WOTR: Heard around the West
February 2, 2013
“Out here, people don’t like signs.” So said Sheriff’s Deputy Rob McDaniels to the Point Reyes Light in December, after apprehending “Sensitive Sean” for stealing more than 20 no-parking signs. This small community on the Northern California coast – let’s just call it “Anonymous,” since the locals have asked us not to reveal its name – boasts hobbit-esque wood homes snuggled in lush foliage within earshot of the Pacific’s waves. Its residents tend to be aging hippies, who’ve been here since real estate was cheap, along with a handful of millionaires escaping the urban frenzy and a few youngsters trying to recapture the countercultural vibe that once made the town famous, though now it’s likely to cost $1 million or more to buy into it. The town has a proud reputation for vanishing signs: Whenever a highway placard is installed, it almost immediately disappears, stolen by reclusive locals. (Which is, incidentally, why High Country News decided not to print its name; we couldn’t face having that many copies of our paper stolen.) It almost seems as if stealing signs has nudged its way into the town’s DNA. It’s not just highway or no parking signs: A few years back, someone absconded with 90 parking barricades. They’ve never been found.
Given the fact that oil rigs are popping up like weeds across the West, particularly in North Dakota, it was probably inevitable that the roughneck lifestyle would seep into popular culture. And so it is that CrashHat Entertainment is seeking “a group of women who socialize together while their husbands are away in the oilfields” to star in a TV reality show. The prospective show seems tailor-made for drillingahead.com’s Web forum: Real Housewives of the Oilfield, where spouses of roughnecks swap advice. Or maybe not. Given the forum members’ response to the casting call, the folks at CrashHat should just forget this housewife stuff and try putting together a reality show featuring roughneck women in the oilfield. “Another stupid reality show,” wrote one such woman. “They don’t want me, since I’m an oilfield worker.” Another woman who works on the rigs said she doesn’t have time for a reality show, between toiling in the oilfields and raising her kids, 500 miles away, while on rotation. “Oil and gas is our life,” she says, one her father and brothers shared. “I understand this life, as I was raised in it. My new boilermaker husband doesn’t understand.”
Believe me, we’re as sick as you are of reading about Boulder, Colo., sometimes. But, still, it might make a good reality show location, except that most viewers would doubt the reality of even a reality show set here. In early January, for instance, according to the Daily Camera, a man entered the Dandelion medical marijuana dispensary, sprayed employees with bear spray – sending one to the hospital – and got away with $9,000 worth of marijuana. The bear-spray pot robber is still at large. No news yet on whether the National Pepper Spray Association will suggest that if everyone were armed with bear spray, such incidents would beavoided.
That news was crowded out of early January’s Boulder crime annals by the mysterious case of the Mapleton elk. The 700-pound bull with its huge rack was a regular in the upscale-even-for-Boulder downtown neighborhood, and reports conflict over whether he behaved aggressively or not, though he did allegedly once corner a mailman on a resident’s porch for some time. Then he was killed, right in town, by a gunshot, and hauled away. Boulder police initially denied any involvement, before finally confessing that an officer had shot the elk for still undisclosed reasons, perhaps involving some kind of injury. Another officer hauled the animal away for the meat. All kinds of protocol was violated in the process, and the officers were put on leave. Meanwhile, hundreds of emotional Boulderites gathered for a candlelight vigil, and one resident took out a full-page ad in the Camera asking, tragically, “Why?”
The elk got his own Twitter account, posthumously, and tweeted a haunting cry from the grave: “Find me justice. I was just an elk who enjoyed the Mapleton Hill neighborhood.” In all the excitement, reports of coyotes harassing humans – even biting a runner – on the east side of town were barely noticed.
Drug smugglers used a pneumatic cannon to shoot cans of marijuana over the border fence near San Luis, Ariz. While sledding near Evanston, Wyo., a group of children slid across the corpse of a homeless man, who turned out to be an heir to the considerable fortune of a Montana copper baron. Navajo tacos finally made their debut in Philadelphia, along with mutton stew and sweet frybread, at a “pop-up” restaurant called Shiprock. A group of Mormon women in Utah and across the world wore pants to church.
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Jonathan Thompson, based in Durango, is a senior editor for High Country News (hcn.org).