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Know the West

Putrid spillage; New Mexico fisticuffs; the year, in quotes

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


Messy truck spills for the year 2016
were mapped by an innovative website called -Atlasobscura.com, and the West hosted quite a few outstanding mishaps. In Utah, dozens of live pigs were “launched” onto the road near St. George, and in Colorado, 60,000 pounds of expired Miller Genuine Draft beer “almost flew out of the side” of a semi-truck onto Interstate 70. In Montana, 30,000 pounds of used cooking grease and 200 gallons of fuel splashed all over a road near Helena, while in Whitewater, California, an August accident resulted in $5,000 worth of ice cream melting rapidly on the hot black asphalt. In Washington, 27 tons of chicken manure sent cars skidding until workers could clean up the mess and sand the road, while a frozen food truck near Burns, Oregon, literally spilled the beans after a train rammed it from the back. A crash on Interstate 25 in New Mexico exploded a full load of soda “out of the front of the tractor trailer.” But Mesa, Arizona, takes the cake, or maybe the caca, for a “putrid scene.” After a truck transporting Porta-potties and a septic tank full of human waste crashed and rolled over, a mess of nasty liquids got sloshed all over the road. If only a tractor-trailer carrying 29,000 pounds of toilet paper and paper towels had happened by! And in fact there was an accident that dumped those very paper products on the highway. Unfortunately, it happened too far away to help; the paper products were spilled near Elk Grove, California, after a tractor-trailer hydroplaned and crashed.

It happened during an executive session
about a proposed rate increase, so we may never know what triggered the fisticuffs in the Taos boardroom of the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative. But a disagreement became so heated that two elected representatives took it out into the hall, reports the Albuquerque Tribune. Then things really got hot. Virgil Martinez, 62, who had reportedly yelled, “I will kill him!” during the meeting, received a bloody lip, nosebleed and black eye, while Chris Duran, 44, suffered injuries after two religious medals were ripped from his neck. In an email afterward, board member Bob Bresnahan said the chaotic scene left everyone else there “in shock.”

Before we end 2016, we’d like to share
some of the year’s best quotations, about everything from polar bears befriending dogs to the difference between God and the Forest Service.

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert told the Salt Lake Tribune that he didn’t think that a new registry for refugees was drastically needed. The Beehive State has taken in over 1,000 refugees since last February, and as Herbert put it: “They’re not the terrorists, they’re the ones running from terrorism.”

In The New York Times recently, Timothy Egan reprised a choice remark about our nation’s faithless relationship with Native Americans: “Consider how Jon Stewart once described the national holiday just passed. ‘I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.’ ”

Also on a holiday note, Grand Canyon educator Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff tells us that she’s spent the last 20 Christmases at -Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. When a friend asked if she should take her 8-year-old son down the 9.3-mile-long Bright Angel Trail this winter, Slim says, “I told her I started taking my son when he was 4. But he never comes home for Christmas any more, so she could make of that what she wished.”

In Texas, Craigslist helped a house-trained bison named Bullet find a new home, reports the Dallas Morning News. Karen Schoeve, a court reporter, said her 1,100-pound pet had a great personality and acted more like a dog than a bison. What’s more, “She’s hardy, unlike those sissy longhorns.” Sold for $5,950, Bullet now lives in a pasture with two cows for companionship.

A video of a chained-up polar bear in Canada petting a friendly dog went viral. This was probably unfortunate, said wildlife biologist Tom Smith in the Washington Post, as it might give viewers the wrong impression about how this budding relationship is likely to end. “To me, it’s like trying to see if the food’s ready or not. It’s not surprising that it would try to explore this dog … but I guarantee if you left that bear there long enough, it would say, ‘I wonder what this dog tastes like?’ I’d be sorely disappointed in a bear that didn’t ultimately eat that dog.”

And in Colorado Central Magazine, John Mattingly recalled an old saw about a government agency frequently accused of hubris: “The difference between God and the Forest Service is that God does not think she is the Forest Service.”

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