Heard Around the West

  • Well, sort of

    Kjell Peterson


Blame YouTube, the Internet source for stupid and hilarious videos, for delaying Montana’s Legislature and governor from finishing a state budget. Negotiations stalled for two days while more than 17,000 people went to YouTube to view a red-faced rant by Republican House Majority Leader Michael Lange. Leaving an unproductive budget meeting with Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Lange let his temper flare to a room full of House Republicans: “My message to the governor is stick it up your (expletive).” Reporters and a television camera caught Lange “waving his arms with his face turning red,” reports The Associated Press, as he called the governor names ranging from would-be dictator to S.O.B. After the tirade showed up on YouTube, Schweitzer called it the legislator’s “YouTube moment.” He added that “the session will be remembered as 51 flew over the cuckoo’s nest,” a reference to the 51 Republicans in the 100-member House.


A Salem Democrat sponsored a bill making Oregon the first state in the nation to allow dogs into restaurants. “My dog goes to work with me. He sleeps next to me. He eats dinner near me,” said Rep. Brian Clem, as he held up a picture of his pooch, Ooji. There were caveats: Pets must be well behaved, and pit bulls might be barred. State health officials oppose the bill.


The tiny town of Gateway, in western Colorado, has a sure-fire way of raising money for its fire department. For over 40 years, it’s held a “Dynamite Shoot,” inviting gun owners to test their mettle by aiming “at sticks of real dynamite.” Each shooter gets two shots at a single pop can filled with explosives, and if a bullet hits the bull’s-eye — a can placed 100 to 830 yards away — the target is guaranteed to blow up. Shooters from all over the West won a combined total of over $5,000 in prizes May 5. The sponsor of the event was Gateway Excavation, which specializes in blasting.


It seems counter-intuitive, says Corry Westbrook, who works for the National Wildlife Federation, but wildlife fares pretty well at military bases and national labs in New Mexico. No recreation access and high security make places like Los Alamos National Laboratory a good place for animals, from bears to migrating birds, reports the Albuquerque Tribune. “It’s an interesting concept on wildlife management, when military bases are some of the safest places for animals to live,” says Westbrook. Some of the wildlife enjoying White Sands Missile Range, however, don’t belong there. Back in the 1950s, big-game hunters brought African oryx into New Mexico, and now the exotic animals are out-competing the native desert bighorn sheep for grass. Although most federal bases bar hunters, White Sands allows hunters to knock down the oryx population.


“They’re after us!” folks on the political left may have thought when Wyoming wildlife biologists announced that “another liberal hunting season” was set near Jackson, Wyo. But Democrats or never-say-die Ralph Nader adherents need not fear; the Billings Gazette story made it clear that elk are the prey. Or at least some elk are; as the headline put it: “Liberal elk hunting predicted.”


The Beehive State is famous for its contradictions, such as families routinely expanding to six or more children even as Utah ranks close to the bottom for state spending on education. It is also unique in the nation for its law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons at public colleges. The University of Utah had continued to ban weapons anyway, but in 2004 the state Legislature ordered it to obey the law. The case went all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, which upheld the Legislature, reports the Associated Press. All this became news again after 32 students at Virginia Tech were shot to death by a deranged fellow student. Nonetheless, one Utah legislator said the tragedy hadn’t changed his mind. Republican Rep. Curt Oda said that banning guns on campus might just lead to violent people picking up other, even bloodier weapons — such as swords. “A person that’s got skill with a sword in a very big crowd could put a lot more people down with a sword than a gun,” said Oda. “You’ll have people screaming, but nobody knows what’s going on.”


A retired couple in New York City got to talking to their cab driver about their upcoming move to Arizona. “We said, ‘Do you want to come?’ … And he said, ‘Sure.’ ” And before long, reports AP, Douglas Guldeniz, 45, had agreed to drive the pair to their new home in Sedona, making the 2,400-mile trip in his yellow cab for a flat fee of $3,000, plus gas, meals and lodging. “This job is not easy, and I want to do something different,” Guldeniz said. “I want to have some good memories.” The couple, Betty and Bob Matas, said they were glad their cats didn’t have to ride in the cargo hold of an airplane.

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.

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