Heard around the West

  • A sign big enough for bears to read at Bozeman Pass in Montana

    Hobie Hare


Travis Steele, a 31-year-old college student, was a pizza-delivery man in Lewiston, Idaho, until someone’s complaint to his boss cost him his job. Steele’s offense? His bumper sticker read, "Darwin loves you," a play on the slogan, "Jesus loves you." In a letter to the Lewiston Tribune, Steele said he was given a "choice" by his employer: "covering my offensive sticker or taking an estimated $3-per-hour cut to work inside the store." A science major, Steele said he thought the $2 sticker was "mildly funny" when he put it on his vehicle a year ago; now, he’s fighting mad that an overzealous fundamentalist Christian sought to silence him. Lewiston Tribune columnist Tom Henderson agrees. In his column headlined, "Biddies attack, freedom loses," Henderson asked: "Who wants their pizza delivered by an evolutionist? The anchovies might walk off the plate." Henderson said the "whiny busybody" probably wondered what Jesus might do, deciding that "of course, he would make sure Steele — a married man with two children — got canned. That’ll teach him to mess with the Prince of Peace."


Why do chickens cross the road? The answer to that age-old question is disputed in Johannesburg, a mining community of 50 some 220 miles northeast of Los Angeles, where chickens coexist uneasily with the off-road vehicle enthusiasts who roar through town. Recently, a deputy sheriff ticketed a couple of chicken owners for failing to prevent some of their flock from crossing the street, reports The Associated Press. The couple, however, say they were cited because they’ve complained that the sheriff’s department does nothing about dust and noise caused by the ORVers. Sheriff Sgt. Francis Moore begged to differ: "The chicken thing has nothing to do with the motorcycle thing."


Speaking of chickens, police from nine counties and the Humane Society raided an alleged biweekly cockfight near Fiddletown, reports the Fresno Bee, confiscating 58 roosters, arresting 28 people, and picking up $4,000 that someone dropped while running away. The property owner, Richard Warren Bohn, insisted that nothing untoward was going on: "I have chickens. You know why? They taste good." Bohn does own a lot of chickens. Authorities found 800 on the 10-acre farm, including 350 fighting cocks. It wasn’t easy counting all those chickens, said an undersheriff: "They’re birds with an attitude."


A concatenation of errors, including sloppy typing, at the Arizona Department of Revenue made some taxpayers unexpectedly richer this year: They were overpaid a total of $5.5 million, says the Arizona Republic. Keyboarding was just part of the problem; the state says computer glitches, old records and other mistakes brought an early Christmas to more than 1,300 taxpayers, including a married couple who received an overpayment of $1.5 million. The state has gone to court to get its money back and to straighten out its books before it makes more undeserved refunds. How did the hapless Revenue Department learn of its expensive errors? Honest taxpayers contacted the state. An assistant attorney general representing the department said, "People were calling in and saying, ‘I think you are giving me too much.’ And that led them to do a complete investigation."


To make a long but amazing story short about a tall young man who became shorter: Kyle Martin, 21, always wanted to fly, and now the Air Force Academy cadet can. But he underwent a lot of unwanted trauma to fit his 6-foot-5-inch frame into a pilot’s seat without special waivers from the Air Force, says The Denver Post. During a climb of a 65-foot cliff in Boulder Canyon, Martin accidentally kicked out a piece of equipment and fell some 50 feet to the ground, where he landed feet first. Martin spent months recuperating, painfully progressing from his bed to a wheelchair, and then to standing and walking. But the good news from doctors is that the fall caused him to lose an inch of height, and at 6 feet 4 inches, "he can fly any aircraft in the Air Force."


A curious deer entered a Wal-Mart in Norfolk, Neb., bypassing the store’s greeter and toppling once on the slick floor before it scurried down several aisles. "The deer was tackled by a customer," reports the AP. Others then tied the animal’s legs so it wouldn’t kick, "placed it in a shopping cart and pushed it outside." The deer was released in a nearby park.

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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