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for people who care about the West

Drought-driven water thieves, Brahma bulls and pine beagles.

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


What animal is the size of a car and notorious for tossing cowboys through the air? A 2,000-pound Brahma bull, of course, though at a recent Cody, Wyoming, rodeo, the only way Mongo startled anybody was by sucking on a lollypop. Mongo is just “a big puppy” who doesn’t even know he’s a bull, reports the Cody Enterprise. That makes him unfit to buck and twirl in a rodeo for eight seconds but ideal for standing motionless while as many as three large people sit on his back and pose for a $10 photo. Mongo’s predecessor, Hollywood, was fired as a photo-op prop last year because his temperament was — to put it mildly — unsuitable: “He hooked a lot of people,” said handler Justin Josey. Mongo never minds posing, as long as he gets to tongue up some treats along with his daily six-gallon dinner of grain. His favorites? Skittles and Tootsie Roll Pops. Some might see Mongo’s job as boring: “He eats, he sleeps, he stands for an hour, he eats and he sleeps,” said handler Nikki Tate. On the other hand: “His life is not hard.”

Freelance reporter Rob Kuznia came up with a devilish story idea for the Washington Post: He’d ask the residents of Southern California’s super-wealthy Rancho Santa Fe what they thought about the state’s awful drought and the need to conserve water. Righteous indignation seems the primary response, because in its 92-year history, the community has never — ever — faced water rationing. As Steve Yuhas put it, “We’re not all equal when it comes to water. We pay significant property taxes based on where we live.” And Gay Butler, an interior decorator whose water bill averages about $800 a month, demanded: “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?” Rancho Santa Fe is nothing if not a bastion of privilege: The median income is $189,000, houses resemble mansions, and it’s said that PGA legend Phil Mickelson once requested a separate water meter for his chipping greens. In fact, after Gov. Jerry Brown called on all Californians to reduce water consumption by 25 percent — water use “in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.” But if residents resist this time, the enclave’s water supplier “reserves the right to install flow restrictors,” one of the toughest sanctions available. The crackdown has already caused hardships for homeowners who invested in exotic and thirsty plantings. As one man complained, he’s seen the value of his nine-acre plot “plummet from $30 million to $22 million.”

When you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night to find your truck blowing its horn, its headlights flashing and the vehicle rocking and rolling, you know something is inside that really wants to get out. Sure enough, said Dave Masters of Evergreen, Colorado, an approximately 200-pound bear was unhappily trapped in the front seat and ripping up everything from the dashboard to the wiring, reports KTVQ.com. Masters thought starting the truck by remote might help, “but it seemed to get (the bear) even more pissed off.” The sheriff’s office had a better idea: Deputies carefully opened the truck door and the bear scrambled out, free at last.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker took pity on a sow and four cubs that were destined for extermination for misbehaving in Anchorage, so he asked the state game and fish commissioner to spare the family. A reprieve was granted, reports the Alaska Dispatch News, with the lucky bears taken to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge for a second chance. Alas, they proved incorrigible, moving into the small town of Hope, where they scavenged on backyard chickens and chased moose through an RV park. Asked about the bears’ “alleged poultry consumption,” the chastened governor joked, “Last I’d heard they were eating dandelions in Hope. … Someone said they were perhaps strumming guitars. Fish and Game will handle this in their own professional way, and I am no longer involved in helping them do their job.”

On June 11, Glacier National Park celebrated its 100 millionth visitor. Tourists might want to visit the glorious park soon, says Montana Magazine. Out of 150 glaciers counted at the turn of the last century, only 25 remain, and by 2030, not a single one is expected to survive.

Diane Sylvain of Paonia, Colorado, tells us she took Amtrak from Grand Junction to Denver recently, only to be delayed for hours by rockslides and torrential rains. But one elderly woman seemed to be more worried about the dead lodgepole pines in the mountains. “What killed all the trees?” she asked her daughter, repeatedly. “Pine beetles,” the daughter explained. “Pine beagles? I never heard of such a thing. If dogs are killing the trees, they oughta just keep ’em out of the forest!” We couldn’t agree more.