Where Did All The Buttheads Go?

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While Payson historian and "Back When" columnist Stan Brown has dibs on most things historical in these parts, this is one story he's never told because it happened pre-"Back When" in an era I have given the working title "Way Back When."

But before I blow you away with what I have uncovered, a brief history lesson is in order.

The earliest inhabitants of Arizona were several prehistoric peoples. They included the Sinagua, Anasazi, Mogollon, Salado, and, of course, our very own Bunheads given this title for a softball-sized protrusion on the back of their skulls called an occipital bun.

The reason we live in the Tonto National Forest instead of the Bunhead National Forest is that sometime between about 1300 and 1450 (A.D.? B.C.?), the Bunheads and all the other prehistoric cultures mysteriously disappeared only to be replaced by the Native American tribes we have come to know, including our very own Tonto Apaches.

The big question, of course, is why the earlier cultures disappeared. Local archaeologist Penny Minturn says the leading speculation is "a number of years of drought and bad weather."

My story is built on another theory, a theory that not only accounts for the disappearance of the prehistoric cultures of Arizona, but also neatly wraps up all the mystery by tracing their ancestry to modern times.

According to my sources, there was another prehistoric group whose existence has heretofore been buried under the shifting sands of time. For the purposes of a working title, I'll name these people after a once popular TV character.

These "Buttheads" once occupied that portion of Arizona now called the Valley of the Sun and, like all other cultures, had their very own creation story that explained how they came to be. Featuring the usual Indian creation story cast of characters, a coyote, a raven and a bunny rabbit, here is The Story of Creation according to the Buttheads:

"Once upon a time, Big Brother Coyote, the almighty and all-powerful, created a new race of people known as the Buttheads. Because Big Brother Coyote favored these people above all others, he asked Little Brother Raven, the No. 2 guy, to grant all the water in Arizona to the Buttheads or at least all the water in a 13,000-square-mile watershed that would one day come to include Payson, Prescott, Flagstaff, Show Low and vast areas around and in between these communities, including the entire Tonto National Forest.

"When Littlest Brother Bunny Rabbit, the third member of the Butthead's holy trinity, questioned the fairness of giving all the water to one people, Big Brother Coyote did away with Littlest Brother Bunny Rabbit in the manner in which coyotes have dispensed with bunny rabbits since the beginning of time."

And so the great mystery of what happened to our Bunheads and the other prehistoric cultures becomes much less speculative. With the Buttheads controlling all the water, it was only a matter of time before these other cultures dried up and withered away.

But the Buttheads were a very public relations-conscious people. In fact, some say they invented the art of spin doctoring.

So in the process of hoarding all the water, the Buttheads decided they needed a new image. This way once history started being recorded, they would be portrayed in a more positive way for all of posterity.

So the Buttheads convened a great powwow of their lawyers and spin doctors and decided an image makeover was indeed in order starting with the name Buttheads.

How, the spin doctors reasoned, could a people known as the Buttheads be considered anything other than water thieves?

The lawyers proposed that the safest way to go might be an acronym that was technically accurate but wouldn't mean anything to anybody. Since the Buttheads were famous far and wide as an obnoxiously self-righteous people, the lawyers suggested they henceforth be called SRP.

The rest is history. The other peoples disappeared and the people known as SRP flourished.

Today, their self-righteous descendants still own all the water on the watershed. Today, their lawyers and spin doctors still self-righteously proclaim them entitled to all this water.

Tomorrow, other peoples will most surely mysteriously disappear, including the descendants of the Bunheads which, as a working title, we will call "Rimaroos."

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