Heard Around the West

  • Sacred cow?



Paradise Valley, a posh town of 14,500 people in the Phoenix area, boasts houses that cost more than $20 million, and it's nothing if not persnickety about urban necessities such as cell-phone towers. The town's planning commission recently ruled that the first tower to be erected must wear a disguise as a palm tree - and not just any palm tree, reports the Arizona Republic. The fake must closely resemble a 45-foot monopalm, with its multiple fronds hiding the antenna array. What's more, the company must plant two real trees - date palms 25 feet tall - next to the impostor, complete with drip irrigation systems. "Our goal is to make sure we get the best-looking monopalm on the face of the earth," said the planning commission chairman. The Republic's story neglected to note that palms of any kind are not native to Arizona.


Many Napa Valley wineries that offer wine tastings have been forced to get tough on visitors who pile out of limousines, liquored up and determined to keep the party hearty. Now, vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island, just an hour away from New York City, have also moved to end free tastings and ban bachelorette parties that often turn raucous. Part of the problem is ignorance of wine-tasting etiquette, reports the New York Times.Long Island Wine Press, and two suggestions point up the culture clash: "Do not shout that something's disgusting because you don't happen to like it." And, "don't take the three-ounce pours of wine as if they were shots."

Dilettantes don't understand that roaming from vineyard to vineyard is about exercising the discriminating abilities of nose and palate, not getting sloshed for free or - heaven forbid! - tossing tips into the spit bucket. Hints on how to behave at a winery are featured in the magazine


A 20-year-old man from Santa Fe was way too forthcoming when a sheriff's deputy pulled him over for speeding. "Oops," Max Shipley 'fessed up, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. "This is my third DWI." Shipley, who had an open can of Budweiser in his cup holder, also forgot to remove his seat belt before trying to get out of the car.


"Idiots with guns" is one possible headline the Pinedale Roundup might have chosen for its story about four men from Sheridan who fired some 90 rifle shots into a large herd of elk last November. A nearby hunter who heard the barrage of bullets relayed his concern to game warden Alan Osterland. The warden investigated and found the hunting camp of the men - two sets of brothers - and nearby, he saw what the shooting was all about: Nine cow elk slaughtered and another wounded animal with a shattered leg, unable to move. Barely alive, it was killed to end its suffering. "In all my 18 years of wildlife law enforcement," Osterland said, "this was far and away the most sickening crime scene I've had to investigate." At their recent sentencing hearing, the men received a collective sentence of $23,000 in fines and restitution, plus 42 years of forfeited hunting privileges. The charges against them included "wanton destruction of elk," waste of game meat and taking more elk than there were hunting tags. Three of the men pleaded guilty, but one was a hard case, who argued that since the state wants more cow elk harvested, his offense was minor. He also said that Wyoming should pass laws or regulations limiting the number of shots a hunter can fire, as well as setting "proper shooting distance."


The caption on the picture in the Denver Post of fisherman Frank Stack, holding up an 18-pound, 8-ounce cutthroat-rainbow hybrid trout, noted that the fish with the big belly had "not missed many meals." Pulled out of Antero Reservoir, the trout certainly looked odd: Its girth of 24 inches was only four inches less than its length. Stack said, "It looks like some blow-up thing you buy at Target and put under your head as a pillow."


Attorney Oscar Desper probably didn't help his client - accused of assaulting an officer - by blowing his cool before the judge. During an argument over a plea bargain, Desper threw a punch that sent the prosecutor "backward into a bailiff," reports the Seattle Times. No word on the client's sentence, but Desper seems to have gotten off lightly: The State Bar prohibited the battling attorney from practicing law for three months and recommended anger management classes.

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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