Heard Around the West

  • Not to mention the old kids and the blind unruly horse. GREG WOODALL



Debbie Rivenburgh is the general manager of a bordello in Pahrump, Nev., 60 miles from Las Vegas -- one of 27 legal brothels in the state. In 21 years, she says, no college has ever called to request an intimate tour of her desert establishment. Then Randolph College in Virginia, a private liberal arts college, decided that the focus of this semester's course on "American Culture" would be the state of Nevada. After examining water rights and the wedding industry, the 12 students in the class decided to extend their study of prostitution by talking to the women themselves. Rivenbaugh said 99 percent of her working girls refused to participate in the seminar: "They worry about friends or family finding out. They know how others see them. It can be uncomfortable." Yet two prostitutes, Alexis, 38, and Alicia, who says she's "over 30," agreed to answer the students' questions in a filmed session. The women held court in the brothel's Victorian-themed parlor, usually the setting for the "lineup" for clients, reports The Associated Press. They talked about how they give companionship, time and "just the touch of a woman" to men, how they wear the pants in the family, and they noted that the Chicken Ranch still gives a military discount. Alicia, who's writing a book about her life, explained that working as a prostitute means she can take care of her mother and grandmother and also dabble in real estate. The downside? "Being confined, being cooped up. I have to be here 24 hours a day."


Backpacker magazine called the Everest-topping men from Nepal "climbing machines," an apt description. Apa Sherpa, 48, has summited Everest 17 times, while his nephew, Lhakpa Gelu, 40, who holds the record for scaling Everest faster than anyone alive -- 10 hours, 56 minutes -- has climbed Everest 13 times. For the last two years, though, both men have foregone the family climbing business for Salt Lake City, which they'd gotten to know by taking part in the city's Outdoor Retailer trade show. They decided to move to the American West for better schools and better health care for their children: "I want my children to choose their own future and not have to climb dangerous peaks if they don't want to," said Lhakpa Gelu. Yet adapting to life in Salt Lake has been no walk in the park. What's harrowing is the driving, said Apa Sherpa: "In Nepal, we walk wherever we like to go. But here, you cannot go anywhere without driving. I thought Himalayan climbing was dangerous, but driving is much worse." For Lhakpa Gelu, life is tough because he works two jobs -- running an injection-molding machine during the day and delivering pizzas in the evenings. He said he rarely has free time. And sounding a theme familiar to Americans, Apa Sherpa complained: Bills, bills, bills. "Once kids get through school, then I hope I don't have to work so hard."


Police pulled over a car on Washington's San Juan Island after radiation detectors found it to be suspiciously "hot," reports Northern California's Eco-News. But there were no bombs inside, merely a cat that had undergone radiation three days earlier for cancer.


A culture conflict of startling vehemence has broken out in Larimer County, which borders wealthy and super-health-conscious Boulder County. The issue is road etiquette, or more precisely the difficulty bicyclists and vehicle drivers have with sharing the road. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden got everybody going by seeming to mock cyclists who protested a remark made by one of his deputies. (The deputy allegedly warned a group of riders: "Don't let the sun set on your behind in my county.") In his Web column, "Bull's Eye," the sheriff joked about the cyclists' complaints, saying, "It must be the Spandex that causes people to lose their sense of humor." Judging by the scores of comments to the newspaper story, just about everybody's sense of humor has taken a hike. Wrote one cyclist, "The sheriff seems like a cocky redneck piece of trash." Commented a driver, "I see bicyclists as a menace to traffic and thus a menace to society." Rejoined a cyclist, the real menaces are "the fat overweight jerks driving their gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs," to which a driver fired back, "Ride single file, and for PR purposes, stop at stop signs, stop lights and wait your turn in traffic ... then maybe there won't be so many people that want to see you as a hood ornament." Riposted a cyclist, "Good luck fatties with your $100 fill-ups!" And these were some of the milder remarks. As a calmer commenter said, "It sounds like this entire town is Prozac-deficient." Meanwhile, Sheriff Alderden said the public backs his crackdown on bikers 2-1.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.
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