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Know the West

Country-life shooters; moose acceptance; Phil Lyman’s unpaid debt

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


CALIFORNIA: Another hazard to add to the list of climate change dangers.
Karla Arens

It seemed like an open-and-shut case. In Walkerville, Montana, a suburb of Butte with just 675 residents, someone fired a high-caliber rifle and struck the home of Renee Neary, hitting the building just inches from a window in a room where two people had been standing. The near miss was enough to alarm some neighbors, so they asked the town to include Walkerville in a county “no-shooting zone” that covers most of Butte and some of the surrounding area. Town officials agreed, noting that some people were shooting deer on other people’s property, making the mix of shooters and homes “dangerous,” reports the Montana Standard. Maybe so, but at a public hearing on the matter, the council encountered loud opposition. “People moved out to the country for a reason,” said Shawn Coates, one of 30 crammed into the town hall — “the most people we have had at a meeting since 1976,” according to Mayor John Ries. Shane Hollingsworth added that he needed to shoot coyotes and foxes, and that his nearest neighbor was 11 football fields away. “I chose to live in the country to do country things,” he said, and a woman agreed, shouting: “If you don’t want to hear bullets whizzing about, why the hell are they living out here?” Hoping to damp down the outbursts, Ries said, “I don’t know of any incorporated city in Montana that doesn’t have a (no-shooting) zone. It has become a safety issue.” And ban supporter Dan O’Keefe pointed out that he won’t let his twin boys shoot deer on their property because “that’s not hunting; that’s shooting a damn pet off your porch.” The argument raged for an hour until the council agreed to table the issue. “It’s possible they will just leave everything the way it is,” said the mayor. 

Lake Elsinore, a town of 66,000 just over an hour from Los Angeles, was invaded by some 50,000 people during this spring’s golden poppy “super-bloom.” At first, the town’s chamber of commerce ballyhooed the event, telling the Los Angeles Times that the “hills are just covered with millions of poppies. It’s ‘on,’ as they say.” But after “Disneyland-size crowds” arrived, Lake Elsinore tried frantically to shut down the celebration. “We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community,” Mayor Steve Manos said. “One of our employees was hit and run over by a driver. A rattlesnake bit a visitor. Residents have been screaming at the people directing traffic.” The Washington Post said that videos shared by Manos “showed rows of cars stuck in traffic on the highway as far as the eye could see.” Even worse, said the mayor, was the weather forecast, which called for more rain, meaning: “More flowers. The rain’s gonna be like vitamins for these poppies.” 

Mabel Nesmith, who just turned 110 in Littleton, Colorado, remembers breaking her arm trying to hand-crank her Model T; she also recalls the thrill of seeing television for the first time in a store window. Nesmith, who has seven great-great-grandchildren, told the Denver Post how much she loves jewelry — “I was in a quandary: What to wear, silver or gold?” — and that she not only adores football, she would “kill for” it. Her only medical problem is arthritis. Her secret? “Live to the fullest, every day.”

Moose can run up to 35 mph and swim up to 10 miles without stopping, but in Jackson, Wyoming, in mid-March, some of them preferred to spend their days “lunching at McDonald’s, napping in front yards and stubbornly sticking to plowed and compacted trails and roads.” The animals, which can weigh as much as 1,800 pounds, behaved in a calm and dignified manner — if you didn’t try to boss them around. “Our advice,” said the state Game and Fish Department’s Kyle Lash, “is that (people) go around the moose if there is a way around.” Lash told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that any attempt to force a moose to mosey on down the road tends to backfire, “and then you have an angry moose running down the street, which could be dangerous for other people.” But with the snow more than two feet deep, moose found themselves stranded in town, causing residents to barrage wildlife officials with complaints: “There’s a moose in my yard that won’t leave, and I don’t know what to do.” Lash recommended patience: “We’re just trying to ask the public for some acceptance of them being there.” 

Former San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman does not believe he has a “heightened moral obligation” to pay off the $96,000 he owes the public for damaging a canyon rich in Native American archaeological sites, even though he’s now a state representative. According to the Associated Press, federal prosecutors want him to pay $500 a month in restitution instead of the current paltry $100. That still gives him until 2034 to pay off the $90,000 he still owes for the illegal 2014 ATV ride he led through the canyon. Lyman told a judge that the government’s request revealed a conspiracy involving environmentalists and even worse — “jiggery pokery.”

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