Heard Around the West

  • Does she have to say it in public? St. George, Utah

    Greg Woodall


Decked in virginal veils and jaunty bowties, 178 canine couples walked down the aisle recently in Littleton, Colo., though we’re still wondering how a ring fits over a toe that sports a claw. The mock nuptials weren’t just a dotty indulgence for dog lovers, reports the Denver Post. “Bow Wow Vows” raised over $3,000 for the Dumb Friends League.


It was late at night, and an Amtrak “special” filled with sports fans was hurtling along south of Seattle, Wash., at 79 miles per hour. Suddenly, the train’s lights illuminated a house sitting on the tracks, dead ahead. There were two men working on the roof, trying to raise utility wires in order to cross the tracks. Emergency brakes were applied, but a collision was inevitable, and the house splintered, reports the Bulletin of the Association of Oregon Railroad Transit Advocates. Amazingly, the two men on the roof survived the crash, as did the passengers on the train, which didn’t derail. Timbers erupting from the house, however, burst through the railroad cab and seriously injured the engineer. The nonprofit Bulletin took pains to describe the accident because so many people make wrong assumptions when they see railroad tracks: They figure that because they’re mostly free of train traffic, the coast is clear. Yet 60 trains a day pass the spot where train-met-house in the dark. Freight and commuter trains are not listed in the Amtrak timetable, and the house movers failed to contact the railroad to negotiate a safe period for crossing the tracks. Misconceptions about train traffic are so prevalent, the Bulletin adds, that high school track coaches in Salem, Ore., sent teenagers running along a Union Pacific main line and over a narrow railroad trestle for practice. A footbridge now directs people away from the trestle and possible commingling with a train.


Staffers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aren’t laughing much these days. A member of PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says that Websense, the agency’s new filter for incoming Internet messages, is so zealous in its mission to block porn and online gambling that it also blocks the cartoon Doonesbury and even the word “humor” itself. If staffers try to search for humor in the workplace, adds PEEReview, you reach “a warning page that humor is off-limits.”


It took 12 years, but last month, Proctor & Gamble finally won its case and a judgment of $19 million against four Amway distributors who spread the rumor that P&G, maker of laundry detergent and other household products, was tight with the Devil himself. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the distributors used Amway’s voice-mail system to tell their fellow workers that P&G’s “president had appeared on a TV talk show and announced his company’s affiliation with the Church of Satan.” This sounds so nutty it is surprising that anyone would believe it, but P&G told a district court judge that the company’s reputation had been besmirched and that it lost millions of dollars over the years because of the smear campaign.


A group of 30 volunteers, including children and staffers from the Bureau of Land Management, spent Earth Day roaming the back hills of the North Fork Valley of western Colorado. Armed with bags to corral beer cans, plastic bags and other junk, they were busily picking up junk when they noticed a man doing just the opposite — dumping his trash nearby. It made for an easy bust for the BLM — the man was cited and later fined $100 — and a little extra excitement for the annual “Dobie Clean-Up.”


You have to give 18-year-old Azia Kim an “A” for chutzpah. The Orange County teenager pretended to be a Stanford University freshman for almost the entire school year, conning two women into letting her be their roommate, and “talking about tests she apparently never would take,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Because Kim didn’t have a school-issued card key to open dormitory doors, she convinced her roomies to leave a window open; one student thought this was so much fun, she started entering and leaving her room that way, too. Staffers at one dorm finally started asking questions, and Kim disappeared, leaving varied reactions in her wake. Postings on the Web site of the Stanford Daily ranged from one parent who found the security breach “utterly appalling,” to a student who urged Stanford to let Kim stay: “After figuring all that out, doesn’t she deserve a shot to do it for real?” Kim enjoyed her no-classes-no-tests time at college; a youth pastor at a church in Los Angeles says she told him “she was having a great time at Stanford.”

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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