Heard around the West

  • Family values...

    Gary Woodall


San Francisco — which is named after St. Francis, the patron saint of animals — plans to put some of the city’s 120,000 dogs to work. The work isn’t hard, though the yuck factor is impressive: All the dogs have to do is poop, reports The Associated Press. The city’s garbage hauler, Norcal Waste, will use biodegradable bags and collect the poop from a popular dog park, then toss the droppings "into a contraption called a methane digester, which is basically a tank in which bacteria feed on feces for weeks to create methane gas." Norcal Waste hopes the pilot project will convince other cities that doggie doo isn’t so much a malodorous nuisance as a rich resource for generating heat or electricity. "The main impediment is probably getting communities around the country the courage to collect it," said Norcal spokesman Will Brinton. Fecal technology isn’t new: Nine methane digesters costing $1 million each are in use on California dairy farms, and 600 digesters operate in Europe after being introduced to farms 20 years ago.


Police officer Mark Watters was checking early-morning rush-hour traffic near Westminster, Colo., recently, when he noticed a driver in the high-occupancy vehicle lane accompanied by a suspicious-looking woman. Something about her didn’t seem right, he said to himself, and after pulling the driver over, reports the Denver Post, the officer discovered that the woman was homemade. A coat hanger gave the mannequin structure, while foam balls under a sweatshirt provided a zaftig shape; newspapers stuffed into sweatpants served as legs, and a hood over a ball cap covered a polystyrene head. Perhaps the flat, dead-white face was the real giveaway, despite its bright-red lipstick and painted-on eyebrows. The driver got a ticket for crashing the HOV lane, and also lost his companion, who was held as evidence.


It’s a good thing for Vice President Dick Cheney that he didn’t pepper his hunting partner with birdshot in Montana’s Lewis and Clark County. Cheryl Liedle, the feisty county sheriff there, told the Independent Record that if she’d been in charge, Cheney’s Secret Service agents would not have been able to bar sheriff’s deputies from entering the Texas ranch where the shooting took place. Sheriff Liedle said she would have insisted on questioning Cheney about what happened and also tested his gun to see if it worked properly. Based on a thorough investigation, she said, Cheney would either have been absolved of responsibility or faced criminal charges. "It’s an ethics thing," she told the Helena-based paper. "We don’t, and we can’t, draw any distinctions between who you are and what you do."


For the real story on global warming, check out the back-breaking 606-page perfumed-fashion bible, Vogue. There, starting on page 303 of the March issue, and wandering breathlessly past ads for incredibly expensive and hilariously unlikely clothes and jewelry, begins a fashion weather report that does not hesitate to rebuke President Bush for continuing to "act as if global warming were a rumor." Vogue hastens to assure readers that the subject is quite serious and, happily, not as boring as it sounds. The heat is on, we fashionistas are assured, but we might as well prepare "from a shopping perspective." In droll fashion (we think the intent is to be droll), Vogue offers tips about layering and the right fabrics for a warmer future: "Why invest in double-faced cashmere when the thermometer never dips below 70?" Philosophical questions are posed, too, although in language so obscure we’re not always sure we’re getting the point: "Who can say if there is a relationship between the funky new shorelines in the Arctic Circle and the likewise hemlines that we have seen of late from (designer) Proenza Schouler?"


Alaska has become worried that the rest of America sees it as the "Freeloading Frontier," reports The Associated Press. Gov. Frank Murkowski, R, has a solution: He wants to hire a public relations firm to spread the word that the state is not just greedy for federal dollars and "all-too-willing to plunder the environment for profit." Of course, the governor has another aim as well: "He wants to sway public opinion in favor of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling," which would, incidentally, plunder the environment and bring in lots of federal dollars.

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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