Heard around the West

  • The end is closer than you think

    Greg Woodall


You’ve gotta love Oscar Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas: He doesn’t hesitate to trumpet what he thinks, no matter how over the top. Appearing on a TV program in Carson City recently, the mayor sounded off on lawbreakers who spraypaint graffiti over freeways. "These punks come along and deface it," he said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "I’m saying maybe you put them on TV and cut off a thumb." Goodman also recommended whippings or canings for children who get into trouble: "You have got to teach them a lesson, and this is coming from a criminal defense lawyer." Howard Rosenberg, another panelist on the TV show, suggested Goodman "use his head for something other than a hat rack."


Real estate developer Tom Chapman must relish his work, which can be summed up as pulling the Forest Service’s chain with one hand while using the other to extract large amounts of money from the wallets of taxpayers. Chapman has become notorious for obtaining land for his clients within a wilderness area, or on the edge of one, and then demanding that the government pay to get rid of him and his harebrained development scheme. Usually, he gets his way at a tidy profit. Recently, he announced that owners he represents intend to burn down a historic building at the Yankee Girl Mine, high in the mountains above the town of Silverton. Why would anyone want to destroy an "icon" of mining, as a local preservationist called it? Chapman says with a straight face that Jim and Dee Ann Kropp, who bought their inholding this year, merely want to erect a "dream summer home" with an enviable view right where the mining structure stands. The couple won’t burn down the towering building, Chapman says, if they are bought out or if the Forest Service trades them land elsewhere, reports the Denver Post. It’s taken more than a decade, but the Forest Service seems finally to have learned that caving in to blackmail only begets more blackmail. As Forest Service Supervisor Charlie Richmond put it, "It would be a shame to lose the Yankee Girl. ... But we can’t buy into those kinds of deals."


Thanks to LeRoy Becker of Great Falls, Montana has purchased 6,500 acres of land, home to mule deer, pronghorn, wild turkeys and the occasional mountain lion. After Becker died in 1997, reports The Associated Press, people were surprised to find that the frugal bachelor farmer — who wore bib overalls, drove an old truck and heated only one room in his house — left an estate close to $3 million. All of it went to the state to preserve land for the use of hunters.


Newsweek may have happily celebrated the 60th birthdays of famous baby boomers around the country, but Andrew Bisharat, a young resident of Carbondale, complains that this is "the most self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation that has ever lived." Aspen Times columnist Paul Andersen quotes Bisharat at length, and it’s fun to see Bisharat work himself into a rip-roaring rant: "Stop ruining our future, you monsters. We want progress that isn’t self-serving. We still have dreams and ideals. All you do is complain and whine about your pills; no other generation had pills. Die with some dignity." Bisharat ends with a "brutal finale," as Andersen puts it: "When you die, we’re going to pull a blanket over your heads and walk out of the room."


The front-page headline in New West, an online magazine, said it all: "Can somebody call a wildlife biologist AND an electrician?" Less than a mile from Bozeman, along a residential driveway, a mountain lion chased a pet cat up a power pole. Unfortunately for both, the lion clawed the cat’s leg at the same time each animal touched an electrical wire, electrocuting them both. The lion and the house cat were found dead on the ground, a few feet apart, back to back.


A new book, How the West was Worn: Bustles and Buckskins on the Wild Frontier, reminds us how far women have come in 152 years, at least in this country. Colorado miner Arlo Howell was so upset at the sight of a woman in trousers that he noted the event in his diary in 1853: "I was witness to a display of ‘bloomers’ the other day. The young woman’s skirt was unusually short. It was an outrage!" What was called the bloomer suit for women resembled a circus tent over Turkish-style trousers, but it symbolized the fledgling women’s movement.


If you add it all up, there’s a lot of protected land lying in narrow swaths underneath the nation’s power lines. USA Today says that the total comes to 5 million undeveloped acres — land frequented by bees, dragonflies and many small mammals, all taking advantage of the straight and narrow.

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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