Heard around the West
John Slemp, a 52-year-old UPS driver from Portland, recently snowmobiled
to the top of Mount St. Helens with his son, Jared, who is just
back from serving a year in Iraq, reports the Seattle Times.
In the cold, crisp air, the men decided to do something risky: They
crawled onto a cornice overlooking the mountain’s volcanic
crater to see what they could see. Twenty feet from the edge, the
snow collapsed, and though a friend pulled Jared back, his father
began the ride of his life, plummeting 100 to 200 feet before hitting
the inside of the crater, according to the Oregonian. Next, he slid
some 1,000 feet on his hands and knees “all wrapped up in
an avalanche,” said Tom McDowell, an emergency medical specialist
who dispatched a helicopter to the bottom of the crater, where a
glacier curls around a 876-foot-tall lava dome. “The fact
that he survived is really a wonderful thing,” McDowell said.
“Shocking, but wonderful.” Rescuers said Slemp, who
was the first person known to have fallen into the hot heart of
the mountain, survived because of his helmet, boots and riding bibs.
His major injury was torn knee ligaments.
Republicans in Colorado’s House of Representatives must cringe
whenever Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, takes the floor. Censured
not long ago for kicking a photographer during an opening prayer,
Bruce weighed in during a debate about a seasonal program for guest
workers with this remark: “We don’t need 5,000 more
illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado.” Legislators
gasped and blurted out, “Oh, no,” reports the Denver
Post, but afterward, Bruce insisted he’d told the truth
and his fellow legislators just didn’t want to hear it. Bruce’s
slur had one good effect: The bill to help farmers more quickly
recruit legal workers passed the House by a decisive 46-18.
How do you toss a cow pie? Cautiously, to start, so the manure doesn’t
crumble in your hand. Then there’s technique. Lindy Black,
a University of Idaho junior who competed in the first annual Ag
Olympic Games in Moscow, “tried some discus style, some shot
put and then some freestyle,” reports Capital Press. Though
Black said she was “strategical in picking the poo,”
her throw of 35 feet wasn’t enough to win. Hay-bale bucking
and round hay-bale rolling also sounded like fun, but a contest
that involved chugging 32 ounces of milk after sprinting some 20
yards—“How long do I have to wait before throwing up?”
yelled one contestant—seemed a little less so. Next year,
promised organizers, the agricultural competitions will be even
The headline in the Statesman Journal was intriguing: “Oregon
man thinks his dog is an imposter.” Ken Griggs of Lake Oswego
dropped his black Labrador, Callie, off at a kennel, but he thinks
that he picked up the wrong dog a week later. His veterinarian agrees,
saying that an X-ray doesn’t show the steel sutures that Callie
had from her spaying. The dog also could no longer heel and seemed
to have gotten a lot thinner. Not true, says Alison Best, the owner
of the Tail-Wag-Inn, where seven black Labs boarded during the week
in question. She insists that Griggs has the right dog and that
he even claimed her a second time at the kennel: “If he can’t
recognize his dog, I don’t feel I can be of any help.”
Unable to shake that wrong-dog feeling, Griggs has hired a lawyer.
The Phoenix area is experiencing a growing phenomenon called “jingle
mail.” The term refers to homeowners who mail their house
keys back to the bank after realizing that the house they bought
is worth far less than their mortgage payments. The trend is pushing
up foreclosures, says the Arizona Republic: In March, there
were a record 2,365 foreclosures in the Phoenix area, more than
quadruple the number from last year. Joan Shaffer, who turned in
the keys to a ranch house she bought with her daughter in 2005,
said they put nothing down on the home, took out a loan that let
them pay less than they should have each month, and now have a loan
that’s $200,000 more than the house is worth. “No one
told us” they were buying at the peak of the market, Shaffer
lamented, and now it would take the next 20 years “to get
right on the mortgage.”
Two months ago — less than a week after paying Boeing Corp.
$20 million for a “virtual” 28-mile fence along the
Arizona border with Mexico — Homeland Security acknowledged
that the fence failed to work. It’s easy to see why: “Boeing
Corp. never consulted border agents before engineering the system,
which is not suited to the rugged Sonoran Desert,” reports
the Arizona Republic. On April 23, Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff finally threw in the towel, saying the fence had flopped
and would be replaced by new towers, cameras and radar.
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range,
a service of High Country News in
Paonia, Colorado (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared
in the column, Heard around the West.