WOTR: Thompson: Heard around the West
September 29, 2012
It seemed at first like just another armed holdup of a roadside corn stand. Corn-seller Dusty Moore told police that he was innocently selling ears in a North Ogden parking lot when a Hispanic-looking man in his 30s approached, demanded some money (no word on whether he also wanted some corn) and shot Moore in the back, according to the Ogden Standard-Examiner. Oddly enough, it was the second time Moore’s corn stand had been hit by a gunman. Police went on a manhunt, residents locked their doors, and a private company planned a free concealed-weapons permit class at the public library to help folks protect themselves from the criminal. Or at least avoid shooting themselves in the back. A week later, Moore admitted fabricating the story to save himself embarrassment: He had somehow shot himself in the back with his own gun, which he started carrying after the earlier robbery. Not surprising that he’d arm himself, you’d think. Except it turns out Moore made up that robbery, too. No word on what motivated this corny tale.
Northern Las Vegas is like many Western ‘burbs, a sprawling and homogenous zone of placelessness, where long, wide streets are lined with house after brand-new house, and almost 80 percent of the mortgages are underwater – hard to picture in such a dry place. But underneath that suburban blandness lurks a wild heart, where street names like Bucking Bronco and Trotting Horse Road aren’t just nostalgic nods to a mythic past. That past lives on, thanks partly to Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, who lives in – and livens up – that neighborhood. In mid-August, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, one of Collins’ bulls escaped and ran rampant through the streets of northwest Las Vegas. Police shot the bull with a tranquilizer dart, but not until it charged a woman, sending her to the hospital with minor injuries. A cow also escaped, and was captured. Collins got slapped with a misdemeanor, just as he did about six weeks earlier when he was shooting – while drinking – on his property. A stubborn tree resisted his chainsaw, reports the Las Vegas Sun, so the commish got mad and opened fire (apparently shooting at a wooden post, as well). Collins, a Democrat, is running for re-election against a Republican and an Independent American, but the incidents apparently haven’t hurt his standing. In fact, they may have helped, judging by the sentiment of a commenter on the Review-Journal bull-incident article. “Kerrie Heretic” enthusiastically supported Collins and his cattle’s antics: “This town has turned into an entire population of wusses … most of the men here are a bunch of metrosexuals, who are more concerned with the kind of hair product they use than being real men.” Collins, as near as we can tell, doesn’t fret about his hair: He usually appears in a big straw cowboy hat.
Every town needs something to be proud of. Portland not only has its own television show, Portlandia, but also a toilet. A very special toilet: Portland, if the L.A. Times is to be believed, has revolutionized the public loo, creating a minimalist, solar-powered bathroom that boasts its own Facebook page. It supposedly solves the age-old problems of its kind, which, notes the Times, include “graffiti, trash-can fires, furtive needle activity, commercial lovemaking, emergency baths, laundries for the homeless” and more. “I’m convinced Portland is the only city in the U.S., and maybe the world, that celebrates the opening of bathrooms,” said a city commissioner at a toilet dedication ceremony, where students also reportedly sang Skip to my Lou.
It wouldn’t be the West without a whimsical story about wildlife and humans snuggling up, would it? On Aug. 25, a crew fighting the Chips Fire, which has burned for more than a month in Northern California, stumbled across a bobcat kitten that had lost its way – and its mother – to the fire. The firefighters tried to walk away and let natural selection take over, but the baby cat, about the size of a domestic kitten, followed them, “curling up on (their) boots and snuggling into (their) chaps every time they paused,” reports the Sacramento Bee. Firefighters turned the kitten over to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care for treatment. Meanwhile, in Aspen, a couple of bears had to be chased away from the finish line of the third stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge as the riders climbed the mountains toward the resort town. Aspen police chalked up a whopping 292 bear-related calls in August, a record. While the Aspen bears didn’t disrupt the bike race, the same can’t be said for Canada’s GranFondo Banff cycling event, which had to be rerouted due to bears feeding on the original course.
Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor for High Country News (hcn.org), based in Durango. Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write firstname.lastname@example.org