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Know the West

Heard around the West



Maybe it was amazement and disbelief that caused a motorist to call the cops: The white car ahead of her had the words "U.S. Forest Service" emblazoned on its side, but the driver was throwing lighted cigarette butts out the window in the middle of a hectic fire season. The driver turned out to be the media liaison for the Forest Service on the Willow Fire, a woman with the delightful name of Paige Rocket. Cited for criminal littering, a misdemeanor, Rocket has since left the area, reports the Payson, Ariz., Roundup. Rocket told the paper she’d been unthinking, careless and in a hurry, and that she was ashamed of her actions. She also said: "If citizens worldwide were as caring and protective of their community as the citizens who reported me, this world would be a very different place."


Interior Secretary Gale Norton must have been nonplussed recently when she met pop star Jessica Simpson. According to The Atlantic Monthly, when Simpson was introduced to the secretary of the Interior, she complimented Norton, saying, "You’ve done a nice job of decorating the White House."


Police thought a crazy person was slashing the throats of 20 horses over a period of months at an Arizona guest ranch. But no, reports The Week magazine: An aggressive male horse was attacking other male horses. When the perpetrator was removed from the herd, the slashings stopped. "He acted alone," said Deputy Sheriff Dawn Barkman.


Thanks to a cellular phone, two children on vacation in the Paradise Valley near Livingston, Mont., were able to call for help when the field they were standing in filled up with rattlesnakes. Izzy Effler, 13, and Morgan Beadwell, 12, had walked up a hill to call friends in Loveland, Colo., when a rattlesnake lunged at Izzy and another turned up under Morgan’s feet. Then it got really snakey, reports The Associated Press: "Six rattlers moved in around them." Izzy’s father and his nephew got the girls’ call for help and managed to pepper some of the snakes with a pellet gun; that cleared the area. Later, a rattlesnake trapper, Rusty Juhnke, checked out the scene and said he saw 25-30 snakes on the ground. He said the children’s timing was unfortunate: the snakes were shedding and more irritable than usual.


Color my border collie pink: A single-engine airplane carrying 500 gallons of reddish slurry to fight a fire near St. George dropped it instead on a neighborhood below the mesa-top airport, reports the AP. "The backyard looked like Pepto-Bismol was everywhere," said one resident. The biggest makeover came to nine houses, which instantly turned pink and dripped with the fertilizer-based goo. A downdraft apparently caused the air tanker to drop as low as 150 feet before the pilot dumped the load to avoid a crash. Resident Graff Harlan described the scene as "something right out of Dr. Seuss." But the blush was temporary: Fire crews used high pressure hoses to clean off everything from cactus gardens to vehicles.


Do not disobey any laws while visiting Yellowstone. That’s one lesson learned by 32-year-old Hope Clarke, a teacher’s aide, who was slapped with a ticket when she forgot to put away her chocolate and marshmallows while camping in the bear-prone national park. Then a year later, while returning to Miami from Mexico on a cruise ship, Clarke was rousted out of bed by customs officials at 6:30 a.m., handcuffed and told she’d neglected to pay the $50 fine for her food infraction at Yellowstone. Clarke insisted that she’d paid the fine before leaving the park. But the federal database said the fine was outstanding, so off to the pokey she went, reports the AP. Almost nine hours later, Clarke got her moment in court, appearing in leg shackles and in tears, and there a judge apologized to her while producing the citation against her marked "paid." The judge has asked the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate its shoddy record-keeping.


It must be mighty quiet in rural Bonner County, Idaho, judging by some of the items culled recently from the daily police dispatch log: "Suspicious person: Possible fight reported. Investigation found Ultimate Frisbee game in progress." And another: "Dog complaint: Officer responded to a report of a dog locked in a vehicle with the windows rolled up. The air conditioning was on; the dog was fine."

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.