The Bundy battle continues, the Airbnb squeeze, and an unusual gun sale

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • COLORADO Keeps the hoi polloi out.

    Judy Wrought

A wit once wisely observed that “anyone who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Now there’s proof: Representing himself before a federal judge in Portland, Oregon, one of the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge declared himself an “idiot,” adding that he is “incompetent and am not required by any law to be competent.” Ryan Bundy’s statement was one of several decidedly odd declarations sent to U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown, who, after reading his motions, called them not “legally cognizable.” All along, Bundy has insisted that he is not a U.S. citizen because he is a sovereign citizen of the “Bundy society.” He also says he cannot be legally defined as a “person” because he was created by God and is therefore not subject to laws created by people. Unmoved, Judge Brown reminded Bundy at his most recent hearing that if he keeps denying the federal court’s jurisdiction, he risks forfeiting his right to self-representation. The conspiracy trial of Ryan and Ammon, the Bundy brothers, who led the 41-day refuge occupation, is set for Sept. 7, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting.

In an upscale resort town like Sun Valley, Idaho, where’s a teacher, cop or restaurant worker supposed to live? An estimated 12,500 homes and condos are available for working people as well as tourists, reports the Idaho Mountain Express, but these days, just try to get a landlord to sign a long-term lease. Not likely. Homeowners who once rented out places for a year or more are now making much more money by renting to short-termers through Airbnb, VRBO and other internet rental sites. In the Wood River Valley, for example, a large house close to the ski area now rents for $1,400 per night. Even the low end can be lucrative: A treehouse with a path to the bath (and a zipline) rents for $60-$70 per night. Before the internet turned so many into opportunistic landlords, the average three-bedroom, down-valley house rented for $1,600 a month. In just 20 days, however, that same house can produce $6,500. It’s much the same story in the resort town of Crested Butte, in western Colorado. Bartender Alex Shelley told the Crested Butte News that he’s moved five times in two years. Now, just before he was supposed to renew his current lease, he lost his rental. Something has got to give.

In the small town of Freeman, South Dakota, recently, 150 people gathered at a nursing home to fete a woman who just retired from a nursing career that spanned 72 years. Older than many of the home’s residents at 93, Alice Graber was delighted to reunite with former patients and some of the nurses she’d trained since she started out in nursing during World War II. “I was just flabbergasted,” she told The Week magazine. Given her lifelong vocation, her retirement plans aren’t surprising: She intends to volunteer at the nursing home where she’s worked for the last 20 years.

When a regional girls’ softball team started -selling raffle tickets, with an AR-15 assault rifle as a prize, a pastor in Lake Oswego, Oregon, decided he definitely wanted to win that weapon. He used $3,000 from a church “discretionary fund” and a bunch of member donations to buy 150 raffle tickets, and as luck would have it, the Rev. Jeremy Lucas of Christ Church Episcopal Parish bought the winning ticket. Lucas said he had two reasons for wanting to win the rifle: to help the girls’ team get to a tournament in California “and to take the weapon out of circulation.” But he had no desire to fire or even house the AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon often used by mass murderers. So he asked a -parishioner “to keep the rifle locked up in a gun safe until the pastor was ready to destroy it,” reports the Portland Tribune. The minister, however, may have violated a tricky state law: In order for that transfer of possession to be legal, the parishioner “should have undergone a background check at a licensed gun dealer” while Lucas, as the gun’s owner, was present. One commenter suggested that Lucas would not be charged for “political” reasons, while another called the state law “stupid” and designed to “harass lawful gun owners.” If the minister gets that now-confiscated gun back, he hopes to transform it into a work of art.

Self-incrimination is turning out to be a wonderful feature of the internet. In Helena, Montana, a ranch hand was so proud of himself for chasing a grizzly bear in his pickup truck, he posted a video on social media. Federal wildlife officials noticed, and Lawrence Kennedy of Browning was fined $400 for unlawfully harassing a threatened species.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.

High Country News Classifieds