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Heard Around the West

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

COLORADO

Who knew marijuana was the answer to the real estate industry’s prayers? It must be so, since the Denver Post announced in a giant headline: “Pot boom offsets real estate bust.” Voters first approved a medical marijuana amendment to the Colorado Constitution back in 2000, but the feds announced only recently that they wouldn’t prosecute medical users. In the meantime, some 13,000 people have gone on record as suffering from one or more of eight conditions that make the herb necessary for their health. But even as dispensaries open daily in Denver and rural areas all over the state, another obvious need has been revealed, reports Westword, and that’s for reliable information on which weed variety to buy and where to get it. Westword editor Pat Calhoun tried to answer those questions by asking potential pot critics to write an essay describing “What marijuana means to me.” The first applicant replied within five minutes, which was “fast work for a stoner,” Calhoun noted. Other hopefuls rambled entertainingly, while one modestly ended his account of patronizing pot dispensaries this way: “If I have wasted your time, or you feel dumber for having read my essay, my apologies in advance. I was medicated.” Mainstream media found the hullabaloo hilarious and rushed to interview Calhoun about her search for a “qualified” medical marijuana critic. The Denver Post said she drew one conclusion: “The longer they used pot, the less they used punctuation.” No word yet on who got the job.

CALIFORNIA

As everyone knows, bears are quick learners, and thanks to a scholarly article in the Journal of Mammalogy, we now know what vehicles in Yosemite National Park they prefer to rip and rend in their search for fast food. “The bears seem to base their decision on ‘fuel efficiency,’ “ writes Rocky Barker — “that is, which vehicle offers the best opportunity of finding a meal.” The minivan wins top honors as the bears’ “Car of the Year” because it’s more likely to leak odors, it probably hauled kids who almost certainly spilled food on the upholstery, and it has a rear side window that can be popped open by a powerful paw. Of the 908 vehicles studied in Yosemite between 2001-2007, bears attacked minivans 26 percent of the time; SUVs, 22.5 percent; small cars, 17.1 percent; and sedans, 13.7 percent.

ARIZONA

Arizona has an uplifting motto: “God enriches,” which doesn’t sound very friendly toward gambling establishments. But there are other ways of defining richness. Phoenix, for example, ranks high in hotness: An October day recently rose 13 degrees over the normal high to hit 100 degrees, reports the Arizona Republic. The state can also boast about its support for higher education: Arizona State University’s Tempe campus has the largest enrollment in the nation with 55,592 students.

WYOMING

Every bar should have a hitching post; that’s just common sense, right? Or so reasoned a ranch hand in Worland, Wyo., who was cited for allowing his horse to wander through town while he hung out in a bar. According to the Billings Gazette, an indignant William Schellinger told police that “they should spend their time arresting real criminals, not bothering cowboys with wayward horses.”

UTAH

What with sensational court cases about forced marriage and the Big Love television series, it was probably only a matter of time before locals cashed in on the fascination with “polygs.” Now you can pay a fee to take “The Polygamy Experience Tour” with guides who once lived under the thumb of Warren Jeffs, the jailed polygamist cult leader. Tours leave daily from St. George or Hildale, Utah, (877-520-9955) and the curious are urged to “come with questions.”

IDAHO

The hunt is on for a new “spud stud” to replace the old reliable Russet Burbank variety long used in McDonald’s French fries. In 2005, reports The Associated Press, a Potato Variety Management Institute was established by Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and though it’s been trying to develop the next hot new potato, no miracle tuber has emerged to rival the 130-year-old Russet Burbank. Rewards will be great for growers of a tater that’s environmentally less intrusive, internally consistent and good for storing: McDonald’s buys more than 3.4 billion pounds of potatoes annually to make its crispy fries.

COLORADO

Joan Nutt, 63, was visiting family in Florissant, Colo., when she got close to a deer “in an attempt to pet it.” The animal attacked, and though Nutt “grabbed hold of an antler to try to fend it off … it knocked her down before she could get away.” Nutt, who suffered numerous lacerations, was saved by a motorist who, seeing the deer “stomping her,” stopped to help. Let this be a lesson, said the state’s Division of Wildlife: Leave wild animals alone and never feed them.

(Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News).