Betsy Marston
Writers on the Range

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December 20, 2013
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Heard around the West: A Colorado handbook to the realities or rural living

COLORADO

Back in the 1990s, John Clarke, then a commissioner of Larimer County in northern Colorado, wrote a primer for newcomers moving in from cities. “The Code of the West — The Realities of Rural Living” has been adopted in various forms by more than 100 local governments around the region. It was blunt but not judgmental as it pointed out some disconnects between urban expectations and rural realities. Recently, though, Clarke told The Coloradoan that a resident complained about the code, and the county planner told Clarke that it “made some rural folks feel like second-class citizens.” The section that caused offense said, “Even though you (rural dwellers) pay property taxes to the county, the amount of tax collected does not cover the cost of the services provided to rural residents. In general, those living in the cities subsidize the lifestyle of those who live in the county by making up the shortfall.” Clarke says he spent an afternoon checking the county budget to see if the statement was now inaccurate, but it wasn’t. “Then the floods came” this September, he says — an “epoch event in Larimer County.” Though the Code had warned outlying rural residents that they might occasionally have to spend a week without power or water, Clarke says his “time frame was way off” — by months. Nonetheless, Clarke appears willing to spend the millions of dollars necessary to repair rural roads and restore services.

THE NATION

What combines the scents of musky dirt, grain and old-fashioned hay barn in a way that appeals to the discerning cow as well as to your typical wannabe cowboy, who imagines himself “with the sun and dust clouds casting a warm light across his weathered skin?” The answer is Farmer’s Cologne, reports Modern Farmer magazine, which field-tested the new product on a bunch of calves and a few lactating cows. The tests were far from scientific, but anecdotal reports are impressive: Cows responded positively to the cologne that contained familiar farm odors but did not at all appreciate John Varvatos, the “nightclub favorite” scent. Calves in particular “swarmed” a reporter doused in Farmer’s Cologne, but when one came close to a colleague wearing John Varvatos, it “literally just made a retching noise.” Then came the milking test, when the two cologne-wearing amateurs awkwardly hooked up several animals to milking machines. Farmer’s Cologne seemed to calm the cows while the reporter figured out what he was doing, but when the magazine’s researcher, who wore John Varvatos, tried, the cows got antsy, and one “kicked off her milking equipment twice.” These unofficial results probably heartened Farmer’s Cologne creator Lisa Brodar, of Portland, Maine, who hopes her newly farm-tested, $110-a-bottle scent will prove a hit. Her ideal consumer, though, is less a bovine than “the guy in Brooklyn who wants to move back to the land, to become a homesteader … but who still likes to go out at night.” If cow cologne fails to appeal, Brodar also sells original scents she’s dubbed Saltwater and Whiskey.

UTAH

U.S. senators have much to do in Washington, D.C., though lately they mostly refuse to do it. But even from a distance they still keep an eye on home. Mike Lee, R-Utah, for example, wholeheartedly backed his state Legislature’s designation of Jell-O as a “favorite snack of Utah,” and now, every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., he hosts a get-together he calls “Jello-O with the Senator” at his Washington office. The wiggly gelatin appears in vibrant emerald-green on the junior senator’s website, but we’re guessing that the dessert he serves to visitors is even more exciting, perhaps harboring a few bananas, apples, marshmallows, pretzels, carrots or grapes. Or maybe all of the above.

NEVADA

A Cold War bomb shelter in suburban Las Vegas, constructed 25 feet underground and encased in a shell of concrete, is now for sale. But at $1.7 million, this is anything but a modest retreat. It was built in the mid-’70s by a fiercely anti-government entrepreneur, Girard B. “Jerry” Henderson, whose business was building “luxury bunkers,” reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The house features a heated pool, a “sky control” lighting system that can be set to morning, dusk or night, a four-hole golf course, a dance floor and what is surely a rare amenity in Vegas — dead quiet. Access is a bit odd: In 1988, a suburban home was built on top of the shelter, and the underground sanctuary was largely forgotten until 2004, when it was put up for sale. The buyer, however, lost it to the bank, proof, perhaps, that even bomb shelters weren’t safe during a bank-created mortgage bust.

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the op ed syndicate of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write betsym@hcn.org.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 20, 2013 10:02PM Published Jan 2, 2014 12:28PM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.