The Missoulian, a Montana daily, ran an intriguing Help Wanted: "Sheepherder with miniumum of 30 days' experience. Attends sheep grazing on open range, herds sheep using trained dogs. Guards flocks from predators and from eating poisonous plants ... Food, housing, tools, supplies and equipment provided. Hours variable, on call 24 hours, 7 days ... One reference is required."


There are openings for sheepherders around the boondocks of the West, from Washington to Arizona, paying $600 to $700 per month. Anybody on such a lonesome and hoofy career path, and with a good reference, contact Montana State Employment Service, 1-406-728-7060.


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The Navajo tribe is trying out a straw house as one solution to housing deficiencies on the reservation. Tribal agencies built a house of straw bales, on the theme of a hogan, but with many rooms and walls two feet thick. Clifford and Sarah Begay, with their four kids, moved in. According to the Navajo Times, the Begays' "former house was a little trailer ... The kids used to sleep in an abandoned Volkswagen next to the trailer during the summer." In the new digs, Clifford Begay says, "I love it. Yeah, sometimes I just feel like crying. I wanted this kind of house for my kids for a long time."





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The latest evidence of women gaining power in the U.S. Forest Service: In the agency's regions that neighbor Yellowstone National Park, of the 10 forest supervisors appointed in the past year, five are women. "It has changed significantly - like night and day," Gloria Flora, supervisor of Lewis and Clark National Forest, told the Associated Press. The Forest Service's manly tradition doesn't vanish overnight, though - in those regions, women still make up only 17 percent of the total number of forest supervisors. Uh-oh, Sandra Key, supervisor of the Bridger-Teton forest, risks being labeled politically uncorrect: She cautions that having more women of rank doesn't guarantee that the agency is more enlightened "





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If Las Vegas sees the potential, any day now there'll be a betting line on whether the planet is going to hell. Ecologist Paul Ehrlich and climatologist Stephen Schneider, both at Stanford, are laying the groundwork: They're trying to bet $15,000 that 15 indicators of the planet's health - everything from global warming to AIDS - will get worse during the next decade. They're calling on Julian Simon, business administration prof at the University of Maryland, to cover the bet. Simon's a point man for "brownlash' - the movement that insists environmental problems are so much thin air. No word yet on how game Simon is.


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Department of Anything That Looks Too Easy: The Nature Conservancy seems to be the only environmental group duped by the big-league hustler, John G. Bennett Jr. of Philadelphia. The bad publicity says Bennett ran a classic Ponzi scheme preying on all sorts of nonprofit organizations. His Foundation for New Era Philanthropy promised to double any money the nonprofits put up, with one catch - the money to be doubled had to be invested in New Era for six months. How the Ponzi works: There are no matching grants, you just use the money from the second and third investors to pay off the first, and so on. Bennett reportedly got the cash flow up to hundreds of millions of dollars, siphoning some of it into his pocket. Even though Bennett came well recommended, The Conservancy exercised some caution, insisting that its seed money - a full $2 million - be held in a separate bank account. With many creditors lining up now, it remains to be seen what will be recovered. Red faces abound.





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And a possible sighting of denial within this very newspaper: A flyer comes across my desk, advertising some seminar in "Self Discipline and Emotional Control: How to Stay Calm and Productive Under Pressure," and another editor has scrawled across it: "Who needs this crap?!?"


*Ray Ring