2002: A Most Abnormal Year

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Welcome to 2003, the year of the sheep.

But before we kiss 2002 -- the year of the horse -- goodbye, we have that one last piece of unfinished business to tend to. That's right, in the grand Chinese tradition, it is time to nominate the animals, structures, conditions and icons that best typify the kind of year 2002 was in the Rim country.

Here are my nominees:

Year of No Winter

Winter was a no-show in 2002. No rain. No snow. No errors. While that made for pleasant driving conditions, it pushed the Rim country even deeper into what some people are saying might be a 30-year-or-longer drought.

Year of No Forest

It was "the driest year and most explosive fire season in Arizona history" according to the U. S. Forest Service, and for a couple of long months, they just locked the doors and shut the place down. Which, of course, wasn't real good for business.

Year of No Summer

First no winter, then no summer. As in, how can you have a summer if nobody comes? With the forest closed and the fires raging, a lot of tourists just decided to take the party elsewhere.

Year of the Mayor

While the Rim country was bone dry, local barkeeps were pouring like there was no tomorrow. And by the time the year ended, Mayor Ken Murphy promised there would be no tomorrow. After a contentious election, a contentious run-off, and a contentious first-few-months in office, the mayor pledged to resign if all the contentiousness didn't stop.

Year of Really Old Stuff

The Museum of Rim Country Archaeology made its debut, featuring a culture that's older than history (but not, we are assured, older than dirt). And while nobody has yet come up with a catchy name ("Ancient Ones" doesn't hack it and "Deadheads" is already taken), we promise not to use the "B" word anymore. How about a Name the People contest, guys?

Year of Skyrocketing Water Consumption

You would think in this year of no winter, no summer, no rain and no snow, people would at least give water conservation a token try. If you did, you would think wrong. Despite Stage 2 water restrictions, consumption continued to climb -- to the point where the town is now giving away toilets and trying to put some teeth into a new conservation ordinance.

Year of Fire

First it was the Rodeo-Chediski, then the Pack Rat, and, finally the Five Mile. All we needed was the brimstone and this would have been you-know-where. Memo to John Carpino: have you considered the commercial possibilities of a country-western song called "Valinda, Don't Bring Your Bic to Town"?

Year the Bridge Fell Down

We are, of course, speaking figuratively. It all started with some state legislator saying, "Hey, here's a bright idea to save money. We can just close a bunch of state parks, even though tourism is Arizona's No. 1 source of revenue. That'll save some money, by golly." And they wonder why we refuse to vote them a raise.
Year of the Rimaroos

Rimaroos, of course, are us -- the people of the Rim country, and all we did this year was respond to crisis after crisis -- from the drought to the fires to the evacuation shelter to the threatened closure of the bridge -- in magnificent and magnanimous fashion. For all our small-town flaws and foibles, it made one feel pretty good to live up here among people so civic-minded and kind-hearted.

Year of No College

What if they took the sign down and sent the old college packing? If the college had cheerleaders, it might have gone something like this:

"Eastern, Eastern he's our man,

"If he can't do it, Pima can.

"Pima, Pima he's our man,

"If he can't do it, we need a new plan."

Year of Main Street

Is it finally starting to happen on Main Street? It sure seemed like it in 2002. New facades, and even new buildings. Boomtown was a disappointment, but the crowds that swarmed to Main Street for the Electric Light Parade conjured images of the way it might be one day.

Year of the Bark Beetle

If we needed conclusive proof that size doesn't matter, this little guy -- affectionately known as the ips beetle -- is it. Barely the size of a match head, the ips beetle is threatening to do what the mighty Rodeo-Chediski Fire could not -- destroy the pine forests of the Rim country.

But like most of our problems, the answer to the bark beetle is an end to the drought. Happy 2003 -- and pray for rain.

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