Official invocations; not dead yet; ancient tattooing

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

WYOMING: Antlers: Hand wash, drip dry.
MacNeil Lyons/Yellowstone Insight

ALASKA
In 2016, the administrators of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 75 miles south of Anchorage, did something radical: They decided that only people who belong to “official organizations” could give the invocation at the start of meetings, reports The New York Times. That meant atheists were not allowed to open meetings, nor was — inexplicably — a woman who was Jewish. After the ACLU challenged the discriminatory policy, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. This has made life quite unpleasant for administrators, who, unable to block the appearance of a “Satanic Temple” member, were horrified to hear her invocation begin with a hearty “Hail, Satan!” A dozen officials and attendees fled the meeting in response. Once outside, some joined protesters who carried signs saying “Reject Satan and his works” and “Know Jesus and his love.”

UTAH
You’d never call Torrey House Press in Salt Lake City a big publishing firm, and one of the books it brought out this year was certainly small, at just 84 pages, but Ellen Meloy’s Seasons: Desert Sketches is a gem. (See our review, “Last words from a desert scribe,” HCN, 7/22/19.) The sketches were written in the 1990s as brief on-air essays for KUER, and they sat on a shelf until this collection brought them back to life. Meloy, who died suddenly in 2004, can make you laugh out loud as she mocks a person who opposes wolf reintroduction because wolves “jump on some deer and eat that animal alive.” “He’s right,” Meloy says, “nature is rude and wolves should change their ways.” Meloy then slyly suggests that wolves dump their “disgusting pack technique” and switch to takeout. We’re so distant from the wild, she says, that we forget that we are mammals who stalk our own prey at Safeway. “The wolf on your nature poster is a killer, a predator of supreme skill and endurance,” Meloy says. “The human in your mirror is an animal. Both revelations should humble and ennoble us.”

THE WEST
When Kenneth Nesslage’s 95-year-old mother died recently in Utah, the mortuary there neglected to inform the Social Security Administration. That meant Nesslage, who lives in western Colorado, had to notify the federal agency. But when officials asked him for his own Social Security number, Nesslage inadvertently “sent himself into the digital jaws of death,” reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. According to agency computer records, Nesslage himself was dead, and worse, after a few days he realized “it was much easier to die than to come back to life.” His credit card was declined at a restaurant, a machine he leased to aid his breathing was recalled by the company, and the bank holding his mortgage sent condolences but then got down to nitty-gritty financial questions. His bank also insisted that he “physically walk into the nearest branch” to prove that he existed. Altogether, he says, it made him feel like a “dead man walking.” Though it took him four trips to his Social Security office to get formally resurrected, Nesslage says he’s now able to laugh about it all. The experience has also helped him decide what he wants on his headstone: “Here lies Ken Nesslage. The second time he died, it worked.”

UTAH
It probably helped that Andrew Gillreath-Brown, an archaeology doctoral candidate at Washington State University, was a tattoo enthusiast. He was doing a routine inventory check of a museum box at the university when he noticed a needle fashioned from skunkbush wood attached to two cactus spines. Then he picked it up and “saw the black staining on the tips” of the spines, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Voilà! He’d discovered a tattoo-delivery instrument bound together with yucca. Other artifacts found in the same place in the Grand Gulch area of Bears Ears in southeastern Utah date back almost 2,000 years, which makes the tattoo needle the oldest ever found in Western North America. Gillreath-Brown says the tattoo needles were created by the Ancestral Pueblo civilization, which flourished in what is now southeastern Utah between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., long before the arrival of white settlers. Gillreath-Brown, who did some experimental tattooing with the device on pigskin, called the prickly pear spines “very efficient,” although, as he told Newsweek, “I think it would have hurt some.”

OREGON
Three years ago, Lainey Morse started Original Goat Yoga. It’s not quite what we first pictured — goats in yoga pants cavorting around on people’s lower backs — but it sounds fun: “The animals nuzzle participants and occasionally cuddle with them as they stretch.” The business took off like a rocket, expanding to 12 locations across the country. But now there’s a problem: Oregon zoning laws prevent Morse from running the business in her home state. According to writers from the High School Journalism Institute, state law says goats are farm animals. “The irony is, if we slaughtered our goats, we could do goat yoga,” says Sean Scorvo, Morse’s business partner. Scorvo and Morse want lawmakers to pass an exception to state law so the goats on their farm can just be goats while hanging out with people on yoga mats. Meanwhile, goat yoga classes and events are taking place in California, Colorado and seven other states.

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
  • CLIMATE EDUCATION AND STEWARDSHIP (CES) COMMUNICATIONS DESIGNER
    Seeking an individual to design and develop marketing and support materials for a 1-year, 30-hour per week, grant-funded climate education program. Based in Durango, CO....
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL OFFICE MANAGER - BOOKKEEPER
    The Wyoming Outdoor Council is seeking an office manager-bookkeeper to join our team. The office manager-bookkeeper supports the program and administrative functions of the Wyoming...
  • HEALTHY RIVERS SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY
    WRA seeks a passionate attorney to join our Healthy Rivers team. The Senior Staff Attorney will research and advocate for wiser water management and updated...
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and will be accepted until: February 03, 2020. Overview Conservation Voters for Idaho (CVI) protects Idaho's environment...
  • WRITING SKILLS TUTOR FOR HIRE!
    Fort Collins, CO college students welcome. Meet on your college campus!
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com