Python tweets and chainsaw cheers

WASHINGTON

A 15-to-20-pound, 6-or-7-foot-long Burmese python, variously described as albino, yellow or “closer to brown with some yellow areas,” escaped into a park in northeast Seattle, a situation complicated by initial confusion as to which park it had chosen, reports resident Dorothy Neville. Fortunately, after city police started tweeting people in the area about the dangers of this “ambush predator,” the snake, under the moniker “Ravenna Park Python,” suddenly began tweeting back: “Just out for a stroll, er slither, on a beautiful day. Heard there was some commotion on the other side of the park.” The python, whose owner named it “Timid,” remains on the stroll.

CALIFORNIA

Not far from stands of huge redwood trees and often doused by rain, fans of Humboldt State’s Division II football team cheer on their team with an unusual array of helpers. An ax-wielding drum major cavorts in front of the crowd while some members of the Marching Lumberjack Band make music by banging on trashcan lids and sticks; if the band has what you might call a uniform, it’s hardhats and suspenders. They’re joined by a buff-looking crew of four men and two women waving chainsaws; when the team scores a touchdown, the chainsaws get revved up to create a mighty din. Lately, the team’s 7,000-person-capacity Redwood Bowl has been selling out.

What’s even more surprising is that the football program is financed without a lick of taxpayer money. Students each pay hundreds of dollars a year to help keep the bare-bones $650,000 football program going, private money does the rest, and the track team and its coach pitch in to clean up the stadium after a game. While the last decade in California saw ferocious cutbacks in funding for all aspects of higher education, Humboldt State can boast that it remains the state’s last Division II football team, and after a few dismal years, the team has finally begun to win, recently trouncing Grand Junction’s Colorado Mesa University. “In a region known more for marijuana culture and environmental activism than athletics,” reports The New York Times, there’s now a sense of “pride in your team and your small town.”

CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA

Congratulations, Death Valley National Park, for beating out Libya for the honor of being “the world’s hottest place.” It took a team of international weather experts to make the call, reports The Associated Press, which now allows Death Valley to claim “hottest” along with “lowest and driest” place. The group, which included several Middle Eastern countries as well as the United States, investigated a long-held record from Libya, now considered inaccurate, that recorded 136.4 degrees 90 years ago. The new and approved record was recorded on July 10, 1913, in Death Valley, when the temperature reached 136 degrees. Recent sweltering days in the park haven’t come close to challenging that record, though it must have seemed sufficiently hot this July 11, when the temperature hit a high for the year of 128 degrees.

THE WEST

Writer Denver Bryan says Todd Wilkinson got it all wrong when this column cited his claim that hunting guides haven’t been hurt by wolf packs cutting down elk herds. It’s not easy to locate outfitters who have downsized or left the business, Bryan said, but after a few weeks of searching, he found Lee Hart of Broken Heart Outfitters in Gallatin Gateway, Dave Hettinger of Dillon, and Rich Hafenfield of Big Timber, as well as others in Montana who believe that their hunting business has been hurt by the presence of wolves. As Liz Jackson of Cooke City put it, “We see the time in the near future when we will no longer be offering elk hunts in this region.”

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

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