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Know the West

Irreverent newspaper writers and easy-peasy science

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


It must have been a terrifying few moments for the three snowboarders. The young men were traversing a cliff in rugged country near the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, when the going became increasingly icy. Losing control, they slid toward the edge of the cliff and then tumbled over, falling 200 feet into the snow below. Two were seriously injured, and rescue was difficult because they landed in a narrow area; they were flown out by helicopter, dangling in stretchers, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. One guy wore a helmet that probably prevented a more serious injury; it was found in the snow, “shattered in the fall.”

The Salt Lake Tribune makes no bones about it: It occasionally lacks respect for the state Legislature. This February, the paper called politicians “seriously deluded” if they think Utah has a prayer of gaining control of the 31 million acres of federal land within the state’s borders. In fact, said a recent editorial, a bill from Republican Rep. Mike Noel “might just as well be titled the Utah Public Lands Fairies and Unicorns Act, for all the chances it has of actually setting the rules for any territory.” Noel argues that his bill outlines a plan for ranking priorities for managing those lands. “It’s not a drill rig on every piece of ground,” he insists. “I don’t see that happening.” The editorial board doesn’t see it happening either, because Noel’s bill is merely an “illusion.” Still, it concedes: “The dog that keeps chasing cars should probably be praised for making a plan for what to do with the first one he actually catches.”

Science is really as easy as pie: Just ask an Idaho state legislator.  Worried about the impact of fossil fuels on the world’s climate? “Listen to Rush Limbaugh once in a while,” advised Republican Rep. Dell Raybould. “He’ll tell you that this is just a bunch of nonsense.” Raybould’s skepticism is particularly interesting because he is the chairman of the House Resources and Conservation Committee. Meanwhile, Idaho Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher has his own explanation for global climate change, reports the Idaho Falls Post Register. “We get climate change four times a year,” he said. “It’s called the four seasons. I think we’re pretty vain if we think we can control the climate.”

“Clueless” is just one of the harsh words a former press officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose to characterize the Interior Department’s recent “share your love” campaign. No sentimentalist, David Klinger, who worked for the federal agency from 1977 to 2012, said that by asking online for couples’ videos of their marriage ceremonies and “bachelorette blowouts on federal lands,” the Interior Department demeans the “sacredness” of the nation’s parks and refuges, which are not “enlarged platforms for private partying.” Klinger allows that he might be old-fashioned, “but I regard Yosemite as the public’s Sistine Chapel of American conservation, not an inexpensive and tawdry wedding chapel.” Undaunted, the Interior Department shared some of the public-land-based love stories and videos it received at www.facebook.com/USInterior/videos/951270304926651/

How do you sell 117 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in two hours? Just park yourself outside a medical marijuana dispensary, reports the Los Angeles Times. That’s what 12-year-old Danielle Lei and her mother did, near a pot outlet called Green Cross, in San Francisco. They got so busy that 45 minutes later, they had to call for more cookies. “I’m not saying go out in the streets and take marijuana,” said Lei’s mother. She added, though, “I can be a cool parent for a little bit.” Because all the money stays in local chapters, each one makes decisions on how to run a program, and Lei’s chapter said it had no problem with her location. Girl Scouts of Colorado, however, said that it disapproved of the “situation” in San Francisco, adding that Girl Scout cookies must not be sold in the Centennial State near pot shops, liquor stores or bars. Incidentally, Green Cross happens to sell a new variety of marijuana it calls “Girl Scout Cookie.”

Wolf hating might be considered a religion in Idaho, says one longtime resident, who prefers to remain anonymous owing to the extreme emotions the issue provokes. She looked into one charge against the animals — that wolves feast on too many elk — and talked to several outfitters. Most told her they weren’t convinced wolves were to blame for spotty hunter success. One had his own theory: “It’s not easy to haul yourself thousands of feet up into the mountains,” he told her. “Plus you need to be stealthy, not sucking wind. The primary reason that hunters fail to bag an elk has nothing to do with wolves. It’s because more hunters are out of shape. Or, to put it bluntly, fat.”

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