Heard around the West

  • Child finds roadside attraction in North Dakota udderly fascinating

    Dan Koeck
 

CALIFORNIA

A professional fisherman from Arizona took time out from a California bass tournament to douse a fire from his boat. Clifford Pirch used to fight fires during his summers off from Northern Arizona University, but that doesn’t quite explain his ingenuity, notes the Payson (Arizona) Roundup. Here was Pirch, trolling for bass, when he spotted pipe welders at work on the riverbank. Seconds later, he saw the men "stressing" as they frantically tried to douse the blaze their torches had started. So Pirch moved his boat close to shore, popped the gears of his high-powered motor into reverse, raised the engine and pointed it at full-throttle toward the flames. Voila! The engine "sent a rooster tail of what Pirch estimates was about 1,000 gallons of water directly into the inferno." Just to make sure, the angler "Yamaha’d" another wave of water, likely saving a nearby restaurant from flames — along with the jobs of the welders, who were left staring "in comic disbelief." The helpful fisherman didn’t bother waiting for a thank-you; he motored off, Lone Ranger-style, with just a wave goodbye.

COLORADO

Give this principal an "F minus." "Parents of some students at Bromley East Charter School (Denver) are furious after the school’s principal stepped into a first-grade classroom, pretended to shoot several students and then told the children they were dead," reports the Denver Post. There is an explanation: The principal wanted to emphasize that classroom doors need to be locked during safety drills. During the drill, the 20 first-graders were supposed to crouch in a corner while the teacher turned off the lights and locked the door to protect the children from armed or dangerous intruders. But the teacher forgot to lock the door, and the "dangerous" intruder turned out to be none other than principal Robert Bair, who yelled at the cowering kids, "Bang, bang, bang, bang. You’re dead."

OREGON

You’d think that a bridge trembling from the constant rumble of cars, trucks and trains would be no place to raise a family. But peregrine falcons don’t mind the racket; they raise their young on bridge girders in Portland and many other cities, finding the good life in noisy, well-lighted places. "Buildings and bridges are ecologically equivalent to cliffs," reports the Oregonian, "and in some ways better." The falcons feast on pigeons and starlings, killing their prey in midair by "striking from above at speeds as fast as 200 miles per hour." The adaptable birds are a true success story: Just 34 years ago, because of DDT poisoning, not a single nesting pair survived in Oregon. Thanks to captive breeding, the government said the species had "recovered" in 1999. Now, 12 Western states even allow falconers to remove birds from nests, so they can be used as hunting animals.

CALIFORNIA

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, you might see more amazing sights than purple-haired people in leather and chains. Think cherry-headed parrots, a flock of 15 or 20, darting through Telegraph Hill, the Presidio or near the Embarcadero. Descended from caged birds that escaped or were let loose, the birds have adapted to cold and fear only hawks and the occasional raven or crow. Now, there’s a book about these urbanites, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, by Mark Bittner, who befriended the flock back in the ’80s, when he was a street musician and often homeless. He admires their intelligence, their way of evaluating a situation and making a decision about it. He also notes their rowdiness: "A scream may go on for an hour and a half — and it’s distracting!" he says. "Sometimes it’s triggered by seeing a hawk, and sometimes I think they’re just celebrating their parrotness."

NEW MEXICO

There’s something about a zoo that draws people, sometimes in ways that aren’t healthy. Take the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, where a human finger was found inside the cage of a jaguar named Manchas. Zoo curators tracked down a man who was seen running from the area, but he denied leaving his finger behind. Police "visually confirmed he was the right person," and now he is banned from the zoo "for life," reports the Santa Fe New Mexican. Mammal curator Rick Janser said some people devote themselves to particular animals at the zoo, stopping by every day. You’d think they’d avoid putting their hands in a jaguar’s mouth, but curator Tom Silva said a couple of years ago, Manchas bit off the fingertip of a temporary zoo employee. The fingertip was found — still in a glove — on the floor of the jaguar’s cage.

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
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.