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Know the West

Heard around the West



Bobby Henderson may be 25 years old and in between jobs, but the Oregon State University physics graduate is the founder and prophet of a wildly popular new religion. Henderson has it on good authority that a "Flying Spaghetti Monster" created mankind, along with everything else from dinosaurs to wombats. Therefore, he says, his religion deserves equal time in any public school system that takes up the Christian theory of Intelligent Design. Of course, Henderson has no proof that a spaghetti monster exists, but then again, he points out, proof has never been a problem for any religion. Science itself is suspect, Henderson adds, because "His Noodliness" messes with the carbon-14 system that dates artifacts: "What our scientist does not realize is that every time he takes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage." Like his counterparts on the religious right, Henderson doesn’t flinch from weighing in on things political, reports The Associated Press. He recently wrote to the Kansas Board of Education after he heard that it was considering mandating the teaching of Intelligent Design. Henderson threatened to sue the board if "Pastafarianism" wasn’t also taught, along with a third course emphasizing "logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable science." Some 30 million hits have been registered in recent months on Henderson’s Web site, venganza.org. It’s dedicated to the more esoteric aspects of his church, including the revelation that parishioners end prayers with the word "ramen."


As the San Francisco Chronicle succinctly phrased it, "a Modesto man who thought he had struck a deer was hit by a deer himself." Robert Brooks was driving near Mount Diablo State Park when a deer leaped out in front of him. Not sure whether he’d hit the animal, Brooks pulled over and got out. He was inspecting the front end of his car when another vehicle approached, and suddenly, another deer — or perhaps the same one — jumped into the road. It was hit by the oncoming car and flung through the air until it struck Brooks, who fell and broke his ankle. The driver who hit the deer never stopped; the deer died on the spot.


Some Seattle residents look to the sky in fear as evening descends. No, it’s not more rain that they dread; it’s the return of thousands of starlings that have fed all day and now cluster in the trees. As Fourth Avenue bartender Kelly Compogne told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the trouble occurs when the flock gets startled. "When there’s a noise, they get excited and fly away, and when they get excited, they crap all over the cars." One woman said she came back to find her red Ford Focus looking "like a Monet painted in poop." Starlings have plagued many cities, despite attempts to drive them out that range from poison and loud noises to streamers hung in trees to simulate predators. Poop aside, some Seattle residents welcome the wheeling, chirping birds for bringing nature into the city. Brahim Mahdoubi says he loves looking at the starlings: "How lucky are we to see that beauty?"


This fall, a bear that may have been the worst outlaw in California bear history was shot dead outside a Tahoe City condo. The Reno Gazette-Journal says the 500-pound bear was believed responsible for nearly 80 break-ins. The bear was killed outside a condo complex that it had raided over 11 times in just one week. Wildlife officers said the real problem was those residents in bear territory who make garbage and other treats much too available to hungry bruins.


For the record, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal never said that the Endangered Species Act "is no longer in force and that the state now considers the wolf as a federal dog unworthy of protection." The quote has the tang of the feisty governor’s voice, which was what fooled a reporter recently for the Los Angeles Times. Julie Cart’s front-page story included the governor’s purported statement, but alas, she found out after the story was printed that it came from an April Fool’s press release distributed by Afton, Wyo., outfitter Maury Jones. The Casper Star-Tribune says this is the second time the tongue-in-cheek story was repeated as fact. Maybe it’s because Jones picked a combative headline: "Wyoming governor tells feds to go to hell."


The Seattle-based Jones Soda Co. ballyhooed a brand-new holiday flavor following the company’s hits for the last two years — turkey and gravy-flavored soda. The new drink features the flavor of salmon, or more specifically, smoked salmon. Peter van Stolk, CEO of Jones Soda, told Reuters that his company’s exotic offerings, such as green apple, bubblegum and crushed melon, continue to sell well. But the new salmon drink? Van Stolk admits, "I cannot finish a bottle, I just can’t."

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.