A sleepy bear; historic trash; meth awareness

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

MONTANA
One thing about bears: They tend to do what they want to do, not what we humans might prefer. A hotel in Big Sky, Montana, learned this after a young black bear climbed through a window into a ladies’ bathroom. Once inside, he curled up in a sink and fell fast asleep. Buck’s T-4 Lodge tried various ploys to persuade the bear to depart, but the sleepy animal only woke up long enough to shift positions, abandoning the sink for a “nap across the countertop,” reports Weird News. It took a team of police and wildlife officers to tranquilize the already relaxed bear and carry him out of the bathroom, still out like a light. He was safely released in the wild, where he presumably resumed his interrupted snooze.

Sienna Gonzales for High Country News

ARIZONA
What you might call “vintage trash” — garbage that’s more than 50 years old — is considered “historic” in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park and carefully left in situ. National Park Service staffers, reports Atlas Obscura, preserve old steel cans (the kind that used church keys), marbles, bottles, door handles and even toys that tourists driving Route 66 — aka the “Mother Road” — chucked out of their cars decades ago. Most of the discards landed about 10 to 15 feet from the highway and slowly disappeared into the dirt, yet goodies can still be found. Petrified Forest, better known for its sculptural, multicolored rocks, is the only national park that contains a segment of Route 66, which represented travel through the American West at its quirkiest from the 1930s through the 1950s. You could set out from Chicago for Los Angeles, more than 2,000 miles away, and drive for what seemed like forever under big skies, trying out homemade food from roadside stalls and stopping to explore tiny towns and funky roadside attractions in the middle of nowhere. In 2006, the park created a turnoff to commemorate the nostalgia-ridden highway, featuring artifacts taken from what staffers have dubbed the “throw zone.” The park’s 800,000 visitors can admire a 1932 Studebaker propped up on concrete supports, or consult a “Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program” that includes oral histories and an itinerary for road trippers. William Parker, the chief of science and resource at the park, relishes the irony: “It’s funny that someone would throw these bottles or cans out and not think that in 50 years they’d be in a museum somewhere.” Yet every day, he added, “things are constantly becoming historic.” As the writer William Faulkner memorably put it, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

SOUTH DAKOTA
The Twitter world had a great time mocking South Dakota after it unveiled its new, million-dollar-plus anti-drug slogan: “Meth. We’re on it,” but the state’s governor appeared unfazed by the fuss. Republican Kristi Noem, the state’s first woman governor, called out her critics, saying, “Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness. So I think that’s working. …” Like many states, South Dakota is battling a meth problem: The New York Times reports that from 2014-2018, South Dakota saw a 200% increase in people seeking treatment for it. “We were looking for a way that would cause citizens to stop, pay attention and understand that we do have a meth issue and that there are resources available,” said Laurie Gill, head of the Department of Social Services. The point of the campaign, she added, is that “you don’t have to be a user to be affected by meth. Everybody is.”

UTAH
The Beehive State may be overwhelmingly white, conservative and Republican, but when it comes to welcoming the world’s refugees, it steps up. After President Trump signed an executive order this fall allowing states and cities — for the first time — to veto local refugee resettlement, Utah responded by saying, in effect: Send more! Republican Gov. Gary Herbert wrote the president: “We empathize deeply with individuals and groups who have been forced from their homes and we love giving them a new home and a new life.” He added that the newcomers become responsible citizens and workers, and “they have been an asset to Utah,” reports the Washington Post. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also reaffirmed its support, encouraging its members to “create welcoming communities,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

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

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