Heard around the West

  • Will the real sandhill cranes please stand up?

    Angela Mueller


The Davis County Library in Layton has a neurotically uptight patron, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The unknown reader has been changing every "hell" and "damn" in certain mystery novels to "heck" and "darn," doing the deed with a purple pen. So far, only books based on the Murder, She Wrote TV series have been bowdlerized, a class B misdemeanor in Utah. Librarians are on the lookout for purple-stained fingers.


A lot of people in Portland insist on buying organic food grown locally, so it was a shock when Willamette Week revealed that Tillamook’s organic "Oregon Coast Cheese" comes from farther away — Wisconsin, to be precise, where a Tillamook subsidiary is based. "Deceitful," commented one patron, though a company spokeswoman had an explanation for the outsourcing. Oregon Coast Cheese is a "slogan used for brand recognition, not to signify the product’s origin," said Tillamook’s Christie Lincoln.


Delta County resident John "Bud" Castoe likes to talk tough about "his" private property rights, and he sometimes threatens to use firearms as a method of enforcing them. Despite an anti-junk ordinance adopted by the county last year, Castoe insists he’s still free to stock his 40 acres in western Colorado with three decades’ worth of wrecked mobile homes, totaled trucks and other debris. Flanked by a Libertarian Party member and a Democrat running for county commissioner, Castoe recently told the Delta County Independent that he’d continue to resist any attempt to control what he does with his land. There’s just one catch: Castoe doesn’t own the property he talks of defending. In fact, his mother has twice tried to evict him, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. She wants Castoe to clean up his mess and move to the undeveloped 20 acres behind her property that he does own.


Rainier Beer-makers must be thrilled by the free product endorsement: A black bear ripped into campers’ coolers at the Baker Lake Resort, selected 36 cans of Rainier Beer, and then proceeded to down them all. The Associated Press says the bear gouged open one can of Busch Beer with teeth and claws — but only one: "He didn’t like that (Busch)," said wildlife enforcement Sgt. Bill Heinck. The bear tried to sleep off its drunk on the lawn of the resort; when chased, it climbed a tree and passed out for another four hours. But Washington state wildlife officers were ready for the bear when it returned the next day. They lured it into a trap using "doughnuts, honey, and in this case, two open cans of Rainier."


Besides beer, bears have hibernation on their minds, so they’re coming down from the hills to plunder garbage cans and break into cabins and cars containing food. Near Fairplay, southwest of Denver, the "coffee creamer cubs" are back, damaging refrigerators and cabinets in their hunt for the sweet white stuff. In Aspen, bears have invaded the town because of a failed berry and acorn crop, reports the Aspen Times. One homeowner said she felt like a hostage in her own home, while the mayor of Aspen, Helen Klanderud, admitted that she locks all doors and windows to keep bears at bay. Because businesses in Aspen store garbage in steel cans, they have a better chance of repelling bears. Home-owners are more at risk because they are still allowed to use plastic trashcans, which are easy as pie for bears to rip open.


The gubernatorial campaigns of both major political parties are paying homage to the Second Amendment in the Big Sky state. Republican candidate Bob Brown, secretary of state, said he has 16 firearms, two of them antiques. "I grew up in gun culture. I’ve always owned guns," he boasted. Not to be outgunned, Democratic candidate Brian Schweitzer, a farmer, told the Missoulian, "I have more (guns) than I need and less than I want."


In most news stories, it is mining, development or some other human activity that threatens prairie dog colonies. Not so in the Craig Daily Press. The president of a gas company, Fred Julander, says that anecdotal evidence shows that oil and gas development have had a "neutral or beneficial impact on prairie dog populations." So the Press headlined the story: "Prairie dogs threaten gas development."

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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