Heard around the West

  • Barn in the USA

    Greg Woodall


A passenger on a flight from Los Angeles to Oakland apparently felt too important to obey repeated requests to hang up his cell phone so the plane could take off. Everyone else had acknowledged the usual announcement to turn off cell phones, except for this man, who was deep in conversation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. After repeated requests for compliance were ignored, a flight attendant warned that the taxiing plane might have to turn back. That caused the other passengers to grumble but had no effect on the guy on the cell phone. Finally, an attendant stood over the man and said, "Sir, I’m going to count to three: One, two, three!" "Just five more seconds!" he insisted. "No, sir! You need to hang up now!" This finally got through, and the passenger — who turned out to be Jerry Brown, mayor of Oakland and the Democratic candidate for state attorney general — turned off his cell phone. We’re guessing that Brown’s behavior on the plane cost him more than one vote.


Boy Scouts in the West head for the hills during the summer and toast marshmallows over campfires stoked by juniper and pine logs, writes Marcia Hensley, who lives in Farson, Wyo. Apparently, Boy Scouts in the Far East enjoy similar outdoor activities, but with a few striking differences. Hensley’s daughter, Robyn, a Hong Kong resident, saw teenaged Scouts gather on a basketball court near a high-rise, hunkering down around a square of aluminum foil as if it were a campfire. The Scouts laid charcoal briquettes on top of the foil, lit them, and then broke out what looked like refrigerator biscuit dough. Then they wrapped the dough around sticks and cooked up their urban treats, just like marshmallows.


The giant Madagascar hissing cockroach, dolled up with crystals glued to its hard shell, is "this season’s creepiest fashion accessory," says the New York Post. The 3-inch-long insect, which really does hiss, has become mobile jewelry selling for $80, thanks to Salt Lake City-based designer Jared Gold. He tethers the bug to a silver chain, which allows the roach — looking "like an especially teeny Paris Hilton pet" — to explore its owner’s shoulder or arm. An animal-rights spokesman was not amused: "For a person who doesn’t mind a small animal excreting on them throughout the day and doesn’t have an ounce of compassion for these small, defenseless animals, this could be just the gift," said Michael McGraw of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.


Columnist Sari Anne Tuschman, writing in the Aspen Daily News, says women go through things that men will never understand — such as shopping for a bra with one’s mother in a specialty store, where the grandmotherly saleswoman knows what works and brooks absolutely no nonsense. Tuschman was at first flummoxed to find the saleswoman crammed into the dressing room with her, "and before I knew it, her hands were all over me. … ‘Get your girls in there!’ she said loudly like some sort of bra cheerleader. ‘Get your girls in there!’ And she was getting them in there, pushing and pulling until ‘they’ were in there just right. When she was done and her hands were finally off me, I realized it was the most action I’d had in some time." And Tuschman had been fitted just right — something a man could never fathom. That encouraged her to buy several more expensive and correctly fitted bras for "the girls." "You have no idea what it costs to lift and separate," she confides.


Some residents of rural northeastern Utah have "asked nicely" that rancher Kalon Downing remove the word "testicle" from the name of the annual Black Gold Cattle Company Testicle Festival. But Downing, who started the festival in 2001 as a charity to benefit children with medical problems, won’t budge: "It does too much good and it’s fun," he told the Seattle Times. Besides Western music, rodeos and roast beef dinners, the raunchy festival features as delicacies the testicles from neutered calves and bulls that have been put out to pasture — although this year the testicles came from bulls slaughtered by a Salt Lake City meatpacker. Served up breaded and fried, Rocky Mountain Oysters are a Western tradition, though one that some newcomers will gladly skip. Downing also sells T-shirts, vests and hats. This year, they featured a picture of a bull, Rocky Mountain Oysters on a stick, and the words: "What’s in your sac lunch?"

Betsy Marston ([email protected]) 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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