Visitors should know that the first rule of the Citizens Y2K Preparedness Group is: Do not show up at one of their weekly meetings with any preconceived notions.
No, there's not a single member who wears camouflaged clothing.
No, they don't eat their potluck lunches out of cans.
No, the parking lot isn't filled with pickup trucks. (There are only two.)
And no, they don't meet once a week at the Payson Christian Church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Monday to debate what time of day it will be, exactly, when the world ends Jan. 1, 2000.
"We're not alarmists," said Jeri Mertes, 56, the group's coordinator. "We're not trying to scare people. We just want to be prepared in case there is an emergency. We don't know for certain what's going to happen. But the Lord teaches us to reach out and help others, so we've got to be ready."
Although the group's official membership list numbers about 25, only half managed to break from work or home to attend Monday's midday gathering. If this town-hall-style meeting was typical, future members and guests can expect an agenda which includes:
• Original recipes such as Ruth Wallace's "Survival Chili," which contains ingredients that could survive a mild nuclear holocaust as easily as cockroaches or Cher.
• Book reviews, because "there are just so many out there and none of us can read them all," Mertes explained. The title of today's critiqued tome is "Prescription for Nutritional Healing," and it gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Dave Wallace.
• Product reviews. Mertes calls the food supplement Green Plus "the superfood of the century. It's alive. It'll keep for years. If you had to, you could go out and bury it in your back yard, because it's sealed in a plastic container."
• Television viewing tips. Dave Wallace reminds everyone to watch "The Y2K Movie" on Channel 12 this Sunday night.
• Witty banter. When Mertes comments that "you're going to start seeing empty shelves at the supermarket, so you'd better stock up now," member Vern Crout quips, "You've got to grab the stuff before the hoarders get to it."
• A guest speaker. They've already had the Payson police chief and the Payson fire chief. Today's speaker was supposed to be Survival Chili creator Ruth Wallace, who was going to talk about storing and canning butter. Unfortunately, Ruth couldn't come because of illness. At least one visitor hoped her ailment was unrelated to the Survival Chili.
• Lively discussion on Y2K's possible disastrous effects on food and petroleum supplies, banking, the stock market, electricity, airplanes, and almost anything else that's hooked up to a computer ... as well as discussion of the effects of the effects, like looting, shooting, rioting and "urban troops."
• Planning for how to deal with such calamities in Payson.
• A swell potluck lunch. Monday's menu included Grace Mootsey's mostaccioli, Elvera Baughman's corn muffins, Dick and Nell Reintjes' bean casserole, Doris Mailliard's cake, Barbara Cochelf's scalloped potatoes, Mertes' pecan pie, and the aforementioned Survival Chili.
Anyone who would like to join the group -- or simply drop by for good eating-- is welcome. But you'd better hurry, warns member Glen Galster.
"It's a short-term group. We only have 50 days left.
Ruth Wallace's Survival Chili
1 can red beans; may be pinto, Louisiana reds or kidney
1 can black beans
1 can navy beans
1 teaspoon dehydrated green pepper
1 tsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 can diced tomatoes (Bashas' has diced chili tomatoes with onions, HYTOP brand)
1 pint water
1/2 cup Taco TVP (textured vegetable protein) in place of meat
If you do not have gas or electricity, cook on small "camp stove" until thoroughly heated. This is real tasty if you cut flour tortillas into strips and fry in oil, using in place of Taco Chips or Fritos.
If you do not have a cold refrigerator, store in tightly covered container out of doors to reheat another day. Can also be cooked in a solar oven. Good served with a corn muffin in the bottom of the dish with chili spooned over it. You can also make your muffins in the solar oven.