Heard around the West

By Betsy Marston



The infamous “Tent City,” a 24-year-old outdoor jail established in Phoenix by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, will close its flaps in a couple of months, reports the New York Times. This is the place where inmates, forced to wear striped jumpsuits and pink underwear and socks, were served two vegetarian meals a day — all part of Arpaio’s publicity campaign as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” But Arpaio got bogged down by several investigations charging that his office deliberately engaged in racial profiling, and last year he lost his re-election bid to Paul Penzone, who wanted no part of the jail. In announcing this April that the 70 Army-surplus tents would be coming down, Penzone made it clear that the jail “goes against everything I stand for.”

Yet a citizens group that studied the jail’s effectiveness made a surprising discovery: Although prison guards wearing bulletproof vests wilted in the over-100-degree heat, inmates still found the outdoors preferable to living in a 6-by-8-foot cell.

As for Arpaio, he’d like the tents, originally manufactured for the Korean War, to have yet another life, this one on our border with Mexico housing all the illegals that President Donald Trump hopes to jail.




Andy Lewis may be an internationally known daredevil who can climb, slackline or BASE jump from almost any of southern Utah’s twisted redrock spires, but at home in Moab, his approach to the outdoors has made him some enemies. Nicknamed “Sketchy Andy,” he’s never been shy about promoting his stunts, and over the years the 27-year-old has gained some 6,000 followers on his Facebook page, as well as corporate sponsors, reports the “Canyon Country Zephyr.” But recently, Lewis came under fire for a video he and some friends made last Christmas at Fisher Towers near Moab.

The video, shared by “Climbing Magazine” and several other sites, showed Lewis and some pals, a group known as the “Moab Monkeys,” stringing Christmas lights on a gnarled and fragile spire known as “Ancient Art.”

To Moab climber Kiley Miller, it was anything but entertaining: “In a sense, it’s like desecration,” she said. “It’s just utter disregard for the area and for the tower itself.”

Other locals charged that Lewis and his crew left trash on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and fixed ropes and anchor bolts on rock, some of which caused a climber to rappel off the wrong side of a tower, requiring a nighttime rescue.

To put it mildly, Lewis did not take kindly to criticism from the local climbing community. In Facebook posts, where he also mocked fat people and tourists who visit the West in recreational vehicles, Lewis protested that he was one of the few people who knew how to use the outdoors “in style.”

“Go (expletive) yourselves you self-righteous (expletives)!” was one of his milder ripostes to three women climbers who’d called him out.

As for Christmas 2017, Sketchy Andy plans to go bigger and hang lights over another tower on BLM land, and “he’s inviting anyone, including his critics, to help,” reports Moabsunnews.com.



The braggadocio of poachers seems boundless, and that can be a good thing: The more publicly they revel in their shooting prowess, the more chance that somebody will flag their illegal exploits. In Wyoming, a man was watching a TV show called “Hunting in the Sticks” when he noticed something off-kilter: The Wyoming area where two men from Bedford, Kentucky, boasted they’d shot two bull elk failed to match up with the area described by their licenses, reports KTVQ.com.

Following that tip, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department began an exhaustive search for the kill sites near Cow Creek Buttes and were finally able to build a solid case against Ricky J. Mills, 37, and Jimmy G. Duncan, 25.

The braggarts, who’d poached the bull elk in a highly coveted area that’s open to hunters only every other year, got the book thrown at them. Sentences included over $30,000 in fines and loss of hunting privileges for 15 years. The men also lost their now-taxidermied elk, which were confiscated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.


The West

In the Department of Surprising Encounters, a woman in northern Idaho told police she crashed her car into a deer because she was distracted by the sight of a sasquatch in her rearview mirror. She said the creature, aka “Bigfoot,” was chasing the deer, which escaped by running right in front of her. The “Moscow-Pullman Daily News” reports that police made no mention of Bigfoot in their description of the accident.

 And on a commuter flight between Aniak in southwest Alaska and Anchorage, a pale, 4-or-5-foot-long snake got loose and, not surprisingly, “caused a commotion,” reports the Associated Press. Snakes are prohibited on airplanes, including as so-called “emotional support animals.”


Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the op ed service of High Country News.



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