It's time once again to review the past year in the Rim country and anoint it with the condition, object or beast which best symbolizes the kind of year it was.
We do so in the tradition of the Chinese who designate each year according to a rotating schedule of 12 animals. The current Chinese year, for example, is the Year of the Ram, while 2004 will be the Year of the Monkey.
Why do the Chinese do this, you are probably asking yourself? One explanation can be found on a website called China the Beautiful (for more info go to www.chinapage.com/newyear.html):
"This system is extremely practical," the website says. "A child does not have to learn a new answer to the question, ‘How old are you?' Old people often lose track of their age, because they are rarely asked about their current age. Every one just has to remember that he or she was born in the ‘Year of the Monkey' or whatever."
To which we can only say, "What?"
While the Chinese year is named in advance, our custom here at "Around the Rim" is to wait until the year is over so the name we give it will better reflect the kind of year it really was. So here are the candidates for 2003:
YEAR OF THE SOGGIEST FEBRUARY
If we could just replay February for 12 months in a row, the drought would be history. More than seven inches of rain fell last February, compared to a 30-year average of 1.91 inches.
YEAR OF THE BEAVER
No year would be complete without a volunteer fire department brouhaha, and 2003 had several. None were more fun, however, than what took place out in Beaver Valley where, among many other things, the BV fire board held a public meeting in a room without chairs or heat.
YEAR WE SHOT HISTORY IN THE FOOT
Just when we seemed to have this history thing rolling, opposition arose to both the sawmill whistle and the construction of the Rim Country Heritage Park, site of Boardman's Mercantile Store. Fortunately both efforts were unsuccessful.
YEAR OF THE MOLD
Most of the district's schools have turned up moldy at one time or another. Most recently it was Rim Country Middle School, home of green egg salad and other suspicious life forms like seventh-graders.
YEAR OF SAFE YIELD
Talk about bad news. In 2003, the town reached safe yield -- the point at which we're taking as much water out of the ground as gets replenished. And you thought Mazatzal Casino was the only place in town to gamble.
YEAR OF THE BEASTLY HEAT
The summer was a barnburner all over the state and the Rim country was no exception. On July 19, for example, it hit 107 degrees in Payson and 111 at the Tonto Natural Bridge.
YEAR OF THE HOLE
2003 was also the year when holes made news. The big hole, of course, was the one our troops dragged Saddam out of, although it actually was a small hole, if you know what I mean. But a hole made news in the Rim country, too, when the now-defunct Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District announced the results of a study that pinpointed where to drill a hole to hit the mother lode.
YEAR OF THE SKELETON
It was the year the bones showed up in the crawlspace underneath Julia Randall Elementary School, conjuring all kinds of theories about skulduggery and foul play. When it turned out a 12-year-old Duane Kaufman hid them 40 years ago to impress the girls, local weather forecaster Anna Mae Deming, on whose property Kaufman found the bones, had a stern message for the Amon Builders superintendent: "I'm very proud of how Duane turned out," she said. "He's a hard worker. But you tell him to bring those bones back and bury them right here where he found them." Have you taken care of that yet, Duane?
YEAR OF BIG WATER CONSUMPTION
The town of Payson decided to publish a list of the top 10 residential and commercial water users for a given billing period. If there's one thing we learned from it, it's that conspicuous consumption isn't limited to those water gluttons down in the Valley. Hopefully what the abusers learned is that if your conscience doesn't guide you, maybe fear of exposure will. But probably not.
So what kind of year was the Year of the Ram in the Rim country? Heck if we know, but for what it's worth, of the nine nominees, six were connected in one way or another to water or the lack of it.
Happy Year of the Monkey, which, by the way, doesn't officially start until Jan. 22.