Tomorrow is a new day and a new year. That means we have that one last piece of old business to take care of before we bid farewell to the year 2000. That's right, in keeping with the Chinese tradition of not only assigning each year a number, but also an animal of the zodiac, it is time to choose the animal, structure, condition or icon that best represents the kind of year it was in the Rim country.
In case you're new to the area, or have no idea how the Chinese work this new year thing, let me briefly summarize:
The Chinese astrological calendar runs in 12-year cycles, with an animal assigned to each one. The year 2000, for example was the Year of the Dragon.
The animals that take turns representing the other 11 years are (and just try to say them real fast): rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. A motley crew, indeed.
But the reason they were picked, according to legend, is that when Buddha called all the animals of the kingdom together, these were the 12 who obeyed and showed up. My theory is that these were the 12 who had nothing better to do.
I mean, you don't see cats on the list. Cats have things to do, like squeezing all those naps into one short day. And besides they don't take orders from anything resembling a human being, even if his name is Buddha.
But this is leading us far afield.
Suffice it to say that the Year of the Dragon produced many wondrous candidates for a similar designation in the Rim country. Let's meet them:
Year of the Dud
The Y2K Dud, that is. All through 1999 we were warned to stockpile because when the year 2000 dawned, virtually everything we held sacred including TV, gas guzzling cars, and, of course, video poker would crash and burn. The folks at Back to Basics held free seminars all around the Rim country to prepare us for a barren and joyless 2000. But somebody upstairs forgot to throw the switch, because nothing, but nothing, happened.
Year of the Ice Age
We survived Y2K, but it did get mighty cold early in the year 2000. On Jan. 3 it dipped to five degrees in Payson and all the way to zero in Star Valley. Maybe, just maybe, those who stockpiled powdered and pulverized foods hadn't been so superstitious after all. But just as the rest of us began to think it prudent to stop laughing at those whose pantries overflowed with condensed and dehydrated delights, the sun again spread its warm rays across the Rim country. On we laughed.
Year of the Dark
Then came the big blackout in early March, and those of us who hadn't prepared for Armageddon once again wondered if we had made a mistake. Actually, it was a big, heavy snow that knocked out the power for varying lengths of time around the Rim county over 30 hours where I live. Those who had received shiney new generators for Christmas stoked them up with glee. The lights finally came back on, but would we ever again have faith in technology?
Year of the Multi-Event
What's a multi-event? You'll have to ask the city fathers what they had in mind when they named our brand-spanking-new rodeo grounds the Payson Multi-Event Center. Anyway, the place seems to work fairly well for rodeos and pow wows, and the Payson Horseman's Association won a long battle to keep it open for riders. I have just one question? Who forgot the bathrooms? Even in Payson, that row of port-a-potties is awfully tacky.
Year of the Developer
Mayor Vern Stifler got the boot at the ballot box, but he won't soon be forgotten after uttering words that are destined to live forever in the annals of Payson. Asked to put his spin on the election, he said, "Now the developers are in charge." But by the end of the year his words were sounding hollow because the town's high impact fees had those very same developers whispering conspiratorially about a mutiny.
Year of the Screens
The Rim country now has six movie screens at Sawmill Crossing where once there were none. We responded by packing all six to see some very mediocre movies. But then it was that kind of year for Hollywood. There were also some minor rumblings about cheap sound and expensive popcorn, but whose complaining? Apparently the folks who stage the tree lighting ceremony at the Swiss Village shops. The new theater was blamed for a 50 percent drop in attendance at that event.
Year of the Drought
The big snowstorm in March was only a temporary reprieve from drought conditions brought on by the third driest winter in Arizona since 1895. When predictions of a hotter, drier summer proved true, we found ourselves in the throes of a genuine, first class drought. But while Pine soared to Stage 5 water restrictions, the Town of Payson survived in fairly good condition. Nevertheless, reservoir levels at the lowest they have been in two decades served as an important reminder to conserve water all the time.
Year They Closed the Forest
What if somebody rolled up the forest and hauled it away? One day we were a forest community, the next day it was gone closed due to drought. If there was an upside, it was the breather we got from campers clogging our roadways. But when they re-opened the gates on June 29 following a couple of monsoon rains, it was almost good to have them back. Almost.
Year of the Elk
With the drought drying up creeks, streams and waterholes, more and more critters got bolder and bolder. Stories of elk, javelina and bears getting up close and personal abounded. But while there were grumblings of a garden devoured here and flowers trampeled there, we all tolerated one another fairly well. Who wouldn't trade a few tomatoes to see a majestic elk out your living room window?
Year of the Deluge
It was a mediocre monsoon, but just when things looked the bleakest October turned out to be a gully-washer of a month. My gauge measured seven inches, and then another two inches early in November. It got so wet, many people caught themselves saying, "I hope this is about over." How soon we forget.
Year of the Chad
Is it pregnant? How's it hanging? Questions you never thought you'd ask in polite society became absolutely proper as the year 2000 wound to a close. Two unimaginative pols waged an uninspiring campaign, but then a funny thing happened the presidential race became one for the history books. And for the first time since the Mother of All Wars, a new meaning made an old word fun again. You can bet that as you read this some mother somewhere is naming her newborn child Chad. And odds are the country in Africa by the same name is wondering if it's safe to come out of hiding yet.
But perhaps most frightening, right here in Gila County, which also uses the punch card system, almost 5 percent of the votes cast for president weren't counted. Hey, you don't suppose that's how Globe keeps control of the county even though we have more people?
Perhaps we should take a closer look at those piles all over Globe and Miami that they tell us are mine tailings.