Betsy Marston
High Country News

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January 19, 2013
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WOTR: Heard around the West

There's no doubt about it, says Connie Jenkins: A deer suddenly assaulted her small Honda while she was driving along a winding canyon to her home high above Malibu. Yet the suggestion in a letter from an expeditor for Farmers Insurance that she seek damages from the "third party" - which in this case would be the deer - seemed more trouble than it was worth. She paid the deductible herself, she reports, because "I'm pretty sure that doe has no dough."

We all know that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a fierce Republican, felt no qualms about angrily shaking her finger at President Obama when the two met at an airport during the presidential campaign. So it was not surprising that she recently got assertive with reporter Dennis Welch. Brewer was waiting to speak about energy to the Western Governors' Association when Welch popped the question: Where does she stand on the issue of global warming? Her answer, peppered with "you knows," went this way: "Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I, you know, probably don't believe that it's manmade. I believe that, you know, that weather elements are controlled by different things." After her convoluted answer, the governor walked away but then returned to "hit Welch with a closed fist, demanding: 'Where in the hell'd that come from?' " Videos of the encounter, posted on the website of KTVK-TV, where Welch works, swiftly went viral, reports the Arizona Republic. Matthew Benson, an aide to Brewer, downplayed the incident: "The reporter himself is saying he didn't think it was malicious and the governor did not mean any harm."

A Columbia Falls state legislator said he's so convinced the dollar is in freefall and about to become worthless that he's asked the state to pay him in gold and silver coins, reports the Billings Gazette. Republican Rep. Jerry O'Neill justified his request by citing a clause in the U.S. Constitution that says no state shall "make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts." His stand, he adds, should get people thinking "about what will happen if the U.S. currency collapses" - a dire event he fears might occur while he's still on the state dole.

Demanding payment in gold and silver might sound odd, but odder still were the actions of Joel Boniek, a former state legislator from Livingston, Mont., who was most recently a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor. Boniek was arrested last July for various charges, including resisting arrest, after he failed to stop at an emergency roadblock during a wildfire near his home in the Paradise Valley, reports The Associated Press. An irate Boniek arrived at the Park County Justice Court accompanied by a throng of supporters eager to heckle jackbooted government officials. When county attorney Kathleen Carrick tried to speak, Boniek interrupted: "Your Honor, why is this woman even speaking if she can't prove she's (a public official)?" And when Justice of the Peace Linda Budeski told a very vocal Boniek supporter that he was "out of order," the heckler cursed and insisted: "You're out of order." Things went downhill from there, and finally the exasperated judge adjourned the case and left the room, at which point Boniek declared: "I'm in charge now." "No, you're not," an officer responded, but Boniek continued to insist that, because the judge had abandoned the floor, "I announce the case dismissed as the last man standing in the courtroom." For the record, Boniek was wrong; Justice Budeski said the case was still on, just delayed.

When potato magnate J.R. Simplot died in 2008, at the age of 99, he left his hilltop mansion above Boise to the state, along with 37 acres, a 30-by-50-foot American flag, and an endowment valued at $1.5 million in 2005. But things have not turned out as Simplot wished: The fund for maintaining what was meant to be the Idaho governor's residence has shrunk to $900,000, the mansion is seen by many Idahoans as a money pit, and, truth is, no governor seems to have any desire to live in the fancy house. The Governor's Housing Committee has solicited public comment but no consensus has emerged. Meanwhile, "As Idaho has discovered, it's easier to take a mansion than it is to give it back," reports AP. The self-made billionaire's heirs don't want it, and mansion supporters say it would be an insult to the memory of Simplot to just sell the thing.

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an op-ed syndicate of High Country News (hcn.org). Write her at betsym@hcn.org with tips of Western oddities.


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The Summit Daily Updated Jan 19, 2013 12:16AM Published Jan 19, 2013 12:13AM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.