Heard Around the West

  • Didn't the invitation say 'B.Y.O.C.'?

    Darrell Thompson


A duck named Gooey has brought Diane Erdmann, a manager for Northwest Territorial Mint, a whole lot of attention, along with a possible charge of illegally harboring wildlife. The mallard had been attacked by a crow, and Erdmann took over its care from a friend, nursing the bird back to health and consulting a book on raising ducks, though she ignored the last two chapters on "butchering and recipes," reports the Seattle Times. She even went so far as to purchase duck diapers so Gooey could accompany her to work. There, her fellow employees gushed over the duck’s increasing girth. Then came the fateful day when a state Fish and Wildlife officer appeared, saying, "If you don’t give me the duck, I’m going to arrest you." Erdmann responded by holding fast to Gooey, and says she was struck in the chest by an officer as he grabbed the bird out of her arms. Two investigations are now going forward — the state’s against Erdmann and the Auburn Police Department’s against the two wildlife officers. As for Gooey, Fish and Wildlife returned him to Erdmann after a lot of public pressure, and now the two parties are deciding where the duck will live out his days.


Sea lions, it is reported by people in the know, can be as obnoxious as frat boys at an out-of-control beer party, bellowing and burping loudly. But who knew they marauded in packs and could take down a 50-foot sailboat in just one weekend? Jerry Dunlap of Newport Beach, for one: He told The Associated Press that 15 "hefty sea lions" wrecked a boat he’d spent two years restoring, ruining the radios, radar and electrical system. He paid $3,500 to have the boat dragged up from the bottom of Newport Harbor, but says sadly, "I really don’t know what I’m going to do with it." Attacking a boat has been the sea lions’ most serious offense since they showed up five months ago, but residents complain that the animals bark throughout the night, and the city received a report that "a rogue sea lion tipped over a mother and her child in their kayak." The town is talking about hiring a "sea lion shooer" to chase the animals away by making noise.


Perhaps claustrophobia caused an ostrich to leap out of the window of a van on the Golden Gate Bridge recently. Deer and a few other wild animals have been spotted on the famous bridge, but this was the first ostrich in 75 years, said California Highway Patrol officer Wayne Ziese. Drivers gasped and many laughed as a chase got under way. The ostrich, newly christened Golden, was nabbed in 10 minutes and suffered only a little road rash to her rump, reports the Press Democrat.


A "repentant fossil poacher" led researchers to a remote spot in east-central Utah recently, where they found the fossil remains of a dinosaur that shows a definite link between an ancient plant-eating creature and modern birds. A mesa top held the jumbled remains of "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of the creatures, says The Denver Post. The dinosaur, which featured 4-inch talons on each front leg, had a big belly and resembled a "meat-eater gone to seed."


If you’re driving on the interstate near Deer Lodge, northwest of Butte, better watch your foot on the gas pedal: An inexorable force may press it to the metal, and police are just waiting to rev up their sirens and hand you a speeding ticket. According to the Aug. 10 Silver State Post, 17 people were fined in traffic court that week for driving between 80 and 89 miles per hour, and 24 people were fined for gunning it between 90 and 104 mph. The posted rate was 75 mph. One 25-year-old driver hit a double: He was ticketed for going 85 mph in a car lacking license plates. Otherwise, calls to police in Deer Lodge for help during early August seemed somewhat tame. The sheriff’s log noted a report of a dead cat in the street, and a lady who wanted help removing a bat from her bathtub.


Even the developer had doubts about whether his plan would work in the sprawling downtown of Salt Lake City. But a taxpayer loan enabled Alan Wood to plow ahead this summer and begin building a high-rise apartment with 117 units in the heart of this low-rise city. Apartments will range in size from 581 square feet to 1,423 square feet, with prices starting at $100,000 and topping out at $400,000. Yet even though the units won’t be ready for occupancy until 2007, all have been spoken for, which amazed Wood. The rush to buy may not be so hard to figure out: "We’re really looking forward to being in a walking neighborhood instead of in our cars," apartment buyer Rebecca Batt told the Salt Lake Tribune.

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