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Heard around the West

Betsy Marston

Alligators have arrived at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where they are enrolled in a research project. The fanged fauna from Florida must wear plastic masks over their long snouts, and once they’ve begun tooling along on a tread mill at 1 mph, scientists start measuring their breathing. Alligators are peculiar because they inhale and exhale by rocking their pelvic bones -something dinosaurs may have done as well.

Modern lizards, meanwhile, cannot walk and breathe at the same time. In its story about alligator exercise Utah-style, the Times Picayune newspaper says it requested a photo. The university turned down the request on the ground of the gators’ sensitivity. That led the Florida daily to speculate about who was likely to be distressed by a photo shoot – the reptiles or the researchers? After all, “It’s hard to look dignified when standing next to masked reptiles working out on exercise equipment.”

In rural Fremont County, Wyoming, county commissioners don’t want to hear how residents can make nice with grizzlies and wolves. They just want them to stay out or at best, disappear. So commissioners passed a series of resolutions designed to ban these “unacceptable” predators. How will the animals know where the county line lies? Commission chair Scott Luther told 150 residents that the county sheriff “will enforce our orders,” reports the Billings Gazette. Well, maybe not. Sheriff Roger Millward pointed out,

“I can no more keep them from the county’s borders than anyone else, because they are already here.” Nonetheless, commissioners held firm, refusing to hear a presentation from Shoshone National Forest officials about living safely with endangered species.

Perhaps only in Colorado could state senators argue fervently over the designation of “state mineral.” A Boulder representative said he wanted gold or silver but was told they’re already taken by other states. Associated Press says the Leadville senator, Republican Ken Chlouber, pushed rhodochrosite because a local high school said the blood-red mineral was unique. A

Colorado Spring Republican, Andy McElhany, argued that blue amazonite was the better choice by far: “‘Why would we want something that’s communist red?’ he asked?”

The score was coyotes, 1, plane, 0, in Glasgow, Mont., after a coyote hunter flying in a Piper Cub accidentally shot up the plane’s wing.

Apparently the 12-gauge automatic shotgun malfunctioned, reports the Billings Gazette, firing repeatedly and causing the small plane to crash land. Both predator hunter Gary Strader and pilot Leland Blatter survived the freak accident, but the Piper Cub was a total loss. And so was the errant shotgun, which burned up.

Better not stop for a picnic in Madras, Ore. That’s where a semi truck filled with 540 beehives was overturned by a fierce gust of wind. Now the freed bees are ticked off and stinging, reports the Idaho Statesman. Bee keepers from Oregon and Idaho have been called in to salvage the intact hives. The rest will be burned to keep the bees from attacking more people and animals.

“Go for it, Basalt – We admire your courage,” said the Aspen Times to the town of nearby Basalt, population 1,100 or so and growing like Topsy because of its proximity to posh Aspen. Prices of homes are rising so fast that low and middle-income buyers can’t even consider living there. So what courageous act is Basalt considering? The answer is barring speculators and second-home buyers by requiring all new residential development to be occupied fulltime by the owner.

Happy birthday to Jessie Reimers of Lewiston, Idaho, born not in the last century but in the century before that: 1895. Reimers attributes her 107 years on earth to never missing a meal and chewing her food well. Reimers, who follows baseball on television and roots for the Seattle Mariners, has outlived not only her husband but also her three children. But, says the Lewiston Morning Tribune, many generations visit her at a care center, where she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado. She invites readers to get involved in the column. Send quirky, weird or quintessentially Western doings to her at betsym@hcn.org


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