Heard around the West
Writers on the Range
Saturday Night Live noted that the Denver Post was looking for a marijuana editor but then added: “They already have one, they’re just looking for him.”
Three cheers for Charles Elliott, just feted by the Wolf Creek Ski Area in southern Colorado, where he’s been skiing for 79 of his 100 years. Elliott belongs to a group of “Gray Wolf” outdoor enthusiasts, described by its president as “old farts who love to ski.”
Elliott skied at Wolf Creek decades before it became a resort, strapping whittled boards onto his feet, reports the Denver Post. Skiing became addictive, he says, even though “we’d walk up and ski down and fall down every time.”
Maybe blind belligerence is just “a guy thing,” as Lori Silcher concluded after a male bighorn sheep crashed through windows of her rural home in Hamilton, Mont.
“All of a sudden, we all felt the house shake and there was a resounding thud,” recalls her husband, Peter, who at first thought someone in his family had fallen.
An explanation was found in the basement: A large bighorn ram, looking into the windows, had apparently seen an animal that looked a lot like his own handsome self staring right back at him. So, of course, the sheep with the curling horns had to charge and vanquish this foe, which then mysteriously disappeared.
The noise of the shattering glass did nothing to deter the ram, which came round the corner of the house, “strutting” and “looking for trouble,” reports the Ravalli Republic. Though the family has seen a lot of wildlife around the house over the years, including elk, bear, mountain lions, mule deer and most recently, a couple of ewes and a lamb, this was the first time a ram dropped in. Because the big guy lingered in the yard – perhaps still searching for that mysterious opponent – the family decided to chase him off.
“We didn’t want to lose any more windows,” said Peter.
Great Basin National Park in Nevada, just on the state’s border with Utah, may be the same size as Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah, but it couldn’t be more different, says Scott Thompson in the Canyon Country Zephyr.
Great Basin attracts only some 90,000 tourists a year compared to Arches’ million-plus, and its nearest town, Baker, boasts empty streets and few amenities. But it is that very obscurity and isolation, assisted by desert roads that “make it a pain in the ass to get there,” that make the park such a special place, Thompson says.
The park’s Lehman Caves, ancient bristlecone pines and the glacier field beneath 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak would not have been protected, however, if the federal government had succeeded in turning the surrounding valleys into a top-secret military installation for the MX nuclear missile during the ‘70s. Recounting the fierce fight over the MX, Thompson says local opposition was helped immensely by an unlikely ally – the Mormon Church. In 1981, it issued a “First Presidency Statement” that declared “our fathers came to this western area to establish a base from to carry the gospel of peace. … It is ironic, and a denial of the very essence of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be constructed a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization.” The church helped turn the tide; soon after, every one of Utah’s elected officials pirouetted from support to opposition against putting MX missiles in the Utah and Nevada desert. That same year, President Reagan axed the MX, and in 1986, he signed the bill creating Great Basin National Park.
It’s a great story suiting a wonderful place, where the views seem to go on forever.
Air travelers to and from Las Vegas don’t sweat the small stuff – like nickels, dimes, pennies and quarters – reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In those plastic bins provided by airport security officers, they left behind $26,900 last year, second only to the $36,613 abandoned at Miami International.
At the nation’s 450 airports, the found money adds up to about $500,000 a year. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill allocating all of it to nonprofits that run airport lounges for the military and their families.
Not all airports are awash in coins; in Bismarck, N.D., the change amounted to a mere $560.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an op ed service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, email@example.com.