Mining makes for manlier men

THE WEST

The Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon suffers from an unemployment rate as high as 17 percent. It also suffers from, or (depending on your point of view) is blessed by, the high possibility that it contains huge amounts of uranium. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will decide soon whether to allow these canyonlands along the Arizona-Utah border to be explored and mined for uranium; meanwhile, local officials have put together a coalition to try to discourage Salazar from one possible decision that would protect the area from mining for 20 years.

At a recent eight-hour coalition get-together in St. George, Utah, most speakers talked about the decline of their small rural communities because they lacked an industrial base. But Brian Bremnar, public-lands administrator for Garfield County, Utah, also worried about the effect unemployment has on the development of the manlier qualities, reports Today’s News Herald (Lake Havasu, Ariz.): “When the man is pulled out of the home and a boy is raised with a mother and three sisters, do you think he will be able to throw a football better or do hair better? Is he going to be able to cook better than he can change a tire?”

OREGON

Bob Welch wrote the perfect opening to an unusual story: “The 90-year-old woman was talking to the executive director of a Portland cemetery about her, uh, future.” The woman didn’t want to be cremated and she didn’t want to be buried in a coffin — she wanted to be “composted.”

“Natural burial” is the preferred term, says the Eugene Register-Guard, but its not easy to find a cemetery that will let you go to ground without a lot of froufrou. Although more and more cemeteries are looking into natural burial, only a few now offer it, including Portland’s own River View Cemetery, run by David Noble. There, a body might be put into a biodegradable casket, “perhaps something woven or made of bamboo or willow branches or sea grass. Compost might be packed around it to speed the breakdown process.” Noble estimates that in a decade, natural burial will be a regular part of the cemetery business, which leads Welch to conclude: “In a trend inspired by eco-conscious baby boomers, you might say it represents a generations final back-to-the-land movement.”

ARIZONA

Raffle prizes run the gamut, but in Tucson recently, one particular offering seemed oddly off-kilter, to say the least. To raise money for the Pima County Republicans, party members aimed to sell 125 raffle tickets for $10 each, with the lucky winner receiving a Glock pistol — “the same brand of gun used in a Tucson parking lot to shoot Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,” reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Brian Miller, former president of the Republican group, commented dryly, “The people running the Pima County GOP right now aren’t exactly known for their ability to feel the political pulse.”

IDAHO

Wolves, it turns out, can be surprisingly easy to kill. All Stan Burt of Boise had to do, he told the Idaho Statesman, was drive to a spot where he thought a pack was roaming and howl. “A whole chorus erupted,” he said, and a few minutes later, at least eight wolves “were milling around and looking for the source of the howling.” He shot one at 75 yards, and was somewhat disconcerted when the wolves didn’t seem alarmed by the noise. A few seconds later, he shot a second wolf about 30 yards from the first one; then when the remaining wolves retreated, Burt said he used a predator call that mimics a rabbit to lure them back. “If I would have had five wolf tags, I probably could have killed five wolves.”

Burt is apparently the first person to kill two wolves in a single day; he’ll get a full-body mount made from one wolf and a rug from the hide of the other.

OREGON

In the derring-do department, Doug Niblack certainly stands out: The surfer found himself standing on the back of a great white shark and lived to tell the tale. Niblack, who was surfintg off the Oregon coast near Seaside, north of Portland, was paddling some 50 yards from shore when his board hit something that felt like a rock. Next thing he knew, he was knee-deep in churning water on the back of a 10-to-12-foot-long shark. In case you’re wondering what that feels like, he says that it felt rubbery, like a Neoprene wetsuit.

“There was a moment there when everything was going on, I just kind of made my peace. I honestly thought I was going to die.”

Perhaps equally unhappy about having a rider, the shark slid out from underneath Niblack, leaving him to paddle back to shore in shock: “I was praying the whole time. Like, ‘Don’t let it be following me.”

Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park, Calif., says Niblack is actually the second person hes heard of who ended up on top of a shark; a kayaker off Catalina Island, Calif., in 2008 also experienced that phenomenon and survived, reports The Associated Press.

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

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