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Know the West

Utah’s condoms; border blown; Cluck the cat

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


As the Guardian observed, Utah is not the first state to create “cheeky condoms” to encourage people to deploy them and help prevent the spread of HIV. Wyoming displayed Devils Tower on its condoms, along with the slogan: “Protect your landmark,” while Alaska’s image of an oil rig came with the words: “Drill safely,” and others featured a fishing boat with the words: “Avoid bycatch.” But when Utah’s public-health HIV campaign featured condoms with the saucy saying, “Uintah sex?” and “SL,UT” — shorthand for “Salt Lake City, Utah” — Republican Gov. Gary Herbert put his foot down. The governor understands the importance of HIV prevention, his office said, but “he does not, however, approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign. …” That halted the health department’s distribution of 100,000 condoms, in an act of gubernatorial coitus interruptus.

President Trump’s “perfect” wall suffered a blow in late February, when high winds ripping through the California- Mexico border blew over some panels as if they were made of paper. CNN showed the wall — whose new concrete base had apparently not set — collapsing and landing on trees alongside a road in Mexicali, Mexico.

Meanwhile, in southern Texas, some 45 miles from Corpus Christi, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection suffers daily assaults from 300 angry vultures. The big birds really, really abhor the agency’s 320-foot radio communication tower, so they’re “pooping all over” it and “vomiting onto buildings below the tower,” reports the Washington Post. As if this wasn’t bad enough, every now and again the vultures use their leftovers as bombs, dropping carcasses “from a height of 300 feet, creating a terrifying and dangerous situation for those (below).” This has gone on for six years, reports the online business publication Quartz, so the entire tower and office buildings are now coated with the birds’ vile-smelling “excretion,” which is so corrosive that it destroys metal. The agency plans to install a “Vulture Deterrence Netting System” once the tower and buildings are scraped free of yuck and repainted.

We’ve gotten to know a generic-looking black cat with an unusual lifestyle. The cat is called Cluck because she not only lives with chickens, she appears to think she is one. Cluck hangs out at a small farm just outside Paonia, in western Colorado, and though not a housecat, she will allow herself to be petted while she nibbles on her kibble. Usually, though, she disdains humans and eyes strangers warily. After Cluck wandered onto James and Carol Schott’s place a year ago, she immediately settled in among their flock of chickens. When a neighbor dropped by one day, the mystery of Cluck’s past was illuminated. “A fox killed every one of our chickens, and right afterward, Cluck vanished,” the neighbor explained. “She must have missed her buddies.” At the Schotts’, Cluck leaves the flock at night once the henhouse is closed and sleeps underneath the floor or inside the barn. Come morning, she waits outside the henhouse until the door is opened again. During the day, she follows the chickens as they peck up food, and then joins them in the henhouse when they sit on their nests. Carol started wondering: Could Cluck behave as nicely to humans, maybe even let herself be held? So Carol tried to pick her up. She flaps her arms to show what happened next: “Cluck exploded!” If the cat had feathers, she says, they would have been flying. Moral: Never try to cuddle any cat that thinks it’s a chicken.

Five years ago, Albuquerque ended an urban experiment: It closed its Fourth Street Pedestrian Mall and allowed cars to drive through again. It was a “clumsy policy response to the fact that the two-block pedestrian mall had been taken over by the homeless,” a former city reporter reported on the Better Burque blog. Not long ago, however, the blog reported that the street was closed to traffic again, and another homeless camp appeared to be emerging. Turns out it was an artful fake; the encampment was being specially constructed by a movie crew, apparently because none of the real homeless camps in the West had enough of the right “star quality.” As the blogger concluded: “You just can’t make up shit that good.”

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