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Heard around the West



As the Rocky Mountain News put it, "Naked frivolity heats up the night." Their heads inside pumpkins and their clothes nowhere in sight, hundreds braved cold weather on Halloween to streak past the costumed pedestrians thronging Boulder’s outdoor mall. "With the pumpkin on the head, it’s anonymous," said Jazzmin Jenkins, 21. "What could be more gratifying than running around naked?" Aaron Dew, 32, who has done the Naked Pumpkin Run for five years, says that sometimes new participants don’t know what they’re in for: "To see some people running, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m out of shape.’ " Sometimes, too, the pumpkin head falls off, revealing the streaker’s secret identity.


Three cheers for Laurent "Maverick" Gaudreau, who has been celebrating his 80th birthday by walking from one rim of the Grand Canyon to the other and back again in three days, for a total of 82 trips and 3,444 miles so far this year. Gaudreau, who’s been making the roundtrip trek since last New Year’s Day, says he always enjoys the canyon’s weather and chats with fellow hikers along the trail. It’s a "magnificent obsession," says the Flagstaff Daily Sun, which is rooting for Gaudreau to reach his goal of 100 crossings before the year is out. His motto, emblazoned on his commemorative T-shirt: "I absolutely refuse to act my age."


In the posh town of Agoura Hills, 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, day laborers on the street don’t bother to haggle with the residents who drive by in expensive cars, slowing down to size up which person to hire to tidy their lawns or paint their houses. The 50 or so workers refuse even to consider a job unless it pays $15 an hour, reports The New York Times. "There are always employers who look for cheap workers," says Virgilio Vicente, a Guatemalan immigrant. "But we have an agreement, and no one is going to go for less." Abel Valenzuela, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studied day laborers across the nation, says the Agoura Hills workers have survived tough times. Prohibited by law in 1991 from soliciting for work, they were chased by helicopters and arrested again and again. After a federal judge threw out the ban in 2000 as a violation of free speech, Vicente says the remaining day laborers settled on a slogan: "First, it’s God. Then it’s our mother. Then it’s this corner … a place that feeds us and feeds our families."


Last year, the state of Washington chose an obscure slogan to promote itself, reports the Associated Press. It was "SayWA," and it never caught on much. Now, the city of Seattle has chosen an even odder slogan to attract conventioneers. "Metro-natural" was chosen after 60 Seattle business people and public officials spent 16 months and $200,000 rummaging through alternatives. Metronatural is supposed to conjure up the sophistication of a city surrounded by pristine wilderness, but critics, noting the slogan’s play on the buzzword "metrosexual," find the name sterile — not to mention unnecessary — since Seattle is doing just fine without a catchy come-on. Metronatural’s supporters, however, plan to spend $300,000 marketing the new moniker.


A warming trend did hit Helena in early October, but it didn’t get quite as hot as the Independent Record predicted. For Saturday, Oct. 15, the paper had forecast a high of "258 degrees."


In one of the niftiest leads we’ve seen in a long time, Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Pool started his story about confiscated vehicles this way: "Sociologists may argue over what drives people to crime. But Rancho Dominguez warehouse worker Ruben Gonzalez can actually show you." The fancy cars, all seized from suspected drug dealers or white-collar criminals, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder who can produce cash and a clean tax record. The cars aren’t for shy people: They include a 25-foot black Hummer stretch limo, a silver Mercedes-Benz and a Rolls-Royce Phantom. But although they’re eye-popping, none of the cars still holds secrets: "We don’t sell vehicles with hidden compartments," says federal agent William J. Hayes. He means the kind where "you tune the radio to a certain station and turn on the windshield wipers and put on the hand brake and a hydraulic compartment opens out of the floor."

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.