Heard around the West

  • Two tired dogs

    Wendy Keefover Ring


A mouse living in the house of 81-year-old Luciano Mares of Fort Sumner did not take kindly to being set on fire. Mares said that after he caught the intruder, he threw it outside onto a pile of burning leaves. The burning rodent, however, got its revenge by running back to the house and setting it on fire. Everything inside the house was burned up, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican. No injuries were reported, except for the mouse.


A 1,200-pound heifer also didn’t take kindly to the prospect of imminent death at Mickey’s Packing Plant in Great Falls. The cow leaped over a gate and went on the lam, leading pursuers on a wild chase that lasted six hours. Del Morris, manager of the slaughterhouse, told Reuters that the cow he dubbed Molly B. did "things that are just not possible for a cow." They include dodging both a semi tractor-trailer and an oncoming locomotive, shaking off the effects of not just one but three tranquilizer darts, and most wondrous of all, plunging into the ice-cold Missouri River and swimming to the other side. " I was totally amazed she was able to swim the river," said Morris to The Associated Press. But her freedom couldn’t last, and Molly B. was finally captured in a makeshift pen. The cow’s determination to escape won her admirers, including employees at Mickey’s slaughterhouse, who voted 10-1 to keep her alive. Now, reports Reuters, town residents will decide through a telephone poll whether Molly B. will live out her life pastured near the packing plant or at a Seattle animal sanctuary.


Four heifers successfully hid out for several months high in the mountains around Aspen — so high, at nearly 12,000 feet, that they would not have survived the winter. A backcountry skier spotted the hungry bovines, setting off "a series of feeding forays where skiers carried flakes of hay bales on their backs," reports the Aspen Times. Finally, at Christmastime, a helicopter rescued the heifers, airlifting them off the mountain and back into captivity.


At this year’s Miss America Pageant, Miss Nevada had some controversial advice for her fellow Nevadans. During her interview with the judges, Crystal Wosik of Las Vegas said that spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s power plants should come to Yucca Mountain in Nevada because it was the "best-built facility in the country," reports the Reno Gazette Journal. Then the judges asked, according to pageant director Nancy Ames, "But what if people could die?" To which Wosik answered, "We just have to take one for the team." Miss Nevada did not make it into the finals of the week-long contest.


It was a novel try, but a judge ruled out a woman’s claim that her pregnancy made her eligible to drive in a carpool lane. Candace Dickinson, 23, showed the judge pictures of her newborn son to prove that she’d been pregnant at the time she was ticketed for driving solo in a high-occupancy vehicle lane. Arizona criminal law defines an unborn child as a person, she argued, so, "Why should it be any different under the traffic code?" reports the Arizona Republic. Judge Dennis Freeman replied that in this civil case, the unborn just didn’t count: "A person is defined as someone who occupies a distinct seat in a vehicle."


It’s happening on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but Western ranchette-owners take note: Pioneering breeders are raising miniature cattle one-third the size of regular 1,200 pound cows for "people who have these little three to five-acre farmettes, and they’ll fence in an acre, buy a calf and more or less keep ’em as pets," reports AP.


A couple celebrating 65 years of marriage in Cedaredge, a small town in western Colorado, revealed that the bride was only 13 when she eloped with her 20-year-old groom, a foreman at a West Virginia coal mine. They "told their parents they were going to a movie but instead got married," reports the Delta County Independent. Bessie Stepp said her widowed mother was shocked when she found out, and Bob Stepp recalled, "It was the first time I saw my father cry." But the Great Depression had forced people to work hard and grow up fast. The couple met because their siblings were friends, and also because Bessie’s early morning paper route included a stop at the Stepp family’s house, where she and her sister would warm up by the fire. Although Bessie Stepp was quick to say now that no girl should marry as young as she did, she took her husband’s hand in hers and said of their long marriage, which has produced 29 great-grandchildren, "We still love each other after all these years."

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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