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Know the West

Heard around the West



Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Forest Service employees from Utah, that’s who. Two staffers from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Ogden were working in Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness Sept. 23, when they spotted wolves chasing a bull elk across a meadow. They weren’t frightened by the sight of the running pack, reports the Idaho Mountain Express, but the sound of the animals howling afterward scared the researchers so much that they radioed for help — pronto. Their supervisor obliged, sending a helicopter into the wilderness to remove the pair, even though designated wilderness is protected by law from all motorized equipment. The evacuation has not gone over well in Idaho. "Holy moly — sounds to me like someone’s read too many of Grimm’s fairy tales," commented Steve Nadeau, who runs Idaho’s wolf program. Lynne Stone, who lives in Stanley and often sees wolves, said it was sad that the agency staffers "didn’t take time to enjoy one of the greatest experiences you could ever have in terms of observing wildlife." The pack, she added, was hot after an elk and probably oblivious to the men: "I’d be more afraid of running into a moose cow with calves, or a black bear with cubs, than encountering howling wolves."


You’d never call Joan Opyr’s column on the late Helen Chenoweth-Hage an obituary. The column, recently posted on NewWest.Net, was more a denunciation of the Idaho congresswoman, who delighted in making outrageous statements during her three terms in the House of Representatives. (Example: Salmon can’t be endangered, she insisted, because canned salmon is available at any supermarket.) "How did she represent us?" Opyr asked rhetorically. "As militia-loving loonies who believed that the U.S. government was at least partially to blame for the Oklahoma City bombing." Opyr accused Chenoweth, who later married rancher Wayne Hage, the leader of the anti-government Sagebrush Rebellion, of exercising her libertarian bent in the worst possible way — by refusing to wear a seatbelt while riding with a 5-month-old baby in her lap. In the one-car accident, near Tonapah, Nev., both Chenoweth-Hage and the infant were thrown from the vehicle; only the baby survived. Opyr subtitled her essay "Buckle Up!" and didn’t mince words: "She was a nut — a dangerous, reckless, senseless nut whose death in a single-car accident in Nevada on Oct. 2 was tragic but not really much of a surprise. Why wasn’t (she) wearing a seatbelt? Because she didn’t need no stinking seatbelt, never mind the dictates of common sense and Nevada law." Twenty-three comments followed Opyr’s column, with most blasting the writer for being mean-spirited. As "Elizabeth" put it: "A nice old grandmother died trying to make a baby stop crying after a long trip. Don’t you have better things to do than laugh about it?"


Ken Gordon, the energetic Democrat who is running for secretary of state in Colorado, feels so strongly about people exercising their right to vote that he advises voters to "guilt trip" their friends: "Say, ‘Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.’ " Doing this might make some people uncomfortable, he acknowledges, but adds, "I’ve had to spend all summer calling people I don’t know and asking for money, so it has been a long time since I visited my comfort zone." Gordon travels across the state to talk to voters, and in conservative Colorado Springs he spotted a bumper sticker that made him wonder. It said, "Give war a chance." His campaign manager’s take was sarcastic: "Yes, let’s give war a chance … we’ve never tried that before."


At the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, fried-food impresario Charlie Boghosian gathers a crowd by offering deep-fried avocados, deep-fried Twinkies and other "artery-clogging culinary oddities," reports the Los Angeles Times. The 37-year-old chef tried deep-frying edible flowers, he says, but they kept falling apart. He also experimented with Ding Dongs and Sno Balls this year, but the coating of wet pancake batter slipped off when the treats hit the 370-degree soybean oil. "You can’t just fry anything," he’s learned. "It has to look good, it has to taste good, and it has to be so different that people will be in awe." The gut-bomb at this year’s fair featured an unlikely combo of glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts, fried chicken and runny Swiss cheese, deep-fried, of course. "I can feel my arteries tightening," was the reaction of one satisfied customer. While Boghosian is recognized as the master of deep-fry cuisine, he has rivals. Los Angeles Fair-goers were treated by other cooks to deep-fried spaghetti on a stick. What’s now known as "extreme fair food" goes back decades: In 1942, at the State Fair of Texas, the first corn dog emerged from a deep fryer. The tradition continues. Last year, the Texas fair played host to the first deep-fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich.


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.