Snake Oil Sales Edition

MEDIA MAGNATE ATTEMPTS TO PUT MORE 'WILD' IN WEST 04/10/99 Like many great dreamers before him, Ted Turner is turning his eyes west. The cable TV magnate who reshaped the way Americans watch the news is now trying to restore the way the country sees the American West by returning it to the glory it knew when the Sioux dominated the Great Plains. Turner, 60, has nine ranches in the American West that now total 1.4 million acres and has begun reverting some of the land to the way it was two centuries ago. "I'm bringing back the old West, saving key pieces of the world from development," says Turner, who has previously been tight-lipped about the plan. "I'm doing it because I enjoy it. It's that simple." Many Westerners are suspicious, however, seeing Turner as a "Hollywood" outsider who doesn't understand the West. Most ranchers would shoot the coyotes Turner keeps on his land. And they resent his removing the fencing that long been used to divide the range into cattle pens. "There's still a lot of skepticism by other ranchers," says David Vacker, general manager of Vermejo Park Ranch, Turner's largest single property. Turner decided put his restoration plans to a test on the 588,000-acre Vermejo in northeastern New Mexico, removing as much of man's influence from a landscape roughly three-quarters the size of Rhode Island as possible. If it works, he plans to expand the work to his other properties in New Mexico, Montana and Nebraska. But Turner's preservation interests apparently don't stop there. His 31-year-old son, Beau, recently scouted land for his father to consider buying in Alaska and Maine. "At some point we'll either run out of suitable land to buy or money," quips Turner. Turner, who lives in Atlanta, bought Vermejo three years ago, sight unseen, for $80 million on his son's recommendation. The family then hired Vacker to begin the restoration process. Rotting stumps of yellow-belly pine now litter the hills at Vermejo. At one time these trees, which can reach heights of 80 feet, dominated the ranch. Then the pines were logged by the tens of thousands. Smaller blackjack pines rose up in the rotten wake of the yellow-belly pines and now darken the hills. To clear the way for native trees and grass, tens of thousands of acres have been burned black. Turner is also trying to reintroduce wolves, black-footed ferrets, bison and other endangered native Western animals. To reintroduce wolves to Vermejo, Turner needs state permission and that won't be easy to get. "Wolves remain an emotional issue here," says Vacker. "They still represent something dark and dangerous." "There's nobody doing land conservation on the scale that Turner is," says John Sawhill, president and chief executive of the Nature Conservancy. "He's really leaving a legacy. His efforts will make a difference in the landscape for future generations." Since January, Vacker has burned 35,000 acres at Vermejo to clear the way for native species to again take hold. Gone, too, are animals Vacker considers unnatural and destructive, including 7,000 head of cattle that stripped much of the natural grass. Vacker sent the cattle packing when he began dismantling the ranch's 500 miles of barbed wire fencing. Turner, who owns the nation's largest commercial bison herd, is working to establish an alternative to beef. He has about 17,000 bison on his ranches, and expects the number to grow to 30,000 by the end of the year. With inch-thick hides and dense piles of fur coating 2,000-pound bodies, the bison can outrun a horse, outjump cattle and withstand the Plains' brutal winters, where wind chills can dip to 60 below. Bison meat, which is almost as lean as turkey, is a delicacy that has found its way onto tables everywhere from trendy New York restaurants to beer-and-burger joints in the West. It's appealing because it is grown without hormones and is leaner and lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. It also is two to three times more expensive. Parts of the animals are also sold for jewelry, artwork, shoes, handbags, often through Western mail catalogs. Currently, the big moneymaker at Vermejo is game hunting. Visitors, largely wealthy executives and celebrities, pay $10,000 to hunt on the ranch. Turner hopes to see his land eventually sustained by the bison sales and ecotourism _ attracting visitors who spend money to see lush natural beauty. But neither is close to meeting that goal. "We're 50 years away from making ecotourism pay," says Vacker. By then he figures so much natural habitat will be gone that people will pay a lot to see one of the few remaining vestiges of the Wild West. Turner agrees. "We're not going to turn my land into another Disneyland or Animal Kingdom," he says. "But it will be a place that people can come and see the West as it really was _ as it was meant to be."

