Heard Around the West

  • NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK - MARBLEMOUNT, WASHINGTON - I thought the sign said this was a private campground ..



Let’s get this straight: Was a unicorn behind the wheel of a truck that crashed in Billings? A deputy prosecutor told a judge that story in all seriousness, asking for a high bond because he thought the driver had claimed a unicorn was driving. But the prosecutor misunderstood a colleague’s e-mail using the term “unicorn defense” — legal slang for a defendant blaming anybody but himself for an accident, reports the Associated Press. In this case, the driver, Philip Holliday Jr., told police that “an unnamed woman” was driving when his truck hit a light pole. Holliday has serious problems, said the county attorney, but hanging out with reckless unicorns is not one of them.


It’s no secret that riding in the back of a pickup isn’t safe, but it sure seems like fun to dogs. They brace their four legs and stand proud, noses sniffing air redolent of roadkill, and whenever a truck corners, there’s a little sideways slide to enjoy. Border collies seem most at home traveling in the open air, maybe because they get to sit on the very top of bales of hay. But for a Democratic legislator in Colorado, dog abuse can be defined as allowing unrestrained canines to ride in truck beds. Her bill to ban the practice provoked a flurry of letters to several newspapers, but then seemed to go nowhere fast. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a bill banning children from truck beds — unless all the seats in the cab are filled — also went down, and not for the first time. Bills banning kids from truck beds have been introduced in Arizona for more than 20 years, and each time they’ve been defeated, reports AZCentral.com. We can see the bumper sticker now: Truck Beds, The Last Bastion of Freedom.


If you consult the handy little Idaho Legislative Directory and call the number listed for the Legislative Information Center, get ready for a surprise, says NewWest.com. “You’ll get a cheery female voice asking you to consider what Jesus Christ has done on your behalf, and if you’re ready to meet God and other existential questions.” The headline on Jill Kuraitis’ story offers the right number by noting: “Jesus’ phone number is not 332-1000.” That inspired a reader to complain, “I gave myself to Jesus, and now he never calls.”


The Stardust Hotel-Casino on the Las Vegas strip bit the dust in 10 seconds on March 13, the 2:30 a.m. demolition timed to meet few crowds and little traffic. It will be replaced by a $4 billion 5,300-room complex called Echelon. The Stardust was only middle-aged — 48 — but that’s ancient by Las Vegas standards, reports the New York Times. The resort leaves at least one mourner, 23-year-old Joel Rosales, whose Web site, LeavingLV.net, pays tribute to such demolished properties, including the Dunes, Hacienda, and the Sands. “I am disappointed that we as a city have no sense of preserving our past and heritage,” he said, “no matter how tacky or out-of-date it might be.”


Commuters to Seattle have it rough, and it’s getting rougher. That was never more obvious than this winter, when University of Washington administrators found that snowplow operators couldn’t get in to do their jobs. “The next time snow was forecast, the university put them up in hotels.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer offered statistics that reveal the conundrum: In 2006, “the typical Seattle family of four earned $74,300 — about $30,000 less than the income needed to afford the typical home sold that year.” The result: Just 49 percent of the people who work in Seattle live in the city. The bad-news story spurred dozens of on-line comments from people bemoaning 110-mile commutes, salaries of under $34,000, and job offerings that keep salaries at rock bottom while ratcheting up requirements for education and experience. On the other hand, an employer noted what happened when he advertised for the job of a highly skilled “wireless radio engineer”: There were no applicants, while an opening for administrative assistant brought in 90 applications. Skyrocketing housing prices, though, dominated the discussion. One man said he and his working wife finally realized they will never be able to afford to live in the city; Seattle, he concluded, “is so rich it can afford to do away with common sense.”


When a biologist in a helicopter shot a moose with a tranquilizer dart, the animal failed to fall flat as expected. Instead, it charged the helicopter and forced it to the ground, in an area some 50 miles from Juneau that can boast of more moose than people. The pilot and biologist were unharmed, reports the AP. The defiant moose was less fortunate: It was slashed by the spinning tail rotor, and had to be killed.

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