Heard around the West (column)
Writers on the Range
The “giant genitalia” gracing a bull statue placed atop Barista’s Restaurant in Hurricane, Utah, March 14, created such a humongous brouhaha, reports the St. George News, that a few weeks later, the statue was, in effect, castrated. Over 600 of the town’s 14,576 residents signed a petition demanding non-renewal of the restaurant’s business license because of the bull’s offensive, er, member, and though restaurateur Stephen Ward called his brand-new copper statue “beautiful and amazing,” he was forced to back down. To many Hurricaners, apparently, the intact bull was too lascivious for the likes of teenagers, who attend high school across the street and are much too young and innocent to be exposed to the differences between male and female mammals. A week later, however, the bull was altered again, this time regaining its male appendage. Restaurant patrons demanded it, said the owner.
Something vitally important is missing from a recent ballyhooing brochure from the developers of Escalade, the controversial proposal to build a tram on Navajo land and then ferry tourists from the Grand Canyon’s rim thousands of feet down to the Colorado River. Nowhere is there any mention of a sewage treatment plant for the 4,000-square-foot bathroom that would be built near the river to serve 10,000 tram-riders each day. And “other issues are pooping on the profiteers’ parade,” reports Boatman’s Quarterly Review, the magazine of Grand Canyon river guides. One is a lawsuit from 30 grazing-permit holders, who are members of a growing coalition called Save the Confluence. Another obstacle is an Intertribal Compact that gives the Hopi Tribe a vote on approving the Escalade project. So far, Hopi leaders are united in their rejection of it.
“Near nature, near perfect” is the motto of Spokane, Washington, but sometimes nature can get a little too close for comfort. How many wild turkeys in your backyard are just too many, for example? More than 120 turkeys have abandoned the backcountry of eastern Washington, where they were introduced to benefit hunters. Now, the big birds hanging out in the city’s South Hill neighborhood have discovered that urban life can be rewarding, no doubt because few hunters lurk in backyards. For many residents, that’s “too many turkeys traipsing” over their lawns, reports the Spokesman-Review. Since last year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has fielded some 60 complaints about flocks pooping indiscriminately and squawking loudly in the morning, so it recently hosted a community meeting to propose “search-and-destroy squads.” Volunteers would set forth on quasi-Easter egg hunts, though in this case the eggs they found would be slated for destruction or coated with corn oil to prevent them from hatching. A hunter on the paper’s website commented that finding nests wouldn’t be all that easy, because in 30 years he’d never spotted one in the wild. Another reader recommended bringing back cougars to reduce the wild turkey population, adding, “This is just another in a long legacy of expert wildlife-management gone awry.”
The “cactus doctor” of Phoenix, Rilée Leblanc, loves his ailing patients, telling The New York Times that long-lived saguaros radiate personality and character. “And the flowers are some of the most beautiful in the world. You could put a cactus here and just meditate on it for a week.” The cactus doctor, whom everybody calls “Frenchie,” works every day of the year and still has more patients than he can handle. Considered the symbol of the Southwest, saguaros have become increasingly popular because of their water-frugal ways, yet they’re often poorly cared for by their caretakers, who sometimes overwater and crowd them, causing sick cactus skin and precariously leaning limbs. For a cactus doctor, house calls are a necessity, and Leblanc has to erect scaffolding in order to perform surgery 30 feet in the air; “other times his crew works on limbs weighing hundreds of pounds that can easily snap off.” Though he can’t always help a prickly patient that’s dying, he finds that most saguaros are amazingly resilient: “You know, he could have fallen,” he said of one resuscitated plant. “You can tell he really wanted to be saved. He’s saying, ‘I’ve got more life left.’”
Holding aloft the trophy fish he’d caught, a proud fisherman was standing in a boat approaching a marina in San Diego, when he caught the hungry eye of a sea lion who really, really wanted that big fish for himself. The sea lion leaped out of the water “and onto the boat railing,” reports the Los Angeles Times. But it missed the trophy and nailed the 62-year-old fisherman instead, hauling him out of the boat and holding him under the water for some 15 or 20 seconds. Luckily, the man got away and was pulled back into the boat by his companions, though he suffered from bites to his hands and feet. Meanwhile, the trophy fish went thataway.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western peculiarities are appreciated and often shared, email@example.com.
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