APACHE WOMAN EXUDES FAITH AND OIL 04/10/99 An elderly Apache woman seated herself on the couch and put her face in her hands. She rocked back and forth and began moaning, softly at first but growing louder until the sound filled the room. When she arose, the true believer turned toward a bedroom where Etheleena Miller rested and then increased both the intensity and volume of her wailing. Miller, a 28-year-old Apache woman, is the center of a controversy that is drawing the attention of both believers and disbelievers, particularly on the San Carlos Reservation and the Fort Apache Reservation to the north. On March 9, the believers say, Etheleena was praying in her living room after completing a three-week period of fasting. As she prayed, the believers say, a beam of light shone down onto her home and an angel appeared to be standing on the roof. Since then, according to the believers, her home has become a depository for a sweet-smelling oil that drips from the walls, ceilings, windows, mirrors, furniture and, most importantly, from Etheleena Miller. "I just washed my hair this morning," she said after looking up from a well-used and oil-stained Bible, "and feel it now. And my hands, see all the oil on my hands." There was a substantial amount of oil on her hair, so much that it ran down the back of her neck. Her hands also appeared to be saturated with the substance, which smelled like a cross between an after-shave cologne and old-fashioned toilet water. A Tupperware container on the bedstead contained a small amount of the oil and there were traces of an oily substance on the walls. It could have been easily placed there by dipping fingers into the oil and flicking them at the walls, but believers say they simply appear without human involvement. "And look at her feet," said Katherine Stanley. "Those stockings were clean this morning but now they're soaked with oil." Stanley is the wife of San Carlos tribal leader Ray Stanley and, she said, she is unswerving in her belief that there's something spiritual associated with the oil and the young woman. "I believe this is from God," Stanley said. "I know it's from God." Stanley has been staying at the home since March 10 and appears to have taken command of the situation. She was initially reluctant to grant an interview with Miller because, she said, the only other news crew allowed on the scene presented what she considered an unfair report. But Stanley eventually altered her no-interview stance and conducted a tour through the small, one-story house normally occupied by Lincoln and Etheleena Miller but now filled with friends, neighbors and strangers. Stanley pointed to several splotches on the walls and said the oil flows from them whenever Etheleena Miller begins praying. Other women pointed to drops of oil clinging to an archway and dribbling down a mirror. The stains were large and visible, the drops were small and hard to discern, and the entire house was filled with the sweet aroma of the oil. Without being asked, Miller said this was not the first time she has been visited by a higher power. "But the people wouldn't listen to me," she said. "I was crying, asking God why this was happening to me. And when I tried to sleep, the Scriptures came in my dreams and the oil started flowing. The oil starts inside this house, from the walls. There are no oil cans in here. It comes from God." When news of the event spread through the reservation, hundreds of people began showing up at the Miller residence, a few miles east of Globe. Stanley said cars were lined up on both sides of the road late last week, and she estimated crowds in "the hundreds." Among them, she said, was an Oregon woman who had flown to Arizona with her ailing son to ask Miller to pray for him. "He was healed," Miller said matter-of-factly. Most visitors believed something spiritual was happening, but none would call it miraculous. "She's real," said Paul Anderson Jr. of Bylas, who placed his hand lightly on his chest and added, "It touches your heart." Stanley said the container of oil on Miller's bed refills itself even though there's a lid on it. "We have emptied it several times but more oil keeps coming," she said. People gathered around a minister as he dipped his fingers into a cup then placed droplets of oil on hands. Most recipients immediately rubbed it across their faces. "When he put the oil on my hands, they started shaking," said Nayda Celaya of McNary. There were some skeptics in the crowd but they were greatly outnumbered. One of them was Ora Henry of Cibecue. "I am a Christian, and I have a feeling that someone is testing us, to see how vulnerable we are," she said. "We can be led. Look at how easily they got you up here. I just don't feel comfortable about this. I think it could be a scam. If it isn't, may the Lord bless them. But if it is, may the Lord have mercy on them." Stanley became visibly upset at even a hint of impropriety. "We do not ask people for money," she insisted. "No one has to make a donation to pray. This is the Lord's work. We get no money." There was, however, a small bucket on the kitchen table with the word "donations" written across it. But it was empty. Most people _ Apaches, Anglos, believers, skeptics _ seemed to be avoiding direct criticism. Father Gino Piccoli, pastor of St. Charles Catholic Church in San Carlos, was a member of the visiting crowd. "I started getting phone calls from people asking if the pope was here because of the miracle," he said. "I knew she (Miller) is not scatterbrained so I went to see her. It was quiet, there were no emotional outbreaks, and we prayed together." The priest said he touched on the topic in a recent Sunday sermon while telling the story of Jesus healing a blind man. Then he told his parishioners that "if there's anything phony here, I hope God ends it soon. But if it helps bring people together, if it gets them praying together, it can be a good thing." The Millers attend the Church of Jesus Christ Native American Mission in San Carlos. The Rev. Daniel Picciuto, the pastor, said he had no comment other than to emphasize that the church is not involved and does not plan to become involved. "We are advising people to be very prayerful in this matter," he said. "We need to be sure that God is directing us; we need to pray that God will show us the right thing to do." Anable sees his biggest hurdle as "overcoming political posturing from local government." But Anable said the department has yet to lay out a clear plan..." [ <---- We knew for a fact! But it is great to hear him admit it ! We now know what to expect... more trouble... ]