Heard around the West

  • "Reach out and poke someone."



Jim Stiles, publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr in Moab, has been called cynical, chronically ticked off, dour and - more kindly perhaps - curmudgeonly. He is greatly annoyed by the Lycra-clad bicyclists that invade his part of the world, and he'd like the rip-'em-up crowd of ATV and four-wheel-drivers to take a hike. But he's not always in a bad mood. This winter, in fact, he asked his readers to share some of their "perfect moments." Not surprisingly, Stiles' readers tend to leaven their wonder and joy with quirkiness, and Devin Vaughan of Moab was no exception. He told about driving through a southern Utah thunderstorm so torrential that he was forced off the road. As he sat out the downpour in his car, thunder and the lightning strikes that followed became "a steady call and response," and then he heard "a sound like bacon frying ... or maybe the sky was made of canvas..., and God was tearing the sky apart." There was a blinding flash and a terrific kick in the chest that left him laughing and grinning like an idiot, he says, except maybe he'd peed his pants a little. It was, he says, a perfect moment.


Dogs are such fun, though taking care of one can be a pain if you live in a small apartment or have an erratic work schedule. That leaves many urbanites resigned to doglessness. A few months ago, Marlena Cervantes, 32, tried to remedy the no-pet blues by starting FlexPetz, a company that rents out well-trained dogs to busy professionals in several California cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Cervantes told The Associated Press that she prefers to think of the arrangement as "shared ownership" rather than pet renting, because the dogs spend time with no more than two or three people. Customer Farng-Yang Foo told The Week magazine that he feels like an uncle to the dog he borrows for $39.95 a day: "I can take it out for walks and take care of it. But I don't have to worry about it being alone..." FlexPetz is expanding to other cities fast, though one critic warned that the time-share arrangement might lead to the animal becoming a "lifestyle accessory." Judging from the surprised and pleased reactions of some Flexpetz customers, adoption might be a more likely outcome. Meanwhile, dog and cat owners who travel frequently now have another option for their pets besides taking them to a kennel or finding a pet-sitter. Posh digs for pets are available at airports in San Diego, Portland, Ore., and Seattle, and "these are no chain-link kennels," reports Governing magazine. Amenities for dropped-off animals include piped-in music, individual suites, gourmet treats and Web cams so distant owners can check in on their pampered pets.


Anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce - the man behind TABOR, the controversial Taxpayer's Bill of Rights - caused quite a brouhaha at the State Capitol in Denver on his first day as an appointed legislator. He kicked a Rocky Mountain News photographer in the shins and persisted in refusing to be sworn in unless he was allowed to address all of his colleagues with a 90-second talk. Bruce, a Republican, so embarrassed members of his own party that they voted 22-1 to recommend that the vacancy committee find someone else to fill the seat unless Bruce agreed to be sworn in by afternoon, reports the Denver Post. "This is the House of Representatives. It is not the House of Bruce," fumed House Minority Leader Mike May. Bruce finally allowed himself to be sworn in and said he was praying when he kicked the "rude" photographer. This explanation, according to Rocky Mountain News publisher John Temple, doesn't hold water, since prayer in the House of Representatives is a public act and photographs of elected officials praying are routine. Democrats, of course, crowed about Bruce's self-indulgent behavior: "What is this?" joked the director of the liberal group, ProgressNowAction, " 'Republicans Gone Wild'? "


At a Forest Service meeting in Darby, Mont., cursing with the "F word" was more common than kicking, as supporters of motorized recreation protested the updating of a 38-year-old travel management plan. More than 200 people packed the too-small room, and according to Friends of the Bitterroot president Jim Miller, "It was the ugliest meeting I've ever been to. It was ugly and sad." If you didn't support fun in the forests on a vehicle with an engine, it was also intimidating. When one woman tried to make a comment in favor of wilderness, a man in the crowd said: "Put a bullet in her head." Afterward, an agency spokeswoman assured the Missoulian that she would follow up on the threat. The Forest Service decided to cancel its next public meeting, set for Stevensville, after the raucous Darby gathering; the agency intends to complete a draft environmental impact statement by August.

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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