Water tank sonics, a wolf in dogs’ clothes and a sad moose tale

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • CALIFORNIA A chipmunk disguised as a punk, or a punk disguised as a chipmunk?

    Robin Tierney

Some 50 years ago, a 60-foot-tall
steel water tank was built in rural Rangely, Colorado, as part of a fire suppression plan for a power plant. The tank never held a drop of water, though it did serve as a hangout for bottle-smashing local kids. Then, in 1976, Bruce Odland, a New York “aural artist,” came through seeking weird sounds for an arts festival. Now 64, Odland recalls squirming his way into the pitch-black tank and recording the amazing sounds he heard as buddies outside banged on the tank walls with rocks. Jason Blevins of the Denver Post described his own experience: “Someone stamps their foot and a peal of thunder shakes the room.” Sounds swirl, he added, “until they have no source, no beginning or end, just a vibrating, otherworldly resonance.” Over the years, Odland brought musicians and other sound artists to the water tank to record this “cathedral of sound,” as a local fan puts it. Four years ago, when the owner decided to sell the tank, Odland joined a band of tank lovers who called themselves Friends of the Tank. The nonprofit swelled to 1,400 members, Kickstarter campaigns raised more than $100,000 from people in 20 countries, and recently, a sound studio was built and housed near the tank. Lois Lafond, a Boulder musician and an early enthusiast, admits that it takes time to learn how to use the structure. “It’s an instrument,” she explains, “and it plays you.” Meanwhile, the town, which was once a hub for coal mining, is moving into a new economy, making residents “increasingly receptive” to new businesses, says town manager Peter Brixius. Happily, that includes the undeniably unique Tank Center for Sonic Arts. 

Moose are in decline in Yellowstone National Park
, as well as elsewhere in the West, perhaps because of an odd consequence of global warming that, paradoxically, causes them to freeze to death, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. It’s a sad sequence: Shorter, warmer winters allow ticks to flourish, and when they gang up on moose, the animals lose the hair that protects them from the cold. The result is moose that are “heat-stressed all the time,” said Alyson Courtemanch, a wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Fish and Game Department. This affects the animals’ ability to produce healthy calves or put on weight throughout the year. Earlier springs also mean that when the ticks finally drop off the moose, they land in dirt instead of snow –– and dirt is a better place for ticks to reproduce. As if this weren’t enough, the vulnerable but tasty moose are easy prey for wolves and grizzlies.

Dogs like us; after all, we provide kibble
, a home and companionship. Wolf-dogs, however, are usually illegal to own and they rarely find us worthy. They’d rather run with their wild kin. An Arizona man found this out the hard way after he adopted a “free puppy,” The reports. He let it run around in his enclosed backyard, but as it grew, the coarse-haired, long-legged animal insisted on chewing through the fence and hooking up with the neighbors’ German shepherds. Finally, the frustrated neighbors took the animal to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, which immediately identified it as a “high content wolf dog” that yearned to belong to a pack. The animal has since been moved to a wolf sanctuary in California, where he’s said to be happily joining in the “nightly howl.”

SolarReserve, a California-based company
, plans to build the world’s biggest solar power plant in Nye County, Nevada. The numbers associated with the project are equally gargantuan: Construction would create 3,000 jobs over seven years, and its 100,000 mirrored heliostats would cost $5 billion and produce as much electricity for about 1 million homes as the 2,000-megawatt Hoover Dam. Its “molten salt energy storage system” allows it to run a steam turbine that can power generators 24/7. Not everyone is thrilled, though: Critic Janine Blaeloch told NPR it would turn public lands into “permanent industrial zones.” 

Who wouldn’t savor a September festival
that featured a tomato-themed fashion show, organized by a hardworking rural library with the help of a secondhand store? The Third Annual Tomato Fest summoned up visions of ripe tomatoes in the small western Colorado town of Hotchkiss, with the fashions courtesy of a local consignment store, The Rose. Prizes were bestowed not just on the largest or tastiest tomato, but also on the ugliest and littlest, and the Hotchkiss Library also sponsored a haiku contest. We especially relished the winning entry from library staffer Tracy Ihnot:

She liked hers on toast
Every time I slice one fat

I remember her

And here’s one from the youth winner, whom the Delta County Independent identified only as “Meg M”:

Heirloom tomatoes
A variety of shapes

Deviate from norm

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

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