Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. I settled for a triple bogey on the final nine holes the other day and set a course record for my play on our local golf course. I played all nine holes and only lost three golf balls – my kind of scoring. I had played the round with someone that I would call a golf aficionado. He has all of the new clubs for 2010 and a putter that is guaranteed to get it in the hole whenever he putts the ball properly. He has the same kind of driver that is used by Phil Mickelson, except that it is a right-handed club, and the same make and model set of irons that are used by Tiger Woods. I usually play golf with that friend, and when we bother keeping score he always beats me by a couple of strokes. Occasionally he will even break 50 for the nine holes, but only when the planets are all lined up and the humidity is in the proper range. If the truth be told, I prefer to just hit a lot of golf balls and not keep score because it is not important for me to beat the local banker or the guy who works in the local hardware store. This led me to a statistic that I was rather surprised about. An estimated 300 million golf balls are lost in North America every year. Of course, I contribute my share to that statistic. More than 200 golf courses in North America are under contract with a Toronto golf ball retrieval company. Every year that company resells more than 20 million recovered golf balls worldwide. With golf balls costing as much as $40 a dozen and as little as $12 a dozen for recycled balls, that is a tremendous industry. If you play golf as poorly as I do, there is no sense in paying that $40 for a dozen golf balls when I can lose a dozen golf balls that cost $12. I lose them to the right or left of the course, or in the ponds, and yes, I can lose them even in the middle of the fairway when it hasn’t been mowed for a day. I play golf with another friend who is hard of hearing and, since I only have good vision in one eye, I can’t see where my ball has gone. And, since he is partially deaf, he can’t hear me hollering that his ball “is over here!” We are kind of the odd couple of golfing here on our island. Well, maybe anywhere, for that matter. That Toronto golf ball recovery company is a $200-million-dollar-a-year company whose employees wear scuba gear and get to go swimming in beautiful golf course lakes and ponds, recovering and selling used golf balls. They have no expensive manufacturing costs, just a golf ball washing machine not unlike a king-sized pressure washer. Once they are washed, someone sorts them by brand name, repackages them and ships them back to golf and sporting goods stores, as well as golf courses worldwide for sale to not very good golfers such as myself. In a recent book called “Bad Lies,” author Gary Lindsay wrote, “a doctor by the name of MacDougal came to the conclusion that the weight of a golf ball and a person’s soul weighed the same.” Twenty-one grams is the maximum amount a golf ball can weigh, and Dr. MacDougal weighed people just before they died and right after they died and discovered that their body weight dropped an average of 21 grams immediately upon their death. Thus, he concluded that their soul had departed when they died and that is where the 21 grams disappeared. What kind of golf ball do you hit, white, yellow or pink? Or perhaps you have enough money to buy the new kind of golf ball with a computer chip in it so that you can find with the GPS in your golf cart? Whatever your golf ball may be, they all have to weigh less than 21 grams. Once or twice during the summer I am able to play nine holes of golf without losing a ball. I consider that one of my better rounds. But as Tom Weiskopf says, “There are 27 million golfers in America. Only 5 percent of them will ever break 100, and of that 5 percent only 2 percent of them will ever break 80. So when you are learning, why bother keeping score? But most important, always remember that the golf course will win every time you play.” If someone who is a good enough golfer to have won the British Open gives me that kind of free advice while I was trying to teach him how to ski, I would be foolish not to pay attention to it. Email
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. COLUMBUS, Ohio – Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna tells hikers to carry pepper spray, and he has seen for himself how useful that advice is during a run-in with three grizzly bears.The Columbus Zoo keeper and frequent David Letterman guest says he was with his wife and other hikers in Montana’s Glacier National Park on Saturday when they saw the mother bear and two large cubs coming toward them. Hanna and the others moved slowly back up the trail to a clearing and stood still while the mother and one cub passed by.Hanna says the other cub, weighing about 125 pounds, charged toward the hikers. He pulled out pepper spray got the bear in the face, causing it to flee.Hanna recently filmed a message for the national parks encouraging people to carry pepper spray when hiking. Email
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. HELENA – Officials say a 2,000-acre wildfire northwest of Helena appears to have burned eight structures, though none were homes.Helena National Forest agency administrator Nancy Peak says some structures may have been piles of logs, but officials must review ownership records to be certain.An interagency team on Wednesday will begin a review of the wildfire, which started as a prescribed burn that grew out of control on Thursday. Peak says the team will look at all factors that led up to the ignition.Fire officials said Tuesday that the Davis fire is 50 percent contained. The cost of fighting the blaze is estimated to be $1.3 million.Meanwhile, the 315-acre Downing fire in the Bitterroot National Forest was 55 percent contained on Tuesday morning. Email
Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. COLUMBIA FALLS – A Columbia Falls High School junior returned to school on Tuesday after the school board made the unanimous decision not to expel her for unintentionally having an unloaded hunting rifle on school property in the trunk of her car. Demari DeReu, 16, met with the School District 6 Board of Trustees at a public expulsion hearing Monday night that drew a crowd of about 150 to Glacier Gateway Elementary. A junior varsity cheerleader, DeReu’s case garnered attention locally and nationally after the Montana Shooting Sports Association publicized it. The National Rifle Association also sent out an e-mail urging members to support the student. DeReu took the podium on Monday night and said it all started when school officials announced a lockdown for a routine contraband search on Dec. 1. High school Principal Alan Robbins told the board that these searches, involving a dog, happen four to six times year. The dog is trained to smell drugs, alcohol and gun powder. Students are not allowed to leave during the searches.DeReu thought she might have accidentally left the rifle in her car after a weekend hunting trip with her family over Thanksgiving break. She told the board that a teacher had previously explained to her that if something like this happened, she could inform the office and either move her car off school property or take the gun home.Since the school was in lockdown, DeReu said she contacted the school officials about her predicament. She told the board she was escorted from the classroom, “where I was told I would be expelled.”Assistant Principal Scott Gaiser told the board he found the rifle in a case in the trunk of DeReu’s Honda Accord. There was no ammunition present in the vehicle. DeReu has been in out-of-school suspension ever since. Based on DeReu’s 3.0 GPA and “exemplary behavior” so far in her high school career, Gaiser told the board he recommended that DeReu be removed from school for the least amount of time as possible.“There was no intent on her part to do harm,” Gaiser said. School district policy, which is based on state law and the federal Gun-Free Schools Act, requires expulsion for at least one year if a student brings a firearm to school. However, the board of trustees can modify the expulsion requirements. DeReu’s lawyer, Sean Frampton, said he believed DeReu’s suspension should be voided and she should be allowed to make up the work she’s missed. “Montana never intended for this situation to be a violation of (state law),” Frampton told the board.Board trustee Dean Chisolm said DeReu’s case is the fifth in three years in which officials have had to address guns on campus.“In each case, it’s been troubling,” Chisolm said. He said the policy was rewritten to allow more leniency through a case-by-case basis, and that the board considers the student’s intent, whether the incident was an honest mistake, whether the student self-reported, when the self-reporting happened and the nature of the student’s participation in the investigation.In the four prior cases, the board determined expulsion was not necessary. And in DeReu’s case, Chisolm said it appeared she brought the gun unintentionally and she does not have behavioral problems at school.The board also discussed whether a suspension would affect DeReu’s chances of getting into college. It was determined that there should not be a problem with college applications, but grades were an emotional point for DeReu. She told the board she is now failing in two classes after being suspended.“At this point I don’t have any teachers, I’m teaching myself,” she said in tears. “It’s not fair for me to hear this isn’t going to affect my college education when I already have two Fs.”District 6 Superintendent Mike Nicosia told the board that he did not recommend expulsion, and that DeReu should be able to make up any work she’s missed with the help of school staff. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that’s available to you,” Nicosia told DeReu.The board agreed, moving that DeReu be readmitted to school and that her record be expunged at the end of the school year. Before the final vote, members of the crowd were given one minute to express support or opposition to the board’s motion. Several held protest signs with such messages as “Bad Fed Policy Bad 4 Montana” and “No Victim No Crime.”Fred Hodgeboom said he thought the motion should be amended to include an apology from school officials, who he believes should be suspended.“Suspend the officials that made the wrong decision,” Hodgeboom said. Duncan Scott, a Kalispell attorney, told the board he would work with them to help modify their policy, because “it’s going to come up again; it has to come up again, we’re a shooting community.”State Rep. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, offered to help make state law more clear at the next legislative session by looking at situations like this. Other audience members expressed disappointment that the situation had gotten this far, while others demanded that the high school officials be punished for their actions.Board member Barb Riley told the crowd that the school administration is required to follow school policy, and only the board of trustees can make the decision to modify a student’s punishment in a case like this.“I do believe we need reasonableness in Montana,” Riley said. After the unanimous vote to readmit DeReu to school and expunge her record at the end of the school year, the crowd cheered and gathered to congratulate her. DeReu said she looks forward to getting back to cheerleading and hanging out with her friends. “I’ll go back to school and try to get back to what’s normal,” she said. “I’m ecstatic.”
Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. HELENA – The Senate Judiciary Committee is taking up Attorney General Steve Bullock’s proposal to crack down on repeat drunk-driving offenders.The committee is hearing the so-called “24/7” sobriety program Thursday morning after the bill passed the House last month on a 96-3 vote.The program would require repeat drunk drivers to undergo twice-daily breath tests at their own expense as part of getting bail. Supporters say the program has been effective elsewhere ensuring repeat drunk drivers sober up, and doesn’t cost the state anything.A number of DUI reform proposals are working through the Legislature after several high-profile deaths have put the state’s dangerous highways in the spotlight.
LAUREL – Exxon Mobil Corp. said Wednesday that it plans to use vacuum trucks to suck any remaining oil from a failed pipeline near Laurel that spilled an estimated 42,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River.Geoff Craft, the company’s incident commander on the spill, said the use of the vacuum trucks should prevent any more oil from polluting the scenic waterway.It is not known how much oil is left in the 1,600-foot section of 12-inch pipeline that runs beneath the river. Draining that piece of the company’s Silvertip pipeline could begin by this weekend and take several days to complete, said Tom Livers, deputy director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.The cause of the July 1 pipeline failure remains under investigation.Hundreds of cleanup workers continue mopping up oil spread over dozens of miles downstream from the spill, and a congressional hearing on the accident is scheduled for Thursday in Washington, D.C.About 100 people attended a community meeting on the spill Wednesday night in Laurel that was hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency.Landowners along the river said they were unsure what steps to take with damaged pastureland, but there were fewer complaints about Exxon Mobil’s response to the spill than a similar meeting last week.“No complaints, just questions,” said Jerry Hanson of Billings, who has been unable to graze his eight llamas on land he owns along the Yellowstone.“I’ve heard I should not be cultivating that land for two years,” Hanson said. “No cleanup has started yet. What I’m concerned about is I’ve got 8 acres of pasture grass covered in some amount of oil. How much is too much? I have no idea.”A representative of the Environmental Protection Agency said soil along the river is being tested and results will be available within a week to answer questions such as Hanson’s.Only about nine barrels out of the estimated 1,000 barrels of oil that spilled have been recovered.EPA on-scene coordinator Steve Merritt said Wednesday he did not expect that figure to increase much more.“There’s no recoverable oil flowing on the water downstream,” Merritt said. “We are now very much in the shoreline cleanup mode.”On the wildlife front, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman said two dead creatures have been found so far — a fish and a duck. Two toads, a snake and a bird with oil on them have been captured for rehabilitation, although some animals with small amounts of oil on them have been allowed to remain in the wild.Gary Hammond with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said the state is focused not on individual animals but on the potential for more profound damage to the river’s ecology. Representatives of the wildlife agency will join crews searching the river for areas with oil beginning this week, Hammond said.“There’s a lot of places we haven’t been able to get to yet,” Hammond said. “We’re going to be ramping up that effort.”Twenty people have reported health concerns related to the spill, said Yellowstone County Health officer John Felton. Many of those cases involved people suffering from nausea or breathing problems attributed to fumes given off by crude.But officials say those fumes are dissipating as the oil degrades, breaks down. Felton said no one has been hospitalized and the public health risk is considered low.Also Wednesday, Exxon Mobil submitted a revised cleanup plan after the EPA said a prior work plan from the company was incomplete.Livers said the document was being reviewed to ensure it complies with state cleanup standards. Those standards are more stringent than federal cleanup rules.The EPA has directed Exxon Mobil to clean up oil from the spill and remediate sections of fouled shoreline by Sept. 9. