Toad lickers, bear wrestlers and beard fanciers

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

ARIZONA
The National Park Service wants the public to please refrain from licking toads, specifically the Sonoran Desert (formerly the Colorado River) toad. You might be wondering, “Why is that?” Or, more likely, “WTF?” Turns out that this toad — “one of the largest toads found in North America, measuring up to 7 inches” — has evolved an ingenious defensive feature: a toxic substance secreted from its glands. High Times reports that it contains the “compound 5-MeO-DMT, a tryptamine-class psychedelic drug” that’s also found in certain plant species, including some traditionally used by South American Indigenous cultures for spiritual ceremonies. Meaning that, yes, you can theoretically get buzzed by binging batrachian biofluids. But you can also get sick — the Park Service notes that the secretions “can be toxic” — and it’s not healthy for the toads either. Plus, it’s just plain rude. Like, toadally.   

WYOMING
Kendall Cummings and Brady Lowry, two Northwest College wrestlers, survived a nightmarish grizzly attack while hunting for antlers in the South Fork area outside Cody. Cummings, who grabbed the bear by the ear in an attempt to pull him off Lowry, described the attack in excruciating detail to Cowboy State Daily: “I could hear when his teeth would hit my skull, I could feel when he’d bite down on my bones and they’d kind of crunch.” A surge of adrenaline kept him from noticing the pain at the time, though the encounter sounds like something out of a horror movie; the grizzly’s breath was “putrid,” Cummings said, and “filled him with a sense of dread.” Once the bear gave up, the men staggered five miles back down the trail despite their horrific injuries. Both needed multiple surgeries; Cummings received 60 staples in his head and has a badly lacerated face, arm and leg, while Lowrey’s arm was broken and his back, shoulders and legs were wounded. No one knows why the grizzly quit grappling with the young wrestlers, but Cummings’ counter defense must have been amazing. Lowry said he owes his life to Cummings: “We’ll be friends for the rest of our lives.” 

ARIZONA
If you have to spend 26 hours trapped in a cave somewhere, best pick one with a $1,000-a-night hotel suite and food service. That’s what happened to five unlucky — or maybe lucky? — folks who otherwise might have found themselves in a perilous predicament. Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona, is an adventure destination located 21 stories underground. This October, however, the elevator malfunctioned, leaving the visitors stranded. They couldn’t escape by the stairway, according to NBC News, because it was a bit on the dodgy side, “similar to an old external fire escape.” Still, the stranded tourists had full run of the small hotel and restaurant, and were well tended during their unplanned stay. Eventually, a search and rescue team, used “a tripod apparatus with a rope that fed down the elevator shaft” to hoist the group 210 feet up to the surface. 

WYOMING
Here’s another “hairy” situation in Wyoming: the 2022 Honest Amish National Beard and Mustache Championships in Casper. The annual event is a celebration of beards, mustaches and goatees galore. The longer and scruffier the better, obviously; no dainty soul patches for these facial hair fanciers. This year’s jamboree was combined with the annual Booze and Bacon Festival — a winning combination, to be sure — and hundreds of folks attended, Wyoming Public Media reported. The highlight? Seventy guys set a new world record for longest beard chain: 151 feet, considerably more a hair’s breadth longer than the previous record of 90 feet.

CALIFORNIA
We’ve seen how much collectors will pay for a pair of 19th century jeans, but how much would you spring for an old pair of sandals? A New York City auction house sold a pair of Birkenstocks from the 1970s for $218,750, NPR reported. The sandals once belonged to legendary tech guru Steve Jobs, and apparently some people are extremely serious about following in the footsteps  — and footwear — of their heroes. Jobs’ Birkenstocks will likely appreciate in value; they previously fetched a mere $2,000 at auction in 2016. The markup is impressive, but nothing like Michael Jordan’s 1984 Nike Air Ships, which sold for $1.47 million last year. Or Kanye West’s (aka “Ye”) Black Nikes, which sold last year for $1.8 million — although at this point we suspect the owner would pay even more to make them quietly disappear.   

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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