Heard around the West | SummitDaily.com

Heard around the West

Betsy Marston

Forget gambling casinos and the songs of Wayne Newton; these days the state of Nevada is selling stupid tricks on public lands. Ads in Outside, National Geographic Adventure and other publications describe Nevada “as a primal playground with more S tear-yourself-to-shreds terrain than any other place in this great nation.” The ads go on to demand: “What kind of animal are you? You are not a lemming. You are a predator!” According to the Sacramento Bee, an accompanying picture shows a ferocious-looking guy who needs a shave standing near a gorgeous mountain lake. A Nevada tourism official says the pitch is supposed to surprise people and “capture the feeling of an adrenaline rush.” It seems to be succeeding. The state’s toll-free number has been swamped.

A Grand Junction man was arrested after he smashed into three houses and two fences while trying to leave his driveway. Things began going wrong for Lon Ungerman when he drove through the wall of his garage. Then, reports the Denver Post, he backed up, hit a fence but kept backing across the street and into a neighbor’s house. He continued backing up, ran over a fence and then rammed another house. But here’s our favorite part: “When the owner of that home came out, confronted Ungerman, and told him he needed to drive forward, Ungerman reportedly said he thought he had been going forward.” Damage was estimated at $60,000 and Ungerman was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk.

One hundred years ago, reports Kiva, the quarterly magazine of the Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Center in Colorado Springs, the bicycle began to liberate both women and ministers. Writing in July 1901, Dr. Samuel Caldwell reflected on this radical change: “Many clergymen go about on bicycles, even to church,” he says. “Ten years ago, that would have been thought most undignified, if not actually impious, and a bicycle-riding minister would have been in danger of losing his church. When women first began to ride the bicycle, it was considered a bold and rather immodest act, but now women of the highest respectability make use of them. During this same period, and perhaps owing to the influence of the bicycle, it has become a general custom for women and especially young girls to ride horses astride, just as men do, using, of course, a long divided skirt. To a physician it seems a more rational and healthful way to ride than on a side saddle, but the prudes criticize it. If the horse was as recent an invention as the bicycle, no woman would think of riding any other way than astride. Such things are largely a matter of custom, but Dame Fashion is not closely related to Reason and never will be, even in 2001.” As we say in 2002, he got that right.

Hunters just have no sense of humor. That’s what Madison Avenue advertisers learned after running a Jeep commercial starring a sneaky but warm-hearted hunter. The spot showed the hunter driving past his buddies with not just one but two deer roped to the hood and roof of his Jeep. But once in a “no hunting” area, the man unties the faux-dead animals and tells them: “You’re safe now.” With that, the deer bound off, presumably free from bullets fired by real hunters armed with guns. The New York Times says so many hunters complained about the ad, it was pulled after running only a couple of times.

Salmon in the Northwest put up with so much, we won’t list all the obstacles driving them to extinction. We’ll just name another: colliding with cars. National Fisherman newspaper says, when heavy rains cause flooding near Shelton, Wash., salmon swimming upstream in the nearby Skokomish River find themselves washed onto Highway 101. Drivers are confronted with the strange sight of “hundreds of bewildered salmon dodging vehicles to get over the highway.” Most of the fish end up in a farmer’s field, says a Washington State fish manager.

Let’s hear it for rainy Oregon, the first state to mount energy panels on its capitol in Salem. Three sets of photovoltaic panels will be installed in April on the capitol roof, enough to generate floodlights trained on the Golden Pioneer statue on top of the building. While “more symbolic than earthshaking,” reports the Oregonian newspaper, it is enough for promoters of renewable energy in sunny Arizona to confess: “We’re jealous.” Here’s a solar factoid: While President Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed to heat water in the White House, President Ronald Reagan had the panels taken out.

What do you do after you’ve worked as a sheriff in Nevada for 28 years? The Nevada Appeal reports that former Storey County Sheriff Robert Del Carlo has filed an application to run a brothel.

Judy Thompson was cleaning a vacant house in Medford, Ore., when she saw what looked a lot like a hand grenade in the yard. She gingerly picked it up, placed it in a basket and stowed it in her car. To keep the “grenade” from rolling around during the trip to the police station in Rogue River, she propped it up with a towel. Police Chief Ken Lewis thought the thing looked a lot like an explosive, too: He called a bomb squad and evacuated the area. Thompson began to tremble when she heard the verdict: The grenade – probably filched from a military base – was live, reports the Idaho Statesman.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, an op ed service of High Country News in Paonia. Quirky or otherwise particularly Western items can be e-mailed to her at betsym@hcn.org

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