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Know the West

Heard around the West



If you like nothing better than a good pun, check out the "Endangered Feces" T-shirt that’s advertised on several Web sites for environmentally oriented companies. Twenty scats from wild animals are pictured on the front of the shirt, including the substantial contribution of a grizzly bear, the dainty deposits of a New Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnake and the curvaceous droppings of a black-footed ferret.


A different kind of T-shirt got an airline traveler in a whole lot of trouble recently. Lorrie Heasley of Woodland, Wash., thought she’d give her parents a laugh when she got off a plane at Portland, Ore. So she chose a shirt that featured photos of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, along with a motto similar to the title of the movie Meet the Fockers. "I thought it was hilarious," she said. She never got the chance to find out if her parents agreed, because she never arrived at the airport. During a layover in Reno, Nev., some passengers complained to employees of Southwest Airlines that her T-shirt was offensive. Heasley agreed to cover up with a sweatshirt, but after it slipped, "she was ordered to wear her T-shirt inside-out, or leave," reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. That tore it: Heasley, 32, a lumber saleswoman, walked off the plane with her husband. Next time, she says, she’ll pick a different airline.


A 25-member Geographic Names Board has begun eliminating the word "squaw" — a word offensive to many tribes — from 180 places in Oregon, as mandated by the state Legislature in 2001. But picking new monikers for those peaks, valleys and 89 creeks is anything but easy, reports The Oregonian, and some replacements are proving challenging to pronounce. If a federal board approves, for example, Squaw Creek near the town of Sisters will become Whychus Creek, derived from "the place we cross the water" in Sahaptin, one of the languages of the Warm Springs tribes. Other Native American names on tap: Qochyax, pronounced "coke-yaw," and Moohoo’oo, which sounds exactly like what it is, the Paiute word for owl. Maret Pajutee, the Forest Service ecologist leading the agency’s effort to rename sites in central Oregon, says of Moohoo’oo Mountain: "Some people think it’s clever. Some think it’s irritating."


Until we read the Reno Gazette-Journal recently, we didn’t know that outhouses took trips, much less competed for prizes. Now we know that Virginia City, population 900, is in its 10th year of hosting the annual "World Championship Outhouse Races." Pushed, pedaled and pulled, one-holers are raced down the former mining town’s historic C Street to the cheers of some 1,000 watchers. Privies come from all over for the event. And the winner for 2005? The Oletyme Classic, beating by a nose (tightly held between two fingers) the Urinator.


An 89-year-old man in central Idaho with a penchant for digging has begun to rent out caves to tourists. The caves are definitely not fancy: They lack electricity and offer few amenities besides wood stoves and mattresses. But they are cheap, renting for $5 a night or just $25 a month, and they have a nice view overlooking rapids on the Salmon River. The cave developer is Richard Zimmerman, a former construction worker known as "Dugout Dick" to locals in nearby Salmon. A loner, Zimmerman has spent decades carving out a dozen or so caves that extend up to 100 feet into the hillside. Now he’s decided that it’s time to stop digging and start promoting tourism in this remote mountain area. Two tourists — one from England and one from Spain — have tried a cave stay, but they failed to relish the experience, Reuters reports. "It’s not for everyone," Zimmerman admits, but "I expect the trade will pick up anytime now."


Vandals struck the night before a home tour opened in Jackson Hole, stealing 40 signs and changing the words on some from "Parade of Homes" to "Parade of Wealth." Many of the homes cost $1 million or more, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

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.