Impossible markets; Schroederisms; Western advice

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


Sean Hawksford’s story on NPR’s Planet Money should have been happy: He’d moved to Bozeman, Montana, married a local woman, and now they were getting ready to have their first child. Unfortunately, buying a home was proving insanely difficult; competitors were offering at least $500,000 in cash for every house that came on the market. Hawksford made 18 unsuccessful offers. Feeling desperate, he found a big piece of cardboard and made a sign that he held up on a busy street, even as the temperature plunged to a frigid 15 degrees. “Please sell me a home,” said his sign. “Local business owner, wife pregnant, paid rent here 10 years.” After three long, cold days, he got some leads, and at last, a resident who saw his sign “offered to sell him a house (because) they really wanted a local family to buy it.” Hawksford’s house hunt in an impossible market may have ended successfully, but sadly, that rarely happens in the West during these “Zoom boom” days.

One morning in Maricopa, Arizona, Francesca Wikoff looked out her window and realized that all four tires on the family’s truck had been slashed. Even worse, there was a human finger lying on the driveway and a bloody trail leading straight to a nearby house. The night before, the man who lived there had gotten into an argument with her husband at a neighbor’s house. Wikoff told 3TV/CBS 5 that she laughed all day to keep from crying about the incident: “You would think if you’re gonna go to the hospital — especially if you just severed your finger off — you would take said finger with you.”  Her deduction that the guy made an oops! during his tire-slashing turned out to be correct. Police charged him with criminal damage.

From her first day on the job in 1972, Pat Schroeder, the first woman Colorado sent to Congress, knew that she’d never be accepted by the entrenched old guard. So she decided she might as well be herself, and so, for 25 years, she did just that, speaking out and fighting for what she believed in — including women’s rights in the military and exposing gender bias in national health studies. (Believe it or not, premenopausal women were excluded from breast cancer studies.) She was also quick with a quip. Schroeder coined the term “Teflon president” to describe Ronald Reagan, adding that he probably “arms control” meant “deodorant.” And her observation about a sex scandal involving Oregon Republican Sen. Robert Packwood still carries a sting today: “Women who sleep around in this city are called sluts. Men who do it are called senators.” Schroeder unleashed a few more barbs in a recent conversation with the Colorado Sun. Asked about gun control, she wondered why “we can’t do anything about guns just because, in 1791, they put in the Second Amendment.” That doesn’t mean she’s entirely anti-gun: “I’m good with everybody having a musket if they want it.” One of our favorite Schroederisms comes from Joan A. Lowy’s fine biography, A Woman of the House, published in 2003. When Schroeder first came to Washington, her husband, Jim, a lawyer, worked in her office nearly every day. A longtime congressman scolded her, warning: “You’re not supposed to have him on the payroll.” “Oh, he’s not on the payroll,” Schroder assured him. “I just let him sleep with me.” These days, Schroeder lives in Florida, which she described as “probably America’s insane asylum for politics right now.”

Reader Soren Nicholson, who calls himself an “optimistic realist,” has a piquant Western sensibility. In Corona, New Mexico, he spotted an all-caps sign: “PLEASE DO NOT ABDUCT THE CATTLE,” and in Montrose, Colorado, he noted another that promised drivers a “gluten free car wash.” We also relish the closing thought expressed in Grand Canyon educator Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff’s emails: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out, and proclaiming: ‘Wow, what a ride!’ ” More advice on the subject came from the late historian-rancher Peter Decker, of Ridgway, Colorado: “Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.”

Good news for tourists passing through airports in Juneau, Fairbanks, Ketchikan and Anchorage: Starting June 1, the Anchorage Daily News reports, any passenger over 16 can get vaccinated at the airport. “We have excess vaccines,” says Heidi Hedberg of the Alaska Department of Health. “So why not use them?”   

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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