Betsy MarstonWriters on the Range

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April 25, 2013
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Marston: Heard around the West

If you want to watch the latest death-defying sport in the red-rock outback of southeastern Utah, check out "World's largest rope swing" on YouTube, which has racked up more than 17 million views, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The video shows roped climbers leaping off the top of an arch and then swinging back and forth in a huge arc. Although the camera-equipped swingers and their watching friends gasp with awe and laugh throughout the wild ride, the sight can give you the creeps: What if there's a miscalculation and a swinger smashes into the side of the arch instead of blowing through? Something like that just claimed the life of 22-year-old Kyle Lee Stocking, of West Jordan, Utah, who jumped off Corona Arch near Moab in March. He didn't hit the arch itself, but unfortunately used a rope that was longer than the 140-foot fall. Stocking plummeted to the ground and died from the impact.

Shaun McClusky, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Tucson, believes in a do-it-yourself police force. Because the city's cops aren't adequately funded, he told the Arizona Daily Star, he and his supporters have raised $12,000 to buy shotguns and provide firearms training for anyone who lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Asked whether his vigilante move might cause legal problems, McClusky said, "Saying guns are responsible for killing people is like saying spoons are responsible for making people fat. If someone wants to bring me the publicity for free and sue me, bring it on." Meanwhile, City Councilman Steve Kozachik found McClusky's logic difficult to follow: "To suggest that giving away ... loaded shotguns in high-crime areas will make anybody safer is pure idiocy. This is coming from a purported leader in the local Republican Party, the same group who last year auctioned off a Glock and rifle as fundraisers. ... They're totally out of touch with the values of this city."

"If Montana residents can scrape it up, they can eat it," said The Associated Press, about a roadkill-salvage bill signed by the governor April 4. "It really is a sin to waste good meat," is how Democratic state Sen. Larry Jent of Bozeman put it. Elk, deer, antelope and moose are all fair game for retrieval under the bill, though an earlier version would have also included furbearers and some gamebirds. Opponents, however, worried about the safety of the meat: "Despite its good intention, it doesn't pass the smell test for me," explained Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings. Still, everyone seemed to agree that, law or no law, few drivers are likely to crash into an edible animal just to avoid a trip to the supermarket. "We don't have very many suicidal drivers," Jent said.

When Pitkin County, home to Aspen, adopted a Renewable Energy Mitigation Program designed to make owners of mega-mansions pay for their electricity load, few people predicted that just one 15,000-square-foot house would generate almost a half-million dollars for the program. Usually, homeowners offset a building's energy use by installing solar panels or geothermal heat pumps, but in this case, reports the Aspen Times, the electrical demands to melt snow from driveways and heat an outdoor pool and spa were just too much: The home's amenities drove the residence over its energy budget. Owners must now pay the county $468,947, which will be used to fund energy conservation projects throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

True or false, asks Colby Poulson, who lives in Farmington, Utah: Earth Day was created in 1970 to celebrate all the wonderful ways that our society benefits from mining and burning fossil fuels. If you answered "true," you just might be an elementary school student in that state, thanks to a poster contest sponsored by the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining and a group of petroleum engineers. Their information for the contest tells children that without oil, gas and mining, there would be "no electricity, no diamonds and no Disneyland." As for alternative energy and the need to stop air pollution and contain global climate change, there's not a word about that from the contest sponsors. Poulson, the father of a kindergartner, was incensed: "I'm disgusted that the state is backing propaganda like this in our schools, especially after a winter filled with some of the worst air quality we've ever seen," he said in a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune. "It makes me sick."Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an op ed syndicate of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared at betsym@hcn.org.


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The Summit Daily Updated Apr 25, 2013 11:01PM Published Apr 25, 2013 10:58PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.