Marston: Heard Around the West
November 15, 2013
There are so many ways to have fun outdoors, and we're learning about quirky new ones all the time. One fall weekend, for example, reports The Independent, folks in Colorado Springs were invited to rent one of 200 machine guns for $25 and enjoy what must have been an ear-splitting blowout: "Don't miss the mad minute when we all fire our machine guns at once — only once a year, don't miss it!" Other events included a flame-throwing demo, military vehicle display and yet more noisy fun: "Yes, we will be blowing up some cars!"
Tamer, or at least lower-decibel, fun was on tap at an Outdoor Fest in Helena, Mont. Along with kayaking, rafting and archery, there was a more thrilling event for kids of all ages: a "charging bear" that raced toward people at 25 miles per hour. The simulator was inspired by Mark Matheny's experience of getting chased down by a real-life furious grizzly — with three cubs — that mauled him so badly he needed 200 stitches, mostly on his head. Grizzlies run "faster than a race horse," he told the Independent Record. "People can be stunned because of their quickness." Matheny survived his near-death experience determined to create products to make people safer, he said. His latest device, which attaches to a backpack, is handy, but only if you're running away from a charging bear. As the animal closes in, you push a button on your backpack strap and pepper spray shoots out into the muzzle of the bear behind you. Presumably, this halts the attack cold; Matheny did not say whether he had tried it out.
When three members of the notorious Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church arrived in Bozeman to denounce gays, adultery, lying, fornicating and abortion, they found themselves confronted by crowds of people, many of them high school students, who met their vitriol with wit and compassion. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, they held handmade signs, including "Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus," and our favorite: "If God hates gays, then why are they so cute?" A Catholic men's group brought along a painting of the Virgin Mary, because, Tom Nyquist explained, "We want to present a message of love; our feeling is Westboro presents a message of hate." The dozen or so motorcyclists who regularly appear when Westboro Church members picket military funerals were on hand as well; the riders rev up their motors to drown out church members whenever they start denouncing gays in the military and condemning all service members, whether gay or not, to hell in an apparent example of divine collateral damage. Though more than 300 protesters gathered on a sidewalk across from the three church members at one point, no one became angry or violent toward Westboro members Shirley Phelps-Roper, 55, her husband Brent Roper, 50, and their 11th child, Luke, who is 11. Ms. Phelps-Roper told reporter Gail Schontzler that her church protests evildoers somewhere every day; over the last 22 years, they've picketed some 51,000 times. She also warned anyone living close to Yellowstone that it's "poised to vomit" with "a lot of explosions, a lot of lava," she said, "because you've got same-sex marriage."
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Mike Momany, 62, probably thought he had a neat idea for a business that would have next to no overhead and allow him to charge people a fat fee. He'd guide men (no women allowed) into Seattle's street culture, dressing the tourists down as homeless and giving them phony nicknames and a "simple life script," while promising that they would be "completely anonymous." But after Momany announced his Real View Tours on a website, reaction came fast, and it wasn't exactly positive: "A Seattle man offers a tour package where you can live like a homeless person for three days for $2,000? Damn," said Paul Richardson in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I can't even afford to be homeless!" Other critics blasted the service as "tacky as hell" and "poverty tourism." Momany responded that he believed the experience would help people better understand the predicament of the homeless — especially after his paying customers had slept on the streets themselves.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are appreciated, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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