In some places you can tell that summer is winding down when flocks of birds start migrating south.
Here in the Rim country, an early precursor is the long line of traffic leaving town on Labor Day as the Flatlanders, our good neighbors to the south, head to their homes in Asphalt Hell -- the place Native Americans have for centuries referred to as the Land of Brown Air.
They've bought their last bag of Rim country ice, left one final campfire smoldering, tossed a few remaining objets d'trash onto our highways, and defiled the last expanses of forest with their ATVs.
If you look closely into their departing SUVs, you can see expressions on their faces of hopeless despair as they contemplate another barren winter spent irrigating their winter lawns with water stolen from the Rim country.
While lush lawns and golf courses in the middle of a lifeless desert offer some consolation, they realize that their last fling in the great outdoors is over for the year, leaving only a football season starring the Arizona Cardinals.
Meanwhile, back in the Rim country, the collective sigh of relief is almost audible. Judging from the weekend traffic this summer, it was a very good year for the businesses who depend on tourists to keep their doors open the rest of the year, but we are sure glad it's over.
The summer seemed interminable for other reasons as well, not the least of which was the heat. It actually hit 107 degrees a couple of days, by far the hottest in the eight years I've been here.
It might not have been as hot as it gets in the Valley -- hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk or brew a jug of sun tea so hot it burns your tongue. But it sure was hot enough that people all over town could be seen wringing the sweat from their Payson Concrete & Materials caps.
They love to say it's a dry heat in the Valley. But here in the Rim country this summer it was more often than not a wet heat -- with enough humidity around to avoid the large scale forest closures that have plagued the area in recent years.
Too bad all that humidity wasn't accompanied by significant quantities of rainfall as a subpar monsoon season left us mired in a drought of indeterminate duration.
But those are only my impressions of the summer just ended. In my endless quest to give you the big picture, I asked a sampling of my fellow Roundup employees for their most vivid impressions of the summer past. Here, upon condition of anonymity, is what some of them said:
Roundup Employee 1: "I want to say bad Beeline traffic."
Roundup Employee 2: "The increasing concern for water because of a lack of rain. This could go on and on and on."
Roundup Employee 3: "All the Phoenix people, the out-of-towners, Flatlanders, whatever you want to call them. They should go home and never come back."
Roundup Employee 4: "Didn't it seem to be 20 degrees hotter than it normally was? I think bark beetles are chewing away the ozone layer."
(Aside: Don't you love people who answer a question with another question -- and then tack on a conspiracy theory for good measure.)
Roundup Employee 5: "The heat. It was hotter than blue blazes this summer."
I saved until last the following conversation that ensued between myself, a humble scribe and polltaker, and two roustabouts back in production who don't deserve anonymity.
Me: So what's your most vivid memory of the summer just past?
Dave: The Braves. What a pleasant surprise because we gave all of our pitching away.
Jay: The Braves.
Me: I didn't know you were a baseball fan, let alone a Braves fan.
Jay: The Braves. I think it'll be the Braves and the Yankees and it might be sweet revenge for the Braves.
Dave: And finding root beer barrels.
Jay: Yeah, the old-time candy showing up at Sugar Shack.
Me: You guys have been sitting together too long.
Jay: Maybe you better take your poll somewhere else.
Dave: Yeah. Hey, you want a root beer barrel?
(Fade to black as sound of cellophane being unwrapped from three root beer barrels is heard.)