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. A 19-year-old accused of stabbing a Kalispell man during a home invasion earlier this month will undergo a mental health evaluation before his case proceeds in court. Dante Kirpal Kier, of Santa Barbara, Calif., appeared in Flathead County District Court for his arraignment on Dec. 29, but his counsel, public defender Brent Getty, asked District Judge Stewart Stadler for more time to administer a psychiatric evaluation before Kier enters a plea. Kier is charged with attempted deliberate homicide, aggravated burglary and assault with a weapon, all felonies, after a Dec. 12 home invasion in southeast Kalispell. During the Dec. 29 hearing, Kier appeared agitated as he waited for his turn in front of the judge, glaring at media cameras and bobbing in his seat as if to music. Stadler granted the request for an extension, scheduling Kier’s arraignment for Jan. 26. According to court documents, the break-in occurred while the homeowner, Brian Bay, was working on his dishwasher. Investigators say Bay went to the garage to get a tool and found Kier in his house when he returned inside. Bay’s wife and children were also home at the time, but were unharmed. Bay confronted Kier, who prosecutors say had a weapon in his hand. A fight ensued, during which Bay was stabbed in the mouth and arm with what court records identify as a wood-handled steak knife. Prosecutors also said Kier attempted to stab Bay in the chest, and that the blade was “bent severely” after the attack. During the confrontation, Bay’s wife called 911 at about 9:35 p.m. while Bay restrained Kier. Police arrived and arrested Kier. Bay was treated and released at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Investigators say that Kier admitted entering the home and attempted to murder the homeowner because “it felt good.” Kier also said, according to court records, that he was a member of the Insane Clown Posse gang and referred to himself as a Juggalo. Kier was in the Flathead visiting relatives. Kier has a conviction in Santa Barbara for entering a non-commercial dwelling in 2010. According to court documents, his father contacted the Kalispell Police Department and said his son has a history of mental health issues and drug abuse and he believes Kier should stay in jail for everyone’s safety. Kier remains in the Flathead County Detention Center on $500,000 bail.
The local Casting for Recovery program, which offers free fly fishing retreats in West Glacier for women diagnosed with breast cancer, is holding its second annual fundraiser this week in Whitefish.The event will feature 11 short fly fishing films along with a raffle on Friday, April 27 at the O’Shaughnessy Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and beer and wine will be available, as well as light appetizers. The films are part of the Fly Fishing Film Tour, which features a range of independent movies — from one man’s journey to the “dry fly capital of the world” in Craig, Montana to a group of friends’ adventure into Alaska to fish a legendary stretch of water. All proceeds from the night will benefit breast cancer survivors enrolled in the Casting for Recovery retreat scheduled for September. Last fall, 14 women from across western Montana who were battling or have battled cancer came together for the first-ever two-and-a-half day retreat in this part of the state. Casting for Recovery was established in 1996 as a national nonprofit supporting women recovering from breast cancer by using the sport of fly fishing as a facilitator for counseling and support.“Breast cancer is a private battle for each woman who has been diagnosed but this program is a small way to let them know they’re not alone and we’re cheering them on,” local program coordinator Heidi Sue Puryer said.There are currently 84 annual retreats across the country, including one in eastern Montana. Puryer said the community has been very supportive of the new program, from volunteers turning in countless hours for the retreat and fundraising efforts to local businesses doling out sponsorships and donating items for the raffle.“We live in a great community,” she said. “We’ve been blessed.”According to breastcancer.org, roughly one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million survivors in the country, according to the same data. Puryer said 19 women have already applied for the West Glacier retreat. Applications will be accepted through the middle of July and can be found on the program’s website, www.castingforrecovery.org.Missoula’s Peg Simon attended the first local retreat last fall exactly a year and two days after undergoing breast cancer surgery.“One of the values of this program is meeting people who have survived and have said ‘I don’t know if I can do this journey,’ but they find out they can and they share with others the way they have survived,” Simon, 68, said before casting her first fly into the Middle Fork Flathead River along with 13 of her surviving sisters. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Email
Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission voted against new boating rules on Echo Lake during its meeting earlier this month. The decision has left some residents, including Eugene Hutz, frustrated because he says waves are eroding the shoreline. Late last year, a group of residents submitted a petition to FWP to establish a no-wake zone on the lake when it floods. In 2011 and 2012, the lake flooded and blocked access to some homes along the lake. “I’m really disappointed,” Hutz said. “I’m for some sort of responsible regulation.” The commission reviewed an amendment asking that Causeway Bay be designated a no-wake zone year round; that a no-wake zone be implemented during high water on Echo, Abbott and Peterson lakes; and that wake-enhancing methods be banned on Echo Lake.In 2011, Montana FWP established a no-wake zone at the request of Flathead County because of health concerns over leaks from drain fields and septic tanks. In 2012 