Heard around the West
Writers on the Range
Few Bureau of Land Management rangers patrol the vast Bears Ears region of Utah, so it hasn’t been hard for grave robbers to loot Native American artifacts or for vandals to carve their names on sandstone petroglyphs. But Utah Republican Rep. Mike Noel is a staunch opponent of any federal management of public lands, and he holds humanity blameless. The real culprit, he said recently, is the small but fearless badger: “All we can see today are badger holes,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We have to get a handle on these badgers because those little suckers are going down and digging up artifacts and sticking them in their holes.” The nonprofit Center for Western Priorities expressed no little amazement at this notion of badger prowess, observing that Rep. Noel seems to believe that badgers can “operate a rock saw to steal petroglyphs, spell and carve ‘F**k You BLM’ into rocks and shoot firearms into petroglyphs.” You’d think that, with talent like that, one of these days an ambitious badger might even run for the state Legislature.
Let’s give a whoop and a holler to honor Oregon rancher Robert Borba, who pulled his horse out of its trailer, leaped into the saddle and brought down an escaping bike thief with a lasso to the ankle. “I seen this fella trying to get up to speed on a bicycle,” Borba told the Medford Mail-Tribune. “I wasn’t going to catch him on foot. I just don’t run very fast.” Borba, who uses a rope every day to make a living, said of his lasso: “If it catches cattle pretty good, it catches a bandit pretty good.” As Borba slowly dragged 22-year-old Victorino Arellano-Sanchez across the parking lot, Arellano-Sanchez must have felt like he’d landed a part in a Hollywood horse opera. Looking up from the pavement, he asked the mounted cowboy, “Do you have a badge to do this?” David Stepp, who watched the action from his car, couldn’t stop laughing: “I’ve seen it all, but I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life.” Adventure Journal reports that the erstwhile bike-napper was charged with misdemeanor theft.
Careless campers in southern Colorado have been forgetting something important: They start campfires without any trouble but neglect to put them out. Forest rangers found 30 unattended or abandoned campfires during just one weekend, which doesn’t bode well for the hot dry weeks coming up. Over the last decade, “careless human acts” of that sort have caused nearly half the costly, destructive fires that have ravaged national forests and grasslands, says the Pueblo Interagency Dispatch Center, including one started in early July near Nederland, Colorado. Putting out campfires isn’t that hard; you just need water, a shovel and a little patience. Or better yet, maybe don’t start one at all.
The early-summer heat wave that set records across parts of New Mexico, Arizona and California inspired residents to attempt legendary culinary achievements, such as frying eggs on the sidewalk, says The Week magazine. One woman in Phoenix was more ingenious: She turned her parked car into an oven hot enough to bake cookies. The extreme heat also brought tragedy: Three hikers and a mountain biker died when temperatures rose above 120 degrees.
There’s an intersection in the town of Hayward, in Northern California, that’s been reverently watched by geologists for almost five decades, says the Los Angeles Times. Over time, the curb at the corner of Rose and Prospect had slid dramatically askew, with the eastern half wrenched a foot north, and the other side pulled south, thanks to clashing plates belowground. The Hayward fault, which runs beneath Hayward, Berkeley, Oakland and Fremont, is a “tectonic time bomb,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and geologists said the town’s “faulty curb” served as a vivid indication that an earthquake was ready to blow at any time. Yet town officials had no idea that the curb was famous — geologically speaking. “We weren’t aware of it,” said Kelly McAdoo, assistant city manager. So not long ago, the town replaced the unsightly curb with a wheelchair-accessible ramp. But what can you say? It wasn’t really their fault.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). Photos and tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It was your typical ranch truck that stopped next to us — dirty, dented and hauling a horse trailer. Inside, silhouetted by the sun, were two cowboy hats and a gun rack.