fault with a few too many burping gags, he calls the musical comedy "a fun little piece of fluff." Its major distinction is that it ends Disney’s 70-year tradition of hand-drawn cartoons.

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 the column, Heard around the West.

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