Heard around the West: Granddaughter left in desert with gun (column)
Writers on the Range
You might say that Paul Armand Rater showed extraordinary faith in his 5-year-old granddaughter when he left her alone, sitting under a tree in the desert near Phoenix with only a loaded pistol in her hand. Meanwhile, he “went for a few drinks and a cheeseburger,” reports The Guardian. “She was given the gun and told to shoot any bad guys,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “I don’t know how a 5-year-old can tell a good guy from a bad guy, but that’s what she was told.” Over four hours later, after the child was reported missing, she was found by her mother and an off-duty firefighter, still holding the loaded and cocked .45-caliber handgun. Grandpa Rater, charged with felony child abuse and child endangerment, appeared to think he had a perfectly good explanation for his bizarre behavior. He told the court that he left the little girl behind because his pickup had broken down “and she was complaining she could not walk any more.”
Capturing perfectly the jargon of that venerable institution the U.S. Forest Service, the satirical publication The Onion recently wrote about a faux study that called for setting controlled wildfires in Washington, D.C. because they are “crucial to the restoration of a healthy political environment.” Every federal agency needs a regular clear-cutting, researchers explained, and though urban blazes aren’t entirely safe, without them government would become “dense, overrun and impenetrable, stifling political diversity and inhibiting the germination of new ideas.” Suppression, they added, would only cause permanent damage to the government’s branches.
The Grand Canyon has become “the largest-Venus’-flytrap in the world,” says Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff, a longtime educator who works at the bottom of the canyon. That’s because rescuers there answer over 300 calls for help every year — the most search-and-rescue incidents at any national park — at a cost of some $500,000. Of course, most tourists plucked from danger are enormously grateful when SAR folks arrive to save the day. But a 36-year-old woman from the small town of Ilton, England, turned an hour-long rescue operation in November into a thoroughly unpleasant ordeal. Charmaine Isaacs, who’d had six to eight drinks that night, apparently slid off the side of the Bright Angel Trailhead at 11 p.m., and, after finding purchase on a ledge, she began screaming for help. Yet when 15 rescuers arrived — with some rappelling off the rim to find her and hoist her back up — she scrambled away, reports the Phoenix New Times. Not only that, she greeted her saviors by cursing, spitting in the face of one and calling another “an ugly lesbian.” “She was uncooperative throughout,” said acting chief ranger Matthew Vandzura, putting it mildly. More specifically, he concluded that Isaacs was “drunk and belligerent.” Charged with public drunkenness and suspicion of disorderly conduct, she spent the rest of the night in jail.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, email@example.com.
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