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Know the West

Heard around the West



Thanks to two wet winters in a row, it’s a booming summer for Western toads in the Washoe and Lemmon valleys of Nevada, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. Suddenly, toads and toadlets are everywhere, and there’s the danger that you’ll step on one as you cross the street, or mow down hundreds when you cut the lawn. They are also attractive nuisances to children. Brandylynn Marshall says her 1-year-old daughter Lori toddled up to her pointing at her diaper. Marshall said the baby didn’t need changing, "she had five or six (toads) stuffed in there. I had to chase them all over the house."


Jack Clements, 62, was fishing in Provo harbor when he hooked a fish with "teeth like a human," reports the Deseret Morning News. "That’s a piranha," cautioned his son. According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, he was right: The 13-inch-long, 1-and a-half-pound fish was almost certainly a flesh-eating piranha that someone had dumped into Utah Lake.


Two good Samaritans in the town of Joseph went to extreme lengths to save the life of a deer hit by a vehicle. After passersby pulled the badly hurt animal from beneath a trailer, the deer woke up, started walking, and then lurched into a creek where it began to drown, reports the Wallowa County Chieftain. Two men dragged the deer out of the creek and, treating the animal like a half-drowned human, began giving it chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth. Detective Neil Rogers, who later had to shoot the almost-dead deer, called the effort "one of the funniest things I’ve seen in law enforcement. … I couldn’t even imagine going to that extreme." The wannabe saviors, he guessed, "were probably from Portland or somewhere."


Donald Rumsfeld’s televised get-together with five hand-picked soldiers at Iraq’s Balad Air Base July 12 was probably meant to be one of those staged, nice-nice interviews. It didn’t turn out that way, reports the Navajo Times, because "one of the Navajo Nation’s finest," Marine Cpl. Arthur King from St. Michaels, Ariz., put the visiting Secretary of Defense on the hot seat. King began by telling Rumsfeld that his job was looking for the kind of deadly IEDs — improvised explosive devices — that have killed more than 2,000 troops in Iraq. He then pointed out that his unit had been waiting three months for a new IED detector to replace "one of the oldest pieces of equipment in country." That was bad enough, but then the soldiers in his unit were watching television when they saw a state-of-the-art IED detector on display in New York City. "We just wondered why that was?" King inquired. Rumsfeld quickly said that New York City had its own budget and could buy what it wants — although he added proudly that his department’s $3.6 billion budget "dwarfs" that of the Big Apple. The government was working hard on what he called the "IED problem," Rumsfeld said, but the Defense secretary stumbled through an explanation that ended with him wondering why King’s Marine unit was "still stuck with an old piece of equipment?" Rumsfeld turned to George Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and asked if he could answer the question. Casey told King, "We’ll get back to you on that."


Who would dream that the super-rich would brag about living on a lowly irrigation ditch? That’s what some two dozen landowners who live along Mitchell Slough near Victor, Mont., have done in court, insisting that the waterway rolling past their homes is "no more than a man-made ditch," reports The New York Times. The homeowners, including rock singer Huey Lewis, broker Charles R. Schwab and Kenneth Siebel, managing director of Private Wealth Partners, recently won a district court case on the ditch issue and have erected "Keep Out" signs and wire fences, barring the hoi polloi from floating through or fishing without permission. Now, the case has been appealed to the Montana Supreme Court by both the state and a group called the Bitterroot River Protective Association, who say the waterway belongs to everyone under state law. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D, an expert in water law who is also an irrigator, says the case is crucial "because it affects streams, creeks and sloughs all over Montana." He points out that since 15 cubic feet per second of water enters the slough through irrigation gates, and 300 cubic feet per second exits, that’s "proof that it was fed by springs and groundwater and more natural than not." Schweitzer has a blunt warning for newcomers with big bucks and a yen for exclusivity: "If you want to buy a big ranch and you want to have a river and you want privacy, don’t buy in Montana. The rivers belong to the people of Montana."

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.