Writers on the Range

By Brian Calvert



Poston Butte High School in the San Tan Valley is facing some backlash for cheeky comments published in its 2017 yearbook. References to sex and drugs are found within, inappropriate messages that “will be there forever,” one mother told 12 News. Witness one passage from an apparent pole-vaulter: “You need a good plant to get high.”

The Florence Unified School District apologized for the oversight and relieved the teacher in charge of the yearbook of her duties. 



A team of British parkour acrobats has apologized for its mistreatment of the overcrowded and much-abused Joshua Tree National Park, three hours east of Los Angeles. The athletes, who represent the UK-based sport clothing line Storror Parkour, did more than just bounce off boulders and fling themselves off the park’s delicate trees: They sparked a bonfire from wood gathered in the park and flew GoPro-equipped drones, all in violation of park rules, KCET reports.

A promotional video they made – accurately titled “It’s Illegal To Fly Drones Here?!” – includes footage of their drones being attacked by harassed birds in the Wonderland of Rocks section of the park. Storror eventually removed the videos from YouTube and posted a lengthy apology on the company’s Facebook page, pleading the tree-hoppers had not understood the lengths of protection the park is under (despite the name of their video) and did not mean to hurt the trees, which they called “a new and abstract obstacle.”

Meanwhile, members of Chico University’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity found no obstacle to cutting down or damaging 32 trees at a campground in Northern California’s Lassen National Forest during an initiation ceremony for pledges, KRCR television reports. But unlike the parkour team, it looks like these boys will be facing charges: for vandalizing a campground, possession of a firearm, and conspiracy to commit offense or defraud the United States.

The U.S. Forest Service continues its investigation, and more charges are possible. Both incidents are a reminder, we suppose, that trees still need our protection. After all, they can take many decades to mature, while some folks never do.



A thwarted entrepreneur in Coeur d’Alene has removed a watercraft from the lake, after complaints. Clint Kauer’s “avante-garde aquatic play piece” was supposed to be a floating island of fun, with two trampolines and waterslides. Kauer called it Hooligan Island; residents called it an eyesore.

Hooligan Island weighed 7,500 pounds and could hold up to 75 kids at a time, the “Coeur d’Alene Press” reported. It didn’t, however, fit into town ordinances. It was designated a watercraft, but local authorities were stumped about how to handle it. They generally ask for permits for docks and landings, but not boats at anchor. Plus there were questions about lifeguards, ticket sales and fire, police and other inspections.

Kauer agreed to remove Hooligan Island, but there are inquiries from other groups for a Tarzan Boat and Treasure Island. Kauer said he’d move the boat, but taking that much fun away from kids was “rather cold.”



Nevada lawmakers hope to smooth out traffic by cracking down on slow drivers clogging up the left-hand lane, according to the “Las Vegas Review-Journal.” The Senate Transportation Committee recently passed a bill that would create fines and send repeat offenders to traffic school. Now that Nevada is ready to start recreational cannabis sales, we wonder how many stoners such a law could nab. Potheads behind the wheel will be wise to remember the old maxim: What happens in the slow lane stays in the slow lane, but not all day, dude.



Gov. Kate Brown, D, recently granted a diplomatic pardon. A fourth-grader who visited the Oregon State Capitol in Salem made off with a hazelnut candy and a pen during a recent school tour. His guilt then got the best of him – that or his parents’ dire warnings of a summer of chores – and he penciled an apology letter.

“These things were not mine and it was wrong for me to take them,” he wrote. “I hope you and the people of Oregon can forgive me.”

He returned the purloined pen with a dollar to cover the cost of the candy. Brown accepted the apology on behalf of the people of Oregon, and sent the boy a new pen as a memento.


Brian Calvert is the editor in chief of High Country News, hcn.org. Tips and photos of Western oddities can be sent to betsym@hcn.org.



Do you think the coronavirus will spread into Central Montana?