Heard Around the West: On marijuana, crows, crickets and goats
If a Western business is booming these days, it’s likely connected to marijuana. In Colorado, the “new normal” is $100 million in cannabis sales every month, reports the Denver Post. And this May, adds The Cannabist, the state passed a major milestone: Since legalization in 2014, $500 million has been collected in state tax.
Pent-up demand in Nevada was demonstrated this July 2 — opening day for the sale of recreational marijuana. Customers lined up by the hundreds outside the newly opened pot shops, and the Department of Taxation expects to rake in at least $100 million in the next six months. Dozens of new businesses, mainly in the Las Vegas area, were so mobbed that many of them ran out in less than two weeks. That forced the governor and state Legislature to quickly change a restrictive law on restocking “to continue the flow of product to the retail store,” reported The Associated Press. A 77-year-old Navy veteran, who waited in line for hours on the Las Vegas Strip, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I never thought I’d live to see it. I thought it would be undercover forever and I’d just have to continue finding it the best way I could.”
In Oregon, after the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in 2014, the tiny town of Huntington, population 435, took its time to decide whether to allow pot shops. Meanwhile, the interstate had bypassed Huntington, the town’s economy was in tatters, and only the hope of attracting pot customers from Boise, Idaho, just 30 miles away, where marijuana is illegal, seemed an option. Reluctantly, the town permitted retail pot sales. Now, Huntington’s marijuana dispensaries are enjoying a “mini-boom” that also has boomed the town budget. A few residents remain adamantly opposed, but as Shellie Nash, deputy city recorder, put it, the businesses are “not bringing in riffraff and stuff like people originally expected.” Visitors hang around town when the dispensaries get busy, Councilman Chuck Guerri said, “so they mingle … and have a hamburger or something. Every little bit helps when you’re a small town.”
In 2008, wildlife biologist John Marzluff at the University of Washington made news when he tested the hypothesis that crows could learn to identify individual faces. He and his researchers — wearing Dick Cheney masks — found that the birds could easily tell one person’s face from another, and what’s more, “crows teach other crows to detest specific people and sometimes attack them,” sayd Seattle Met magazine. Recently, Kaeli Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at the university’s Avian Conservation Lab, showed writer Ross Gardner something else: Crows hold crow funerals. Swift demonstrated this by holding a dead crow in her hands near some dumpsters. Within minutes — “It was like sorcery,” marveled the writer — a flock of crows converged above them, shrieking so loudly that talking was impossible. But once she gently covered the dead bird, the corvids slowly quieted and eventually left. Researchers als0 have found that crows will reward humans who treat them well, giving them gifts that can include candy, keys — probably not the ones you lost — and coins.
As for what the urban-adapted birds like to eat, that’s easy, said Marzluff: “They will eat anything and they will try everything.”
Ordinary grasshoppers and earwigs can be annoying enough, but ranchers in Owyhee County, Idaho, are at war with formidable 3-inch-long Mormon crickets, reports the Idaho Statesman. The “creepy scourge” strikes about every eight years, and the bugs are a serious nuisance: Besides devouring alfalfa, stored animal feed and even vineyards, they appear to have it in for vehicles, causing “slippery, bug-slick car crashes as they march across highways and roads.” But that’s not as unnerving as the recent truck accident in Oregon that catapulted 7,500 pounds of eels onto Highway 101. The slimy hagfish emitted so much goo on the road — about five pounds from each fish — that the Oregonian describes “a chain reaction” of vehicles smashing into other vehicles. Injuries were minor, unless you count the eels, which all died. This gives us an excuse to quote the inimitable Ogden Nash: “I don’t mind eels. / Except as meals. / And the way they feels.”
“A gang of goats,” as Fox News characterized it, vandalized Kryptane Systems in Louisville, about 20 miles north of Denver, splintering two glass front doors. A surveillance camera revealed the story: One of the goats, probably seeing his reflection, butted the door for 20 minutes until it shattered, left, then later returned to attack the adjoining door, too.
“I don’t know why” he came back, Greg Cappert, an engineer at the company, told police. “Just to be mean, I guess.”
Kids today, we’d say, except these goats were grown-ups.
And as Cappert warned: “They’re still out there somewhere, so protect your doors, everyone.”
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, firstname.lastname@example.org
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