Heard Around the West

Betsy Marston

What do guns and sewing machines have in common? Not all that much, you’d think, but in Grangeville, Idaho, population 3,100, they’ve been paired for an unusual shopping opportunity. Think of it as a BOGO — buy one, get one free — though the freebie in this case has the power to blow your head off. If you purchase a sewing machine of a selected brand at Jody Hoogland’s Home Grown Quilt shop this month, you get a muzzleloader thrown in for free. “That’s right,” says the Idaho County Free Press, “this benefits both the men and the women, making this the perfect time to make everyone happy and satisfied, ready for sewing season as well as hunting season.” We don’t know what doodads make an Epic or Sapphire brand sewing machine deluxe, but B and B Bargain boasts that its stainless steel/black muzzleloader comes equipped with fiber-optic sights.

You have to admire the leopard who not only escaped from his cage at a Salt Lake City zoo, but then started tweeting about his experiences: “Former tenant@HogleZoo. Out exploring the city and all it has to offer.” Yet the wonderfully spotted four-year-old Amur leopard didn’t wander very far from the Hogle Zoo; he simply jumped eight feet up to a beam just a couple of feet away and lay there, supine, watching the humans fuss. A zoo visitor spotted him, and handlers restored the leopard to its enclosure. An hour later, human visitors were again free to roam. The leopard continued to communicate, however, assuring visitors that his “escape was totally not a ploy to trap people in the gift shop for an hour.”

The West
Let’s hope it’s just a flurry of bad behavior and not a lasting trend, but reports of vandalism in public places are mounting. In Utah, at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a sandstone wall of Zebra Slot Canyon was defaced by “Kenny and Aryn,” a couple who incised their names and the date inside the shape of a heart. Kenny and Aryn are not unique in their desire to leave their mark outdoors; last year, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, monument patrols had to restore 1,234 square feet of rock that had been chiseled by visitors.
And in Grand Canyon recently, a visitor at the South Rim saw a couple spray-painting graffiti on rocks, tagging “Evans 16” before rangers could nab them. An anonymous tip line, (888) 653-0009, is the place to call with any leads.
Those annoying Canadians have still not returned to Yellowstone National Park to face charges of tampering with an iconic hot spring by deliberately leaving the boardwalk and dipping their hands in the water. The Guardian reports that the four men, who post online as High on Life Sunday Fundayz, have a history of flaunting their sabotage of public places. Wearing “animal-pattern onesies,” for instance, they posted videos of themselves this spring on wakeboards as an RV dragged them across the wet Bonneville Salt Flat. Louise Noeth of Save the Salt, an advocacy group for the region’s racing community, said she was astonished “to see video of these knuckleheads, and I think the damage is pretty bad. It broke my heart. It creates ruts and mud that can take decades to heal, if ever.” The men have also posted videos of themselves ignoring an agency ban to swing on a rope from Corona Arch in Utah, and they have allegedly entered prohibited areas at Machu Picchu in Peru and climbed atop monoliths at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The men have a slew of followers, though one critic, Bryce Dodson of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., says he got so angry at the Yellowstone and Bonneville insults that he created the Facebook page, “Stop High on Life.” Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney’s office in Cheyenne, Wyo., has issued arrest warrants for the men, who sport distinctive names: Hamish McNab Campbell Cross, Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Justis Cooper Price-Brown.

Occasionally, a moment of thoughtlessness can end in tragedy. Colin Scott, 23, recently strayed off a boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park, and once on the fragile crust he slipped and disappeared into a hot pool. Only his flip-flops could be retrieved by rangers. A different kind of tragedy resulted when a man and his son picked up a newborn bison and put it in the back of their SUV. They were “demanding to speak with a ranger,” said a visitor who saw the incident. “They were seriously worried that the calf was freezing and dying.” After wildlife officials restored the calf to its herd, reports The Associated Press, the animal found itself firmly rejected. Ultimately, it had to be put down because it “continually approached people and cars along the roadway.”
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, betsym@hcn.org.



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