More Dogs on Main |

More Dogs on Main

Tom Clyde, Record columnist

The year 2011 is going out with a bit of a bang around here.

Despite popular local opinion that Park City is the center of the universe, in reality it is quite unusual for a Utah news story to go national. When something from Utah does hit the national news, it’s generally not positive. Oh, sure, there was that whole cold-fusion discovery years ago, but it’s far more likely that a national story will originate in Hilldale than in Salt Lake. But this week, Utah went global, from London to Sydney. The world was buzzing about the mouse that got away.

Last week, police were called to a Taylorsville house at 2:00 a.m. in response to reports of gunshots fired. (Taylorsville is one of those cities in Salt Lake County that nobody knows exists. It’s sort of in the west central part of the valley between the Bangerter Highway and I-15. It’s the kind of suburb that is anywhere and nowhere at the same time.)

The investigating officers determined that a man living in the house had observed a mouse on the kitchen counter. He did the only reasonable thing and pulled out his 9mm handgun and fired away. The bullets went through the wall and hit one of his roommates in the chest while he was using the bathroom. The guy in the bathroom was seriously injured but is expected to recover.

Police searched the house to see if there were other people hurt by the shots. They went into the basement and discovered a 13-year-old girl hiding in the closet. Her 34-year-old "boyfriend" was arrested and charged with the rape of a minor. The girl, who lived about 15 miles away, was taken home. Her parents were unaware that she had had a four-month relationship with the guy, but were more surprised to learn that they were parents of a 13-year-old girl.

The three other men living in the house where the shooting occurred were surprised to learn about the relationship with the underage girl because, you know, they all just lived in the same house. It’s not like they would know what was going on there or anything, despite all being up and around at 2:00 a.m. Further charges may be filed against them as the investigation moves forward.

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Police reported that the mouse escaped without injury. Alcohol may have been a factor.

We end 2011 much as it began, with unemployment hanging in there at about 9%, with lots of people working at reduced wages or withdrawing from the workforce altogether; we have a new banking crisis (at least it’s in Europe this time around); Congress is completely incapable of acting; and to top it all off, this year there isn’t enough snow. Obama can’t deliver on anything because Congress can only obstruct.

It’s just discouraging. Tom Friedman has a book out called "That Used to Be Us," looking at the surge in innovation and education happening in places like China and India, while here are home we are starving our school systems economically. Our colleges are cranking out more personal-fitness trainers than engineers. And we wonder why we are slipping behind in technology. Sadly, even with all those fitness trainers, we are also getting fatter. The Coast Guard just raised the estimated average passenger weight for ferry boats from 160 pounds to 185. That means fewer passengers allowed on each boat.

We used to be the country that landed on the moon, built computers in garages, invented duct tape and Silly Putty, and on and on. Americans created "Gilligan’s Island" and the breakfast burrito. Now we are country where drunks shoot roommates through the bathroom wall while illicit sex is going on down in the basement.

We start afresh in 2012, filled with hope. Maybe this will be the year that we get our mojo back and make a real commitment to the future. Maybe this will be the year we take a serious look at how and where we allocate our resources and focus on getting the next generation educated to the level necessary to compete with the best coming from China and India. As long as I personally don’t have to do long division, rigorous math education is a good thing. Maybe this will be the year when we find ways to do what we need done more effectively. Maybe 2012 will be a year of commitment to another great American century.

Or maybe 2012 will be the year Rick Santorum is elected president.

Somehow, I would feel a whole lot better about our future as a country if that guy in Taylorsville had at least hit the mouse. Is that too much to ask?

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.