The exotic dancing boom in North Dakota goes bust

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region

  • MONTANA Praying for a haircut?

    Savoy Fog In The Morning/Smooth Scalper Barbers

When Ammon Bundy and his not-so-merry band of militiamen asked supporters to send supplies to their illegal camp at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, they were hoping for blankets, flashlights and canned food. Instead, outraged Americans bombarded them with a very different sort of rations: a cornucopia of sex toys, most notably a device that … well, let’s just say it nearly rhymes with the name of the hero of The Hobbit. The insurgents were neither amused nor aroused. “Rather than going out and doing good, they spend all their money on hate, hate, hate, hate,” occupier Jon Ritzheimer ranted in a Facebook video as he dramatically swept a fresh shipment of erotica off the table and onto the floor, where, as far we know, it lies today. Ritzheimer’s wrath merely, um, stimulated his detractors: A Chicago-based designer promptly sent the rebels 55 gallons of lubricant at a total cost of $1,193.81. Like a true patriot, the smutty philanthropist even sprang for expedited shipping.

What’s in a name? If you’re Delaware North, the New York-based concessionaire that has run hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities in Yosemite National Park since 1993, the answer is $44 million. That’s how much the company is seeking for the intellectual property rights it claims to hold on the monikers of landmarks like Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel and Badger Pass Ski Area. The dispute erupted in 2014, when Delaware North lost a $2 billion bid to its rival Aramark and insisted on being compensated for place names on its way out the door. The park, for its part, values the names at a mere $1.6 million, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. In this contract dispute, everyone loses: Starting March 1, the park will rename the contested locales, instantly rendering countless maps and guidebooks obsolete. The Ahwahnee — a Native American name for the Yosemite Valley — will become the (rather gauche) Majestic; Curry Village will become Half-Dome Village; and Badger Pass will become Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area. No word on whether Yellowstone is considering changing Old Faithful to “Dependable Geyser” to avoid future clashes of its own.

We humans are geniuses at hunting from vehicles: If it rolls, flies or floats, someone’s probably tried to shoot deer from it. But what if it … hovers? In 2007, moose hunter John Sturgeon took his hovercraft into Alaska’s Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, where the futuristic conveyance allowed him to skim over gravel bars with ease. The National Park Service, unimpressed, banned Sturgeon’s craft, arguing that it would allow motorized trespass into sensitive areas. Sturgeon fought back, and, many years and rulings later, his case has ended up before the Supreme Court. As Greenwire reports, this has big implications: Sturgeon’s allies, which include Alaska’s entire congressional delegation, claim the feds lack jurisdiction over the 49th state’s navigable rivers. The Obama administration, meanwhile, believes the Park Service can apply its own rules on waters within its own lands. Now the fate of Sturgeon’s controversial hovercraft lies with the nation’s highest court.

One Hailey, Idaho, homeowner recently awoke to find that her home had been the victim of a break-in — not by a burglar, but by a disoriented elk that crashed through a basement window and got trapped in a downstairs bedroom. As the Twin Falls Times-News reports, deep snow had driven many elk out of the mountains and into the populous valley below. For some, the forced migration ended in disaster: The same night as the Hailey home invasion, 10 elk died at a nearby cemetery after eating poisonous Japanese yew. Fortunately, the basement intruder escaped death. Over the course of several hours, law enforcement officers used mattresses and flashlights to coax the bewildered ungulate up a flight of stairs and out the front door. Said one official, sounding rather like the parent of a recent high school graduate: “The basement will need a good, deep cleaning, but we are glad it worked out as well as it did.”

It’s been a rough year for roughnecks in Williston, North Dakota. Oil prices continue to plummet, shutting down rigs and eliminating jobs. In November, officials voted to evict so-called “man camps,” temporary housing units that many workers rely on. And now the cruelest blow of all: The city commission plans to close two downtown strip clubs and relegate all exotic dancing to industrial zones. As the Forum News Service reports, clients and employees at Whispers and Heartbreakers are taking the news hard. According to disc jockey Sam Stickley, his club will have to lay off 30 dancers. One patron waxed melancholy as he stood in the frigid Bakken night, waiting for the doors to open. “First the man camps,” he lamented, “and now this.”

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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