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Solving the mystery from above at Durango Dog Park

Crop circles are rectangles now? There is a good reason for this geometrical design at the Durango Dog Park. (Courtesy of Bill Koons)

Dear Action Line: From the top of Smelter Mountain, we can see a mysterious outline of a rectangle in the dog park. The grass or weeds don’t seem to grow there. Could it be where the uranium mill site was? Could it still be radioactive? Yikes! Maybe it’s the start of the new pickleball courts the city has promised? – Bill Koons

Dear Bill: That would be spooky if the uranium mill site had something to do with this. As many of you know, this was the site of a vanadium and uranium mill from 1942 to 1963. After the uranium processing closed in 1963, a big pile of radioactive ore was moved in the 1980s from what’s now the dog park and safely buried (we thought – but that’s another story) forever on the other side of Smelter Mountain.

Nope, this is just a normal alien crop circle, or crop rectangle in this case. Why this would appear not in a farmer’s field as per usual, but in a dog park, is the only spooky thing. It’s likely that a rogue pack of dogs in a UFO had something to do with it. Action Line’s online search of sites with knowledge of legitimate hoaxes turned up nothing.

Another group is taking credit for this rectangle, but this explanation seems pretty far-fetched, so you can make up your own mind whether to believe their story or not.

They say the rectangle delineates a landing zone for paragliders who regularly, and legally, launch off Smelter Mountain. Jeremiah St. Ours, one of the paragliders you may have seen catching the early-morning currents, said he laid out the coordinates for the site several years ago with permission from Durango Parks and Recreation, which oversees the dog park.

Paraglider Jeremiah St. Ours heads off Smelter Mountain toward the dog park landing zone, which is not quite visible down to the left. The photo was taken May 9 by Randy Hughes, a paraglider and Flight For Life pilot. (Courtesy of Randy Hughes)

“Once a year, usually in June, our local pilots gather for what we call LZ Day (pronounced LAZY Day),” St. Ours said. “This year, on June 24, eight of us showed up with our personal weed-whackers and rakes to mow it down and clean things up.”

He said having the obvious landing zone makes it safer as this improves ground visibility and reduces the chance of tripping during landing.

“It also serves to let dog walkers know ‘this is where we land, folks, so please control your animals around our fragile equipment – thank you!’ Finally, it slows natural plant succession, so our open area doesn’t become overgrown with rabbitbrush and elms.”

With difficulty, St. Ours said, the group resisted the urge to mow maze-like crop circles instead of the rectangle.

Action Line will emphasize that this is all above board. The paragliders have permission to do their thing from Parks and Wildlife and the city. If you encounter them, please be friendly and try to keep your dog away from their gear.

Who has grammar issues for whom?

Last week’s Action Line headline caused some distress for at least one reader, and at least one author, and probably an editor or two. The headline was “Someone rip you off? Whom you gonna call?”

Wrote reader, fellow writer and professor emeritus Jim Cross: “Correct me if I’m wrong but the use of ‘whom’ in the title is a grammatical error. My understanding is that ‘whom’ should be used when it is the object of a preposition. Otherwise ‘who’ should be the choice.”

He added this deep wisdom: “As Ghostbusters has taught us: ‘Who you gonna call,’ not ‘Whom you gonna call.’ What other credible literary reference would you need?”

Jim, a very smart man but not an English professor, made the key point there, that “whom” should be used when it’s the object.

Bo Diddley weren’t no good grammarian, and his “Who Do You Love” should actually be “Whom Do You Love.” One tip is to turn this around. “You” is the subject here, and “who” is the direct object. If you can substitute “him” to make it sound correct, then it should be “whom.” If substituting “He” sounds correct, then it should be “Who.” So in this example, “You love him,” not “You love he,” is correct. (Yes, you could use “her” rather than “him,” but that alliteration with the “m’s” makes it easier.)

Are Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd better grammarians than Bo? Action Line does not believe so, but is open to being corrected.

Many who/whom situations are simpler than the “whom you gonna call?” example. Action Line stewed and hemmed and second-guessed and stalled, but eventually settled on “whom” for the suggested headline, and no editor changed it. “Whom” seems to be the object here. “You are gonna call him,” sounds right, not “You are gonna to call he.”

One tip: If you’re at all confused, just use “who.” It might be right, and it won’t offend anyone. Using “whom” makes you seem highbrow and elitist, and if it’s wrong, then you’ve lost respect from EVERYONE. If you’re really confused and incensed, start a campaign to just get rid of “whom” for now and always. Fine with Action Line.

A final word from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary:

“Our ears are our guides, and there are many constructions (like ‘Whom did you speak to?’ vs. ‘Who did you speak to?’) in which whom may be technically correct but still feel fussy or unnatural. In these cases, it is perfectly standard to use who.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Extra credit: Is The Who’s song “Who Are You” grammatically correct? And, to totally blow your mind, should the band name actually be “The Whom”?

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