Heard around the West

  • Babe on the range with bales: Makin' Hay by artist Tom Otterness

    Dennis Hinkamp


Give a cheer for cheeky Fargo, mocked as backward a mere decade ago in the movie Fargo, which featured locals spouting the stereotypical, "Yah, you betcha." You can call the city "trendy" now, says the Los Angeles Times. Pricey condos have been built downtown, culture has arrived in the form of sushi bars and midnight screenings of old movies, and the city and state have weighed in with financial incentives. Landlords who make improvements don’t have to pay property taxes for the first five years, says Governing magazine, and owners and tenants have been granted a five-year exemption from state and local income taxes. "Result: 65 new projects downtown in the last three years." Even so, the mayor says he has to keep assuring tourists that "the movie was not a documentary."


Though they were on a diet, a couple got kicked out of a suburban restaurant outside Salt Lake City. Sui Amaama had gone back for his 12th slice of roast beef at the buffet at Chuck-A-Rama, when general manager Jack Johanson asked him to back away from the beef. Instead, Amaama and his wife, both two weeks into the low-carb Atkins Diet, demanded a refund, saying they thought Chuck-A-Rama was an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The Associated Press reports that the standoff ended only when Chuck-A-Rama called the police.


Only a few people in high places still doubt the reality of global warming, but is it happening fast enough to send giant waves toward the Rocky Mountains? Well, you might have thought so if you turned on your radio in the small town of Gypsum recently. Listeners heard a warning tone, then the news that a tsunami was barreling their way. False alarm: A snafu during a training exercise of the emergency warning system sent the alert — one of many hypothetical disasters — out over the air. Disc jockeys had fun guessing where waves would have to come from to crash against the Continental Divide. But Governing magazine reports that one local dude was disappointed: He grabbed his surfboard, put zinc oxide on his nose and was nonplussed to discover no waves when he got to Gypsum.


Hydrologist Kendrick Taylor concludes that Lake Tahoe just isn’t pretty enough for promoters. A glossy brochure distributed by Marriott Hotels shows many photos of people enjoying the Tahoe Basin, Taylor says, "but the only lake shown and the snowy mountain on the cover are distinctly Canadian. Many locals wish the tourists would go there instead." And the cover of AAA’s Colorado-Utah guidebook displayed a picture of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Ariz. The "monumental goof," says the AP, can be seen in half a million copies of the 2004 guide that were sent out before the mistake was caught.


A proposed university named after former President Ronald Reagan bit the dust before a team sure to be dubbed "The Gippers" could score its first touchdown. The Denver Post reports that Colorado Republican Gov. Bill Owens initially endorsed Reagan University, to be located in the Denver area. Then Nancy Reagan shot down the idea, probably because it would compete with the Reagan Library. That led the governor to say that he would honor her wishes, which reminds us of the saying: "Some of my friends favor this proposal and some of my friends don’t, and I’m with my friends."


Under a plan proposed by the federal government, a fish is a fish is a fish. This is another way of saying that the feds want to equate hatchery-raised salmon, raised in bulk mainly for anglers, with wild fish that are threatened with extinction. Environmentalists say the plan could lead to the demise of wild salmon, but that’s really OK, says Gretchen Borck, lobbyist for the 5,000-member Washington Association of Wheat Growers. She told Reuters that while she applauds people trying to save endangered species, "It might be good that we don’t have dinosaurs now. We’ve gotten oil from the dinosaurs. If we had preserved the dinosaur, we wouldn’t have all that oil."


The Left Coast is famous for many things, but now there’s this: California’s Monterey County is the "birdiest." According to the Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society, its count of 248 species in the county during a 24-hour period last year beat all competitors nationwide. George Barr, who boasts that his backyard in the Santa Lucia Range attracts 36 species of birds, says 100 teams of birdwatchers blanketed Monterey County to claim the title.

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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