Writers on the Range

Heard around the West

By Betsy Marston



Publicity has not been kind to Daniel Suelo, who was profiled by Mark Sundeen in his 2012 book, “The Man Who Quit Money.” Living on remote public land outside Moab, Utah, Suelo never spent a penny on food, clothes or gadgets, relying instead on our throwaway society and the occasional Dumpster-dive. But after the book came out, Suelo found himself sought after by 20-somethings and others who wanted to copy his “free and unfettered existence,” according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. His outdoor life took on a babysitting quality until, he says sadly, “It was kind of like Moab spit me out.”

He lives now with his 89-year-old mother in Fruita, Colorado, balancing her bankbook, buying food and living indoors, where he has to hear the white noise of the refrigerator humming. As for his own future, Suelo, 55, says he’s realized that when the time comes, “I’d rather be in the wild and have natural selection knock me off.”


Colorado, continued

It was a bad day on the slopes for three snowboarders in Aspen’s Maroon Bowl, reports the Aspen Times reports. On balance, you could say the day was wonderful, because everybody – somewhat surprisingly – lived to tell about it.

First, the group got lazy and rode down a slope together, a dangerous thing to do if there’s avalanche danger. As it happened, the trio triggered a snow slide that carried them several hundred feet down the hill. All three survived, but one of them was turning blue by the time his companions reached him. Pinned against a tree, he suffered a broken rib and a strained back.

As if that weren’t enough, after the three struggled out of the packed snow and one boarder left to get help, the other two were spotted by a territorial and extremely grumpy moose, which charged them three times. Amazingly, the duo managed to hold their ground, and eventually all three finally made their way to a hospital, minus the moose.



After a propane tanker-truck crashed on I-5 near Seattle recently, thousands of morning commuters found themselves trapped. Epic gridlock reigned for hours and nothing moved, reported eater.com. Then, somebody noticed that a stranded taco truck had opened its big window, and drivers and riders were lining up to order lunch. The movable Tacos El Tajin business made a lot of new friends that day; as one worker explained, you got to make the best of it, right?


Washington, continued

How hot is the real estate market in Seattle? Last year, a house so dilapidated and toxic that prospective buyers couldn’t even peek inside attracted 41 offers and a buyer who paid $427,000. The Seattle Times reports that the wipe-away, now completely rebuilt from the foundation up, just sold for about $1 million.



David A. Smart, 45, of Washington, D.C., really wanted to get photos of the 1,500 elk gathered near the highway at Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole. So he stopped his car at a pullout and launched a drone over the herd.

This move, unfortunately, turned out to be less than wise: All 1,500 elk panicked, stampeding through three feet of snow and burning up additional energy stores unnecessarily, said Doug Brimeyer, deputy wildlife division chief for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The federal crime of harassing wildlife is punishable by a fine as much as $5,000, reports The Associated Press; an apologetic Smart was only ticketed $280.


The West

Happy birthday, Yellowstone National Park, 145 years old on March 1, and a big thank you to President Ulysses S. Grant, who had the foresight to create the nation’s first national park in 1872. Kudos also to “Wyoming Wildlife,” the monthly magazine of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Its annual photo issue features gorgeous color pictures of everything from a striking prairie rattlesnake to a fox nuzzling the nose of what appears to be a smiling female fox, before he curled up beside her on the snow, says photographer Dawn Y. Wilson.


Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the op ed service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, betsym@hcn.org.

The Nation

A tiny, newly discovered species of moth with a wingspan of less than one centimeter carries a big-league name Neopalpa donaldtrumpi. Vazrick Nazari, an evolutionary biologist, told the journal ZooKeys that the bright yellow scales on the top of its head were what inspired him to name it after President Trump.

Nazari didn’t find the moth, which also sports orange-yellow and brown wings, out in the wild; he identified it after poring through material collected by the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis. I hope (Trump) takes it with the good spirit it is intended, he told the Washington Post. We need the administration to continue protecting vulnerable and fragile habitats across the United States.


Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the op ed 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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