December 17, 2009

Cattle Mutilations Return? Part 1

On Nov. 26, 2009  story moved on the AP wire (I know that is obsolete terminology. So sue me.) about "mysterious cattle mutilations."

Cattle mutilations in the San Luis Valley. Oh my, here we go again.

The San Luis Valley of southern Colorado has a reputation for "high strangeness." (Did I mention I was born there? It's true.)

Colorado was central to the "cattle mutilation" wave of the mid-1970s, which actually stretched from Alberta to New Mexico. But were cattle actually mutilated?

During that first "wave," my curiosity about it contributed to my desire to be a newspaper reporter. But by the time I actually was one, the "wave" was over, although I did write one retrospective story in the Colorado Springs Sun circa 1981.

My better piece, "Mutilation Madness," was published in Fate magazine in June 1988. It is not available online. Perhaps I should scan it.

But back to the 1970s ...

The "cattle mutilation" phenomenon, I decided, had two aspects: One was a failure of journalism. The other was observers' tendency to wrap a narrative around just a few shaky points of data. (More after the jump.)

December 16, 2009

A Severe Gut Reaction

A culinary adventures backfires on French sailors in the Arctic. (Doesn't that sound like an early 19th-century sentence?)

If you go into Le Club Chasse et Pêche and they are serving urs, order it well-done.

(Tip of the toque to Cat Urbigkit.)

Getting Kinky on the Truckee

Only in Nevada: The link between prostitution and riparian restoration.

December 15, 2009

He Brought the Duke to a Shooting Party

From our minuscule "aristocratic eccentricities" file (insofar as we know no aristocrats), a problem of identity at a country-house weekend.

'Then she said: "You won't be able to shoot as we haven't enough guns, so Gerald will be shooting on your peg."

'To which I replied: "But Gerald doesn't shoot - he's my retriever."

December 13, 2009

Mongols in the San Luis Valley: Not the Movie

A delegation of Mongolian natural-resource managers recently visited Colorado's San Luis Valley to compare notes with the parkies at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Mongolia, which is roughly six times the size of Colorado with half the population, has embarked on an ambitious conservation program that would bring up to one-third of the arid country into a system of preserves and parks.

Synchronicity: Last night M. and I watched Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan(dir. Sergei Bodrov, 2007) .

It ranks highly among "barbarian movies," all of which follow the same gender code:

  1. Fight
  2. Become blood brothers and thereafter greet one another with an inarticulate "Yaaah!"
  3. Suffer pain
  4. Seek visions
  5. Have sex

  1. Have sex
  2. Bear sons
  3. Flee from enemies provoked by the men or ...
  4. Are captured by said enemies
  5. Shout curses at numbers 3 and 4.
There is also epic cinematography from Inner Mongolia (China) and Kazakhstan.

Any Westerner who upon seeing the movie thinks something like, "That reminds me of the Wind River Range" —or the Great Sand Dunes—might contemplate how, for instance, the Blackfeet, Sioux, or Plains Cree might have turned out if they had not just horses but also steel weapons, sheep, and wheeled carts—plus a few centuries to refine a lifestyle of nomadism, fearless independence, and blood feuds.

The Merkit people—simultaneously neighbors, enemies, and relatives of Genghis Khan—are even shown as living in tipis.

December 12, 2009

What Every Hiker, Hunter, Etc. Fears

The leader of a gang that broke into cars parked at trailheads in the Denver-Boulder area gets a 20-year prison sentence.

Interesting comments.

But really, who leaves their wallet in their vehicle?

December 10, 2009

Hunting, Food, and Responsibility.

Yet another article on how understanding where food comes from and "eating locally" brings people to hunting.

One person interviewed is falconer Rebecca O'Connor, whose recent memoir I reviewed here.

Church for Dogs

Patrick "Terrierman" Burns posted this image with the title "Dogs in the Woods is like Church."

Today, the dogs and I went to 7:30 Mass today as we do most days. The church was heated to 0 F. (-17 C.)

As usual, they barked during the consecration, ran away during the homily, and as for their offering, you don't want to ask.

December 08, 2009

Indian Trust Accounts Settlement Announced.

Color me impressed. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced a settlement of the long-standing lawsuit against the federal government for mishandling Indian trust accounts.

Spearheaded by Blackfeet banker Elouise Cobell, the suit has dragged on for 13 years.

As a girl growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Cobell learned the government was supposed to pay out money to the owners of the private lands held in trust for American Indians since 1887 and managed by the Department of the Interior. But she noticed government checks for farming, grazing and timber-cutting on her family's land sometimes arrived, but often didn't.

She recognized many of the problems with the government accounting of the Indian trust accounts when she served as treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation for 13 years.

The Clinton administration never settled, nor did that of George W. Bush. Commenters on the Indian Country Web site, however, offer additional perspectives.

