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Heard Around the West

Brief by Betsy Marston

Various – October 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Under the Gun

Fresh from a river trip through Cataract Canyon in Utah, five passengers and the pilot of a single-engine Cessna faced a nasty emergency: The plane from Redtail Aviation was lugging, failing to gain altitude. Adding to the tension was the weight of at least one man, reports the Times-Independent of Moab, Utah.

He weighed “above normal” and two other men were “in the 200-pound range.” It isn’t clear who made the decision, but it began to rain river bags over Lake Powell. The lightened plane lifted and landed safely in Moab.

Three of five dry bags that were dropped have been recovered, but two are sought, and in them are firearms valued at about $500 each. Guns, however, are prohibited inside Canyonlands National Park, where the river trip took place. The FAA is investigating the incident.

A Humdrum Political Approach

The Billings Gazette noted a somewhat lackluster campaign on a Web site for candidates. Paul Tuss of Cut Bank, Mont., declares that he wants the Democratic Party’s nomination for secretary of state. Yet it seems he hasn’t had time to think why. A two-sentence summary of his candidacy reads: “The secretary of state’s office is important because blah, blah, blah. As we enter the next millennium, I think it’s crucial that we XXX.”

Cut This Line

A mysterious caption ran in The Denver Post recently, under a photo of two laughing women about to embrace: “Here is the copy for this cutline at whatever size and whatever number of lines and legs indicated herein and so on and so on and so on and so on.” Every editor dreads running the space saver instead of the real thing. And it’s so easy to spot them after an issue is printed.

Too Much Moonshine

A sheriff’s deputy entered the realm of the mysterious, a police blotter item in western Colorado’s Daily Sentinel reveals: “A Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputy responded to a report of a strange light shining on a Grand Junction woman’s barn early Sunday morning. The responding deputy was able to assure the woman that it was only the moon.”

Theirs doesn’t stink?

The problem in Wheatland, Wyo. is hog manure. “I woke up this morning with a strange odor in my nose,” said one resident, “and it smelled like pigs.” What’s worse, reports the Casper Star-Tribune, is that neighbors feel frustrated because they believed Wyoming Premium Farms manager Doug DeRouchey, that “manure doesn’t smell.”

Now, a state air quality engineer is hog-tied because Wyoming codes are weak. A county commissioner admitted his hands are also tied: “We couldn’t stop Wyoming Premium Farms from the beginning from coming in here because we didn’t have the planning and zoning regulations,” said county chairman Chuck Frederick. Residents recently signed a petition protesting “the increasingly offensive odors permeating our properties and profoundly affecting our daily lives.”

Watch Where You Walk

Hikers in the outback occasionally find weird stuff. If you wander around 13,365-foot Gold Dust Peak in western Colorado this year, you could find four 500-pound bombs. Also be on the alert for 91 flares, 194 30-mm shells, and the odd piece off a $9 million war plane. The weapons are what was not found after an Air Force captain slammed his jet into the mountain on the White River National Forest in 1997.

The Air Force says the pilot probably blew up the bombs before he crashed and that scattered flares post the greater risk to tourists. When tripped, phosphorous inside the flares burns at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit for five seconds. Hikers in the remote area will see warning signs illustrating what’s missing from the plane, plus the possible risks of stumbling onto something military. What no one has learned is why the 32-year-old pilot flew from a bombing range in southern Arizona to a deadly rock wall near Vail, Colo.

Bumper Stickers

Signs of the times: A bumper sticker spotted in Jackson, Wyo. targets cellular-phone-oholics with the message “Hang up and Drive.” In Laramie, Wyo., Satoko Kurita says a worker at the Pedal House got so mad at having her bicycle stolen that she whipped up a sticker reading: “We still hang bike thieves in Wyoming.”

She Don’t Give a Hoot

If you’ve seen one little owl, have you seen them all? Arizona Gov. Jane Hull apparently thinks so. Pesky federal biologists have stymied subdivisions by declaring 731,000 acres of state land critical habitat for the pygmy owl, she complains. The pygmy owls “actually belong in northern Mexico,” she explained, during a weekly radio show. “If you want to see them, you can go to Mexico and see plenty of them. I have been arguing with the Forest Service about turning all of Tucson almost into an owl habitat.” Conservationists such as Kieran Suckling of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity said Gov. Hull’s comments show “she has no concept of protecting state land,” reports the Arizona Republic.

Where’s The Beef?

Professional vegetarians really know how to hurt a guy. A proposed billboard campaign throughout the West from PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, features a busty babe wearing a bikini and a big grin, while a string of bologna cascades over one shoulder. But the billboard says there’s a problem: “Eating meat can cause impotence.”

Boise Weekly reports that no billboard company will take the raunchy ads, but surprisingly, the director of the Idaho Cattle Association was amused by them: “We kind of got a kick out of it,” said Sara Braasch, “because based on nutritional research done by university experts and the beef industry, beef really is the natural Viagra.”

Though PETA fixed on a manhood theme because it could not fail to hit “below the belt,” campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich said a new billboard campaign will aim for a softer approach.

Hard Times For A Lone Wolf

When you’re a single mother with five children, life can be tough. For an underweight wolf in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, things just keep getting worse. First, a car killed her mate on a park road earlier this summer. Forced to become sole supporter of a large family, the mother was then trapped by the paw in a snare set for grizzles. The capture gave biologists a chance to see what the wolf was up against. Her biggest problem: No sharp teeth. All but one were ground down from chewing on the wires of a holding pen a year and a half ago.

To give the mother and her brood a shot at fast food, biologists have been picking up roadkill and spreading it around for the taking. Yet even this isn’t a slam dunk. The family of wolves must compete for meat with coyotes, bears and other wolves. The family must also steer clear of nearby “slow elk” cows.

As Franz Camenzind of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance sees it, the saga of feeding a family on the brink indicates the complexity of restoring a wild species: “Here we have a wolf that is watched day and night because of cattle nearby. She got caught in a trap set for grizzly bears so biologists can study how human use of the road affects the bear. This is intense wildlife management.”

Betsy Marston is the editor of High Country News ( She can be reached at Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or