Free bird; lost-and-found bear; cowboy pride

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

Hello, everybody. I’m thrilled to be taking over “Heard Around the West.” I’ve been tasked with filling the very big boots of the venerable Betsy Marston, who has been bringing hilarity and wonder to these pages for years. I hope I can match the wit and marksmanship Marston brought to this roundup of quirky news, and I look forward to discovering yet more off-the-beaten-path stories from these Western states.  —Tiffany Midge

OREGON
A rather sociable resident of Grants Pass sought out the company of delighted school kids at Allen Dale Elementary School in November. The Oregonian reported that the special guest peeked into classrooms and pecked politely on doors before making his way inside to help himself to snacks, even perching atop some students’ heads for a chat. The visitor, as you may have guessed, was not a human, but a talking crow, or maybe raven, named Cosmo. Cosmo regaled both students and teachers with remarks like “What’s up?” and “I’m fine.” Cosmo also demonstrated a full command of expletives, though The Oregonian did not disclose exactly which ones. Animal control officers were called to the scene, but they determined that capturing controversial corvids was out of their jurisdiction. A wildlife officer from Oregon State Police also failed to net Cosmo, who made a game out of the capture attempts while the entire student body cheered it on. After the cops gave up, Cosmo retired in triumph and ended up spending the night outside the school. Eventually, his caretaker, Daphnie Colpron, who had been distraught over the bird’s disappearance during Thanksgiving weekend, was alerted. Cosmo was returned to her home, though Colpron insists that he remains a free bird. We think he has a good career ahead as a substitute teacher and are looking forward to his classroom remarks on the work of Edgar Allen Poe.

MONTANA
This is not your typical Montana story about a bear, though it is sure to knock the stuffing out of even the most stoic among us. In 2020, 6-year-old Naomi Pascal and her family were hiking in Glacier National Park when she lost her teddy bear along one of the trails, KPAX reported. What made this teddy bear particularly special, is that it had been with Naomi since she was adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage — it was an introductory gift from her new parents, Ben and Addie Pascal. Naomi and Teddy have had many adventures together, visiting Ethiopia, Rwanda, Greece and Croatia with their new family. But when the bear was lost, Naomi and her family assumed they would never see it again. Fate intervened when an intuitive park ranger and bear specialist, Tom Mazzarisi, found the teddy bear in a pile of snow and rescued it. Usually such items are tossed, Mazzarisi said, but in this case he relented and allowed the teddy bear to ride along with him on the dash of his patrol truck. What followed is a whole lot of kismet: A Michigan woman visiting Glacier the following September spotted the teddy on the dash of Mazzarisi’s truck and recognized it as the one she had seen in a Facebook post by Naomi’s mom. The stuffed teddy bear and Naomi were soon reunited, and no, I’m not crying, you are.

NEVADA
In 2020, 20-year-old Shad Mayfield, of Clovis, New Mexico, won the world championship title for tie-down roping, making him just the third Black world champion in professional rodeo. “It’s not every day that there’s an African American cowboy that wins the world,” Mayfield told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in December at the National Finals Rodeo. Mayfield was one of three African American competitors — the other two being Cory Solomon and John Douch — at the event, considered professional rodeo’s most prestigious. The young cowboy expressed his pride in being a role model for other Black kids and between events taught young people at the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation how to rope calves and mount horses.

THE WEST
A milestone for Native Country took place on Dec. 16 when Charles F. Sams III, a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, became the new director of the National Park Service. The swearing-in ceremony was officiated by Deb Haaland, (Laguna Pueblo), the first Native American appointed to the rank of secretary of the interior. Sams will supervise management of 423 parks covering 85 million acres.   

Tiffany Midge is a citizen of the Standing Rock Nation and was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. Her book, Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s (Bison Books, 2019), was a Washington State Book Award nominee. She resides in north-central Idaho near the Columbia River Plateau, homeland of the Nimiipuu.

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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