a no-wake zone was discussed by the Flathead County Commission and FWP, but ultimately denied because there was no health threat, which meant legally the agencies couldn’t restrict boats on the lake. The proposed rules were the subject of a packed public hearing in February, where most of the people who spoke during the two-hour hearing most were opposed to any new rules. Hutz and his wife Susan were among those who spoke in favor of restrictions. “A lot of the people who oppose the rules don’t live here year round,” he said. “They come here for a few months to boat and it seems to me that they don’t care about their neighbors.” But many of those who attended the February meeting said that erosion and high water is just something homeowners should expect if they live along a lake. One resident likened it to living next to a golf course.“I’ve never complained or asked anyone for anything (when repairing my property),” said Ed Baldi, who has lived along the lake since 2002.Proponents of the new rules said if shoreline erosion continued and the biology of the lake changed, property values would drop. But opponents countered that if boating was restricted, people would be less interested in living there and argued that there is not enough data to support the claim that boats are damaging the shore.Hutz said the spring melt has already begun and Echo Lake is on the rise once again.“If we’re going towards flood stage again and there are more boating problems this year, then it’s going to be a big issue,” he said.
Email Sitting around the table at Woolen Collectibles in Kalispell, four women did what artisans have traditionally done for centuries: knitted and chatted, making no big deal of the amazing creations spooling into being at their fingertips.But instead of the typical treasures made with yarn, such as sweaters or hats or scarves, the rhythmic click-clack of needles heralded something simple yet sincerely meaningful, in the way only a gift to a complete stranger can be.And because of the inherent intimacy of these gifts, they’re all the more special: each woman knitting at the table was creating a cotton breast prosthesis, to be sent to a breast cancer survivor who has undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast.Woolen Collectibles is now the site of Montana’s outlet for Knitted Knockers, a national organization of volunteer knitters making soft, comfortable, and beautiful prosthetics for free to anyone who requests them.Tammy Thompson, owner at the shop, said she decided to start the program here because her mother heard about it from a friend whose daughter recently passed away after a battle with breast cancer.“I noticed no one in Montana was doing it,” Thompson said, her hands keeping pace with her knitting while she made eye contact with a visitor.Each prosthetic is made from cotton or acrylic yarn with a polyfill batting, making them lightweight, breathable, and soft. Other prostheses are usually expensive, heavy, can get sweaty, and can be uncomfortable, and they can require special bras or camisoles.Knitted Knockers are about comfort, Thompson said, while also maintaining the shape and general feel of a breast. They can be made for cups sizes A through E, and the wearer has the latitude of customizing it for their life; the pieces are adjustable, and can facilitate more or less batting or added weight.As the sole Knitted Knockers group in the state so far, Thompson’s stable of volunteer knitters will send the cotton prostheses to anyone in Montana who requests them. Having just started up in March, they sent their first set out last week to a person in Ronan.“It’s all totally free,” she said.Woolen Collectibles hosts a weekly gathering for those interested in knitting for the program, meeting from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Last week, the participants included Karen Lauer, who said she heard of the opportunity through a ski buddy.“It just sounded like one, a worthy cause, and two, a fun group,” Lauer said. “And it’s kind of fun to tell people you’re making knockers.”Jo Ann Jensen said she’s been coming to the open knitting sessions for a while now, and had just decided to try out the knockers’ pattern.“I haven’t done the Knitted Knockers yet, this is new,” Jensen said. “I think it’s great.”Thompson said anyone interested in participating doesn’t necessarily have to come to the weekly sessions to knit. The patterns are available online and at Woolen Collectibles and can easily be done at home, she said.“It takes people, once they get going, about three hours,” Thompson said.Each woman at the knitting table said they know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, and that awareness is important, but so is action. So being able to help through a hobby they already love is a win-win situation, they said.Regular knitters might also find another benefit to making these special pieces, Thompson said.“They’re kind of fun to knit, and you can use up your [yarn] stash,” she said, laughing.For more information on Knitted Knockers, visit www.knittedknockers.org. Woolen Collectibles is located at 183 First Ave. E in Kalispell; for more information, visit www.woolencollectibles.com or call 406-756-8746. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.