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Column: Heard around the West

by Betsy MarstonHigh Country News
| November 4, 2009 11:00 PM

COLORADO

Wildlife officials are counting the days until black bears head for the high country to den up for the winter, reports the Aspen Times.

It’s been an exasperating year, admits the state’s Division of Wildlife. The bears have grown ever smarter about breaking into Aspen homes, forcing open refrigerators and even – three times this summer – attacking and injuring locals at night.

This bad behavior hurts bears as well … wildlife officers killed 12 this summer. After hungry bears broke into an outdoor freezer at the Main Street Bakery & Café four or five times, owner Bill Dinsmoor finally figured out a deterrent. He electrified a mat in front of the freezer. Shoe-wearing staffers never felt a jolt when they stepped on the mat, but the two bears “tormenting” Dinsmoor all summer apparently did.

Once the mat shocked them, they retreated, though it may be only a matter of time before the bears figure out the shoe thing.

THE NATION

The last time anybody looked, no national forests grew in Washington, D.C., so why should the city get almost $3 million in stimulus funds to fight wildfires?

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and other Western representatives are wondering, because their region is home to most national forests and the super-expensive wildfires that sweep through, destroying homes and killing firefighters.

“The last major fire in D.C. was likely lit by British troops in 1814,” Republican Sen. Barrasso told The Associated Press. “There are many wasteful and wild schemes born in Washington, but this takes the cake.” Well, not exactly, says a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service. While the stimulus law specifies “wildland fire management,” the term is elastic and includes efforts to promote forest and ecosystem health. A D.C.-based nonprofit, Washington Parks & People, will get nearly $2.7 million to create green jobs and improve the city’s tree canopy.

ARIZONA

It’s not a joke, though it sounds like one: A new law signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, R, allows people to walk into a bar carrying concealed weapons, though once there, they can’t order a drink.

The National Rifle Association’s Todd Rathner insists the law makes perfect sense: “Any time law-abiding gun owners can carry firearms into more places, the safer the public is,” he told The Week magazine.

There are 5,800 bar owners in Arizona, and many of them seem less than thrilled with the new law, calling it government intrusiveness. Over 1,300 owners quickly requested state-issued “No firearms allowed” placards to post in their establishments, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Cathy Warner, co-owner of the Boondocks Lounge in Tucson, said she’s learned that a bar is never a good place for firearms. “I don’t care if people walk in and don’t have a drink. How do you know the person hasn’t already had a drink, unless they’re falling down?”

IDAHO

Michelle Childers, 20, was driving along the Lochsa River near Kamiah, Idaho, with her husband, Daniel, 22, when a spruce tree crashed through the passenger-side window. When Daniel saw where the tree had gone, he started to panic, reports The Associated Press.

“I asked him ‘What? Where is it?’”Childers said. Her husband answered, “It’s in your neck.” Thirteen inches of tree limb were impaled in the woman’s neck, but after six hours of surgery, Childers is reportedly recuperating well.

COLORADO

If you remember Ronald Reagan as the “Teflon president,” thank Pat Schroeder, the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado, who coined the term.

She served as a congresswoman from Denver for almost 25 years, arriving in Washington, D.C., in 1972, with two children – one still in diapers – and a supportive and witty husband, Jim, who’s now written his account of that time.

In “Confessions of a Political Spouse,” he describes his experience with a Washington establishment so decidedly male that he was continually called “Pat,” slapped on the back and assumed to be the one elected. His book is a companion to his wife’s memoir, “24 Years of House Work … and the Place is Still a Mess,” as well as a biography, “Pat Schroeder: A Woman of the House” by Joan Lowy.

As reviewed by Sandra Dallas in the Denver Post, Jim’s account adds more anecdotes about his engaging wife. She became a tough-minded member of the House Armed Services Committee, a champion of legislation benefiting women and children and – disappointing many supporters – an almost-candidate for the presidency.

Pat Schroeder had a knack for making politics and family work, her husband says, and offers an unusual example: He “once found a business card for Joe the Balloon Man in Pat’s purse, and on the back, written in his own hand, was Shimon Peres’ private phone number.”

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colo. She can be reached at betsym@hcn.org )