Snow And Rain Provided By Your Chamber Of Commerce

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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It rained. Then it snowed. Then it rained and snowed again, again, and yet again.

For five glorious days last month we were pummeled by precipitation in the Rim country and throughout Arizona, and most people were downright gleeful as they joyously slogged through mud, sleet, slush and all manner of weather-caused adversity.

It was so relentless that on more than one occasion, I looked over at the huge boat in my neighbor's yard to see if he was boarding animals in pairs yet.

Of course, the politicians were quick to take credit for the sudden turn of events, following a trend recently introduced by Gov. Janet Napolitano. When a rainstorm preceded one of her press conferences, she jokingly took credit for ending the drought.

She was soon one-upped by former Sen. Herb Guenther, the governor's pick to head the Department of Water Resources. On three occasions since leaving office in January he has come back to the Senate to testify, and on all three occasions, it has rained.

"I'm three for three,"Guenther said proudly.

On the local scene, the sign in front of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce at the corner of Beeline and Main Street read, "Snow and rain provided by your chamber of commerce."

As usual, Bob Ware, executive director of the chamber and one of the better interviews in town, was on top of his game when asked for an explanation.

"It's a subtle joke that when it's a perfect day and it's about 78-80 degrees and we have a 4 mph breeze and it's like being on the beach in Hawaii but it's in Payson, we call it chamber weather," he said without taking a breath. "I thought, hey, considering the drought and all, this is chamber weather, too."

The timing also was perfect for town Community Development Director Bob Gould. The normally humorless Gould had to be sporting a smile as wide as the flood plain in the American Gulch when the skies opened up just in time to give him the photos he needed. Gould was about to pitch his latest version of the flood control plan that features a 200-foot-wide drainage channel and linear pedestrian park to the town council. The channel would run between Sawmill Crossing and Green Valley Park just south of Main Street, reclaiming about 26 acres of currently unusable land for development.

Gould had been looking for old flood photos for several weeks to show the council the devastating and extensive damage flooding in the area can cause. The storm, which dumped a total of 7.63 inches of precipitation before it was all over, gave him just what he needed -- large areas of the American Gulch under water.

And this, he triumphantly pointed out, was caused by a two-year storm. Imagine what a 100-year event would do.

And then there was the prayer dance workshop held Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Pine Community Center -- an attempt to employ "spiritual means to heal the mountain."

About 30 "concerned citizens," joined by spiritual teacher and author Brooke Medicine Eagle, spent the day "listening to the wisdom of many spiritual leaders and scientists and being instructed on Native American prayer dance technique," reported Kelly Crowley in a Payson Roundup living feature. "With drums beating, participants stood in a circle and then stepped in rhythm, focusing their thoughts on healing the earth."

The idea, Medicine Eagle told the assemblage, is simple.

"When we all can focus our energy on one thing, such as healing the earth, our prayers, energy and vibration will make something happen," she said.

Three days later, of course, something did happen -- the skies opened up, and even the most jaded among us had to wonder at the coincidence.

Of course one major storm is not nearly enough to end the drought. But for a few days, the heaviest storm to hit the Rim country in several years provided just the break a parched and waterless-weary community needed.

Inevitably, Ware got a phone call from a woman chastising him for giving the chamber credit for the weather.

"All the glory goes to God," she told him.

Ware shrugged it off.

"Life is too serious," he said. "If our sign puts smiles on a few faces, that's good."

It did, and so did the storm.

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