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Heard around the West


The really scary thing about killer bees is not that they’ve pushed north into Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. It’s that they operate as a pack of predators, says African bee expert Carol Sutherland, who works at New Mexico State University. “They try to disorient their attacker and stop it from running away. And then they get it down on the ground, and they overwhelm it and kill it,” she says. Joel Simko was on the roof of his house, 15 miles from Santa Fe, when he was targeted by a swarm of the Africanized bees. He slid down a ladder to the ground, he told the Denver Post, and was able to run to his truck, but there he was surrounded by hundreds of bees searching for a way in. “It was like being in a science fiction movie,” Simko says. “It was absolutely terrifying.” Six of the dead bees were tested and found to be descendants of the Africanized bees that escaped from an experimental hive in Brazil in 1955. The bees’ march north is expected to take them into Colorado next summer.

What if you built a high school costing $6.8 million and then couldn’t drive up to the door? That’s the problem facing the town of Tombstone because local officials have run out of money, reports the Arizona Republic. “The school looks great,” says the school superintendent. “We just can’t get kids to it.” The high school, now some $600,000 over budget and 15 months behind schedule, needs an improved access road to accommodate buses, and that’s expected to cost $350,000. Tombstone’s mayor won’t answer questions about why the town—population 1,500—isn’t helping out, but city clerk Marilynn Slade maintains, “One way or another, that road will get built.” In the meantime, 350 high school students continue to attend classes in a building that was brand-new 83 years ago.

The town of Bluff in southeast Utah was named by Mormon pioneers for the towering sandstone cliffs that surround it. But that’s just so prosaic; think poker! That’s what a London-based company,, wants the town to do by changing Bluff to “Utah is already known as home of the full house. Why not make it official?” suggests the Salt Lake Tribune. All 285 residents will take part in a councilman’s poll about whether to accept $100,000 from in exchange for the name change. Would you like to bet on whether residents will make the deal? Marcia Headenfeldt, owner of Far Out Expeditions in Bluff, won’t say how she’ll vote, though she allows that the to-do feels “absolutely absurd.” Whatever happens, she says, “We’ll get our 15 minutes of fame.”

Eighty may be the new 60, but ski resorts aren’t thrilled by the increasing number of ancient customers who refuse to hang up their skis. So Park City, like many other ski resorts, has abandoned its ski-free policy for those over 70. Septuagenarians must now pay $249 for season passes, reports the Park Record.

Until we read the Reno Gazette-Journal recently, we didn’t know that outhouses took trips, much less competed for prizes. Now we know that Virginia City, population 900, is in its 10th year of hosting the annual “World Championship Outhouse Races.” Pushed, pedaled and pulled, one-holers are raced down the former mining town’s historic C Street to the cheers of some 1,000 watchers. Privies come from all over for the event. And the winner for 2005? The Oletyme Classic, beating by a nose (tightly held between two fingers) the Urinator.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ( Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column Heard around the West.





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