Wiggling ice worms; historical matchmaking; bizarre Utah politics

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

ARIZONA
Jocelyn Gibbon has been a Colorado River guide in the Grand Canyon for 21 of her 41 years. When the Boatman’s Quarterly Review inquired about the craziest question she’d ever been asked, she replied: “I have actually been asked that famous one about whether we’ll take out at the same place we put in.” Apparently, most tourists don’t expect rivers to actually go anywhere, no matter how fast they move — rather like modern life. When not boat wrangling, Gibbon is a lawyer who works as a water policy consultant.

THE WEST
If you thought nothing could thrive in the extreme cold of a glacier, think again. On Paradise Glacier, high up on Mount Rainier in Washington, you can find hundreds of thousands of tiny black worms, “wiggling through glacial ice eating snow algae, bacteria and anything else that ends up on the snow,” reports AccuWeather. Ice worms aren’t newbies; they were first discovered in 1887 on Muir Glacier in Alaska. But nobody has ever studied the wigglers much, though NASA is said to be interested in how, and perhaps why, they manage to survive.

THE WEST
“Manifest destiny — flawed, damaging, racist doctrine that it was — couldn’t have ‘manifested,’” says Atlas Obscura, without the want ads that preceded today’s online dating websites. In the 19th century, as the government killed or forcibly removed Native Americans from the West, single white men swarmed into the region. But once there, many miners, farmers and ranchers found themselves sorely in need of companionship, aka wives. One homesteading act, for example, offered 640 acres of land to a married couple — twice the 320 acres a single man got. The invention of the steam printing press in the early 1800s helped bachelors spread the word: “Wives Wanted.” Newspapers were cheap to produce, and by mid-century, many featured personal ads. And not just from lonesome dudes: A Philadelphia paper in 1837 reported a “super-abundance of women in urban areas back East (who were) largely restricted to marriage and domestic work, such as sewing and laundry.” Going West offered enterprising women a way out of poverty and into adventure. The ads were anything but coy. While today’s personals might beat around the bush, they were refreshingly direct and practical, particularly about finances. In 1894, the San Francisco Examiner was clear that getting hitched ASAP was the goal. No need to promise “long romantic strolls along the beach”; people were blunt: “A young widow would like to rent a nice room to an elderly gentleman of means who would assist her with a view to matrimony.” Equally frank was this ad: “A GENTLEMAN aged 35, German by birth, a mining engineer and owner of valuable mining property, desires the acquaintance of a lady with independent means — object matrimony.” And for many, the ads worked. Francesca Bauman, author of Matrimony, Inc., a history of personal ads, describes a courtship that began in 1869 with an ad in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly. The couple corresponded for a year, and finally 24-year-old Sara Baines — who placed the ad — traveled 1,500 miles from Louisiana to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. A day later she married Jay Hemsley, 48, and the newlyweds immediately moved to Placerville, California, and opened a general store. The marriage lasted 51 years.  At the time, some criticized personal ads as “too markedly transactional” and even potentially dangerous, Bauman writes. But they flourish today in the form of dating apps, says Bauman, where people of all genders share their hopes and fears about relationships. As she says, “Any marriage is a leap of faith — you never know what you’re getting into.”

UTAH
The Salt Lake Tribune headline was intriguing: “A bizarre story about a Utah State Representative.” Perhaps Travis Seegmiller’s actions made sense to him, but the residents of a rural area near St. George were alarmed when he shot a deer in the neighborhood, then dragged “the carcass off private property to his car,” according to the Cedar City News. When confronted, Seegmiller told a sad story, claiming he was unemployed and needed meat to feed his family. His legislative profile, however, said he was managing director of the Executive Leadership Institute and an associate professor of law at Dixie State University. Seegmiller was appointed to the Utah Legislature in 2018 to replace a representative who abruptly resigned “following a report in a British tabloid that he met a Salt Lake City call girl twice for sex while staying in a publicly funded hotel room.” Who knew Utah’s politics were so lively? 

Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected], or submit a letter to the editor

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