Heard around the West (column) | SummitDaily.com

Heard around the West (column)

Betsy Marston
Writers on the Range


It seems counterintuitive, but triathlete Brent Ruby, who directs the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Montana, wondered if eating a Big Mac might be just as healthy as scarfing down PowerBars after strenuous exercise. The makers of sports supplements tend to exaggerate their effectiveness, he said, touting their clear “natural” superiority to something as obviously odious as a double cheeseburger with an extra serving of fries. But is their advertising backed up by the facts — or are fitness freaks spending lots of money without reason? Ruby devised an experiment, reports the Billings Gazette, involving 11 active men who cycled for 90 minutes and were tested before and after consuming either the sports supplement or fast food from McDonald’s, which precisely measures its servings and was conveniently located just across the street. The result: Muscle recovery and exercise performance “were not different when comparing products created specifically for sport recovery and traditional fast food.” Ruby concluded that rebounding physically after workouts doesn’t have to be complicated. The body’s requirements are pretty simple, he said: “You asked me to work. I’ve done my job. Put some stuff back in the tank, dude.”


Indignation doesn’t begin to describe the reaction of Californians who found out — thanks to the Coachella-based Desert Sun — that the Nestlé Corp. has been drawing water from wells that tap into a canyon’s springs without the permission of the San Bernardino National Forest. In fact, the permit for water withdrawal expired 27 years ago. The Sun also discovered that the Forest Service wasn’t tracking how much water was being taken. Reaction to the story was swift: Protesters blocked the entrance to Nestlé’s bottling plant in Sacramento, and a petition demanding that the corporation stop profiting from state water gained more than 135,000 signatures. “While California is facing record drought conditions, it is unconscionable that Nestlé would continue to bottle the state’s precious water, export it and sell it for profit,” the petition declares. Actually, what Nestlé has been doing is apparently the norm: The Sun reported that no state agency tracks how much water is used by the 108 private bottling plants in California, of which Nestlé operates five. But thirsty Californians may set their minds at ease; the San Bernardino National Forest supervisor says that the Nestlé matter “has gone to the top of the pile in terms of a program of work for our folks to work on.”


It might seem romantic, but spray-painting your prom invitation in giant pink-and-blue graffiti on federal land is a dumb idea. The Black Cliffs near Boise is a popular rock-climbing area on Bureau of Land Management land near Boise and is also culturally significant to Native American tribes. It’s not that easy to access, but once there, the sprayer — in all caps — geo-texted: “DESTINY, PROM?” Here’s hoping that Destiny replied, “No, you vandalizing creep.” If identified, he could face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.


That infamous ”penalized” bull above a restaurant in Hurricane, Utah, is once again intact, proudly displaying an appendage that more accurately resembles a giant party hat. Owner Stephen Ward said he decided to restore the copper whopper because his customers liked it. Besides, he didn’t want to take any bull from the local government.


Sometimes there is a happy ending. After someone unwisely dumped a bowl full of goldfish into a 12-acre lake in Boulder a few years ago, the inevitable occurred: A handful of fishies morphed into some 4,000 goldfish. This alarmed Colorado wildlife officials, who feared they were taking over the ecosystem. One suggestion was to shock the fish, then scoop them up and feed them to hungry raptors at a rehabilitation facility; another was to drain the lake to kill all the fish, reports the Boulder Daily Camera. But a fortuitous fix occurred when passerby pelicans — birds usually found at the seashore — dropped down and scooped up almost every single goldfish. “Isn’t it fantastic?” said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill. “It has totally happened naturally.”


Somewhere near Area 51, in remote south-central Nevada, there’s a brothel that claims to be the nation’s “only themed” bawdy house, reports the Sacramento Bee. The “Alien Cathouse” is its official moniker, and its employees call themselves “Cosmic Kittens.” This legal enterprise in the middle of the desert is so weirdly entertaining that Savannah Sunshine, its madam, boasts that some visitors drop in just to tour. They might be missing something by not participating: “Decency prevents me from listing the services,” says reporter Sam McManis, “but let’s just say that some of these Cosmic Kittens are amphibious and most can do unusual things with pudding.”

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, betsym@hcn.org.

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