Marston: Heard around the West
Writers on the Range
Sigmund Freud famously asked, but couldn’t answer, his own question: “What does a woman want?” Fortunately, Halliburton Co. knows: Makeup or lipstick and nail polish in “rig-crew red,” says the Houston Chronicle. In order to lure females at job fairs, Halliburton has been giving away the makeup to show the industry’s “softer side.” Women now represent just 19 percent of the oil and gas industry’s workforce.
Give a federal agency tons of money and what do you get? Millions of dollars thrown out the window. In Ajo, a town of 3,700 not far from Mexico, U. S. Customs and Border Protection badly mismanaged what seems a completely unnecessary $17 million project building housing for its staffers. First, the agency bought 12 acres of land at an inflated price, then spent over a million dollars to hire another federal agency to run the project. The result: Lavish two- and three-bedroom homes for staffers, 89 percent of whom were single and already owned homes elsewhere. The average cost of the 21 new homes — $680,000 — was also pretty pricey, considering that the average cost of a house in town was $86,000. The government-built houses, however, boast amenities such as three-car garages, additional freezers, wireless ceiling fans and walk-in pantries. But here’s where the democratic process comes in: The Arizona Republic discovered the damning details from a report by Homeland Security’s own inspector general. Local realtor Linda Sharp, incensed because the agency was ignoring the “plenty of properties already available in town,” then got the investigative ball rolling. “The whole thing didn’t make any sense,” she declared. Sharp alerted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who spurred an internal investigation. Meanwhile, as of this spring, four houses and 18 of the 20 new mobile homes were empty. But while McCain called the Inspector General’s findings so outrageous that somebody at Customs and Border Protection would be held accountable, Grijalva was not optimistic. “It’s a movable target,” he said. “If you would try to find who’s in charge, you’ll have a hard time.”
The concept of “fair chase” is supported by hunters who believe in giving wild animals a chance, making hunting a more sporting event. Then there’s the crass — and dangerous — approach pioneered Sept. 26 on a highway west of Casper; call it the “mow-’em-right-down” method. A group of men not only killed or wounded unknown numbers of running pronghorn from a moving SUV; they left the animals dying by the side of the road. What’s more, they fired at the herd “across a lane of traffic.” The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has received lots of tips about the possible identity of the perpetrators, whose carnage extended for 50 miles alongside the highway. Game wardens called the investigation harrowing. Warden Daniel Beach told County 10, a news website based in Fremont County, “The animals were left to rot. You can only imagine what we are finding.” If convicted, the men face fines of up to $10,000 and/or one year in prison. The Stop Poaching hotline is 877/WGFD-TIP.
Speaking of killing, or in this case not killing, a leading wolf-hater from Missoula turns out not to have run over two wolves on Interstate 90 in Montana, reports the Missoulian. On Facebook, Toby Bridges claimed that he deliberately hit the two animals on Lookout Pass Sept. 14; however, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department disputes that claim. Though Bridges said he saw a 50-pound wolf “spinning around in the middle of the highway” and another “howling in distress,” state investigators found no damage indicating a collision on any of Bridge’s vehicles, and the only nearby carcass was far too “desiccated” to have been killed when Bridges said it was. Undaunted, Bridges has continued telling his story, thanking “all of you wolf loving fools” for gaining him new followers on his Wolf Control website. “I only had to ban 150 or so wolfaboos,” he crowed. “You people are your own worst enemies … please, please, keep it up.”
Moving on to crows and more (unsuccessful) animal-killing, Utah’s first official hunt for the birds ended with just one bang, so to speak. “I’ve only heard of one (killed),” said Blair Stringham, the state’s migratory game bird coordinator. The lone crow was apparently eating what it shouldn’t in a Roosevelt apple orchard. But the hunt’s low toll wasn’t surprising, since the birds do most of their damage in city limits where they cannot be legally hunted, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Bill Fenimore, a member of the Utah Wildlife Board, who had voted against the hunt, said, “With the price of gasoline and steel shot, I don’t see many people going out to shoot a bird that doesn’t put any bacon on the table.”
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News (hcn.org). Send tips and photos of Western oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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