Furthermore, Ken Salazar almost won the Field & Stream Hunting and Fishing Heroes-versus-Villains Face-off.

Bird-Feeding Science Still Inconclusive

As dozens of juncos, plus finches, jays, and other species mob the bird feeders and make serious dents in my black-oil sunflower seed supply, here are some articles on artificial feeding and bird populations:

• A German study suggests that feeding birds in winter is causing one species to divide. (Note:  "bird table" is British for bird feeder.)

• Winter feeding may make for better breeding.

Birdfeeders, populations, and the domestic cat.

Surprisingly, the research team also found evidence in several studies which indicated that the flurry of activity caused by bird feeding does not increase the birds' risk of predation. Counter-intuitively, the presence of feeders has been associated with lower levels of predation by domestic cats.

Yes, I would say that is "counter-intuitive," considering that I have had a couple of cats who would imitate a rock while crouched under the feeder and then shoot straight up, paw extended, to snag a bird.

December 07, 2009

December 06, 2009

Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer and Asthma?

As mammogram guidelines are debated in the media, I am glad to see someone thinking that perhaps rising breast cancer and asthma rates have to do with environmental pollution, probably endocrine distruptors.

I asked these doctors what they do in their own homes to reduce risks. They said that they avoid microwaving food in plastic or putting plastics in the dishwasher, because heat may cause chemicals to leach out. And the symposium handed out a reminder card listing “safer plastics” as those marked (usually at the bottom of a container) 1, 2, 4 or 5.

The popular Nalgene polycarbonate bottles with a 7 on the bottom are in the "throw out" category, writer Nicholas Kristoff suggests. The company's rather ambiguous position is stated here.

December 05, 2009

Of Body-dumping, Euphemism, and the Forest Service

The always-alert reporter who covers this area for the Pueblo Chieftain was the first to report the discovery of a corpse not far from where I live.

M.  and I had been hiking and locating a geocache right at that spot just two days after the body was found—the crime-scene tape must have been removed by then—and we never knew about the body until we read the Pueblo newspaper the following day.

Note the language "stopped to go to the bathroom" and "the old Florence campground."

The first is a euphemism for pissing. The second requires local knowledge. The Florence Picnic Ground (not campground) was removed by the Forest Service decades ago—in the 1970s, I think. Supposedly this was done because of vandalism, budget issues, or some combination of the two.

But people still talk about it: "I saw some turkeys near the old Florence Picnic Ground," even though there is nothing there but a little meadow.

But by the time the story was picked up by other media, electronic and print, the body had been found by someone who stopped to use the restroom at the campground. There is no restroom (building), no campground. But those people never get out and around much, so they just repeat and misunderstand what they read elsewhere.

Finally, the county weekly got to the story, with much more detail: "Authorities Seek Identity of Headless Corpse."

Note the sheriff's comment:

Jobe said as crime escalates in larger surrounding counties, he feels Custer County, due to its numerous remote locations, will continue to be a dumping ground for murdered bodies.

And if it weren't for hunters and fishermen, who would find them?

When we lived near Colorado Springs (in Manitou), M. and I used to wonder why the El Paso County commissioners did not just create a "body-dumping area" on Rampart Range Road, a favorite spot for Colorado Springs lowlifes to deposit their former drug-dealing associates, unsatisfactory girlfriends, and such.

The county sign shop could have whipped up some appropriate signage: "Body Dumping Area 100 Feet," that sort of thing.

Of course, the feds would have to be involved for national forest land,  and they probably would want an environmental assessment.

December 02, 2009

Life without Plastic

Life without Plastic is a blog about finding alternatives to ubiquitous plastics, particularly in packaging.

More and more, I find store cashiers receptive to my line of "No bag, please." Many admit that they have too many plastic bags in their house too.

December 01, 2009

A Sign of Austerity


Due to a lack of money, the Colorado Dept. of Transportation has stopped plowing the road from here to Pueblo at night.

M. shudders every time that she sees the sign, remembering many late-night drives home after teaching a night class at the university. (I did that too, but for just one or two semesters.)

Early-spring snowstorms can be as heavy as you ever saw, a white wall of flakes, so that you wonder where the road is.

More than one night she passed only one other vehicle, a truck with running lights bearing towards her at the foot of Jackson Hill.

Who was out in that weather? None other than the local Schwan's delivery driver. The frozen pot roast and ice cream will go through!

"Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor heat of day nor dark of night shall keep this carrier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds."

And here you thought that quotation referred to the Postal Service.

A student of mine had once driven a Schwan's route south out of Lamar into far southeastern Colorado, El Cuartelejo, the deep dark heart of the Southern Plains.

He claimed to have spent more than one night in his truck, snowed-in or stuck in some ditch or arroyo. But he had lots to eat.