Watch out, ranching families, a “docu-reality” television company wants to cast you in a new series, but only if your personalities can be described as “dynamic, engaging and uninhibited.” Tim Marema, whose blog, AgricultureProud, helped spread the word, found much of the producers’ concept laughable, especially the requirement that “All members of the family need to live a classic cowboy lifestyle and have rugged good looks.” So just how does Hollywood define “classic” in this case? For Orion Entertainment, it’s all about an extended family (at least three kids, plus active grandparents) having a fabulous time effortlessly doing the work of an army — herding cattle, shearing sheep, farming, participating in “rodeos every weekend” and then, when they’re not “chasing grizzlies and wolves away from cattle,” playing the harmonica or guitar while also writing and reciting poetry, cooking the best darn BBQ in the county, making their own clothes, raising bees or keeping wild animals as pets, and last but surely not least, “All members of the family need to have big, strong personalities.” Cattle prices, broken farm equipment and the family’s fraught relationship with a bank, however, are not mentioned in the company’s announcement. For Marema, who wonders what his gritty life would look like if he were followed around by a camera crew, the proposed show is another example of reality television pushing “its way into rural America like urban sprawl.” A rural-reality show already on the air is Buckwild, which engages “in an astounding amount of mud wrestling, even for their teen-aged demographic.” Another is Duck Dynasty, starring the mouthy Phil Robertson, whose lurid opinions on gay rights and racism continue to keep him in the news. What Marema doesn’t say is that lot of ranching families could meet the criteria for this new show; the question is why they would want to bother.
Speaking of reality TV stars, or in this case web-cam stars, Shauna Stephenson writes in Wyoming Wildlife says that there’s nothing like the fascination city dwellers develop for the peregrine falcons that decide to nest and breed in their midst. After the Salt Lake Tribune described the untimely demise of one hatched falcon chick, which had “slammed into the glass at the Zion’s Bank Tower,” tributes appeared on the bird family’s Facebook page: “The urban jungle is so tough on these new fledglings,” one person lamented. Yet peregrines in the flesh are “slightly underwhelming,” Stephenson says, only 13 to 20 inches tall and weighing between one and three-and-a-half pounds. In flight is where peregrines astound, as the birds dive from elevations as high as 11,000 feet at speeds of 80 to 150 miles an hour in what is called the “stoop.” And if you’re lucky enough to spot the falcons during their mating season, you’ll see a Cirque de Soleil show of diving, rolling over and over again, flashing by while flying upside down, dropping food to a female who catches it from below, not to mention intermissions that feature “aerial kisses.” Watching one such acrobatic display in the 1930s, ornithologist Archie Hagar wrote that the sheer excitement of seeing the birds’ performance was so tremendous, “we felt a strong impulse to stand and cheer.” Happily, peregrines have rebounded from near-extinction caused by DDT pesticide poisoning. In Wyoming, for example, as of 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer monitor the peregrine population.
Hats off to Erick J. Aune of Santa Fe, N.M., who received the Lester Award from The Western Planner magazine for his 16 years working as a planner in the Intermountain West — including fruitless efforts to engage Tea Party and associated “patriotic” groups. The groups accused him of being an active agent of the U.N. and its Agenda 21, which advocates the apparently dangerous concept of sustainability for communities throughout the world. Though he met with his accusers and tried to identify “common core values,” a three-year planning effort in La Plata County, Colo., “was a shipwreck waiting to happen.” Ultimately, said the magazine’s editors, “Aune went down with the ship.”
Charlie Rush, a 21-year-old snowboarder at Whitefish Mountain Resort in northwest Montana, was fined $225 recently for harassing a moose. But maybe harassment was just the ticket — people disagree about whether wildlife or tourists had priority. The encounter played out on Facebook, thanks to a friend who filmed it, showing Rush as he “cruises down the narrow slope behind the animal.” Then “the video cuts off when the moose stops in the middle of the run and attempts to charge,” reports the dailyinterlake.com. A warden captain with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said he thought a citation wasn’t needed, because, as Rush explained, “There were people hiding in the trees that thanked us for herding the moose away.” So who had right of way?
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an op ed syndicate of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, firstname.lastname@example.org.