As 2004 draws to a close, we have one final chore -- anointing the old year in Payson in the fashion of the Chinese.
In case you haven't checked the placemat in your favorite Chinese restaurant lately, 2004 was the Year of the Monkey. The other animals the Chinese name years after on a rotating basis are roosters, goats, horses, snakes, rats, oxen, tigers, rabbits, dogs, pigs and dragons.
But what happens if, say, it's the Year of the Snake and snakes end up having a bad year -- or even a mediocre year? So our variation on a theme is to wait until the year is pretty much history and then name it after an animal, event, circumstance or condition that had a pretty decent year.
Of course, we invite you to play along by voting for your favorite from the following 12 candidates to represent the year 2004:
Year of the Giant Caterpillar
It was actually a giant snow caterpillar made by the students of Frontier Elementary School following a February snowstorm, but it makes for a great headline, don't you think. And it's a story with a moral: teamwork can produce some big, if meaningless things.
Year of the Topless Ladies
Speaking of morals, 2004 was also the year a dusty cowboy bar became a "double-barreled" den of iniquity, at least according to the nearby Baptist church. Birds do it. Bees do it. And now the ladies of Pete's Place do it -- go topless that is. Owner Joe Soldevere explained the concept this way: "People come in here, they see a beautiful woman with a beautiful body slightly undressed, and everybody hoots and hollers."
Year of the Noisy Doors
Speaking of noise, the neighborly folks in several subdivisions near The Door Stop took exception to the noise of its sawdust collectors. Their organization, Citizens Against Noise and Other Industrial Travesties (CANIT) butted heads with owner Jim Hill until the Federales stepped in and buried the whole thing in bureaucracy.
Year of the Goat
Speaking of butting heads, the U.S. Forest Service introduced some 600 goats to the ultimate feast -- some 2,300 acres of prime brush and browse southwest of town. And the fact that there is actually a Year of the Goat in the Chinese calendar is nothing to sneeze at.
Year of the Pollen
Speaking of sneezing, Rimaroos suffered through a near-record allergy season with juniper pollen so thick it coated car windshields. One day in March, local ear, nose and throat specialist Peter Zonakis put it this way: "Today, in the entire United States, the highest pollen count is between Prescott and Payson." Those blow-ups of pollen in "National Geographic" make them look like ferocious, ugly beasts -- a worthy rival for the Year of the Dragon.
Year of the Purple Ball Field Fences
Speaking of ugly, maybe we're just overly sensitive, but we think purple fences are an insult to a civilized society. If it's a school spirit thing, I move we change the school's colors to match the high school mascot -- muted shades of tans and browns. Go Longhorns.
Year of the Homeless Humane Society
Speaking of helpless animals (the cows, not the students), your Payson Humane Society found itself in a tiff with the town over a site (or lack thereof) for a new shelter. When the council took up the subject of a tougher barking dog ordinance that could ultimately include the shelter, both sides came unglued.
Year of the Depot
Speaking of coming unglued, Wal-Mart must be casting a troubled glance up the Beeline at the sight of a Home Depot rising faster than the thermometer on a summer day in the Valley. Watch out for falling two-by-fours.
Year Not to Walk Your Dog in the Woods
Speaking of wood, it wasn't a good year to take Rover for a walk in the woods -- not unless you were looking for a one-way ticket to heaven. That the perpetrator might get off for self-defense seems a travesty to those who knew Grant Kuenzli.
Year of the "W" Fires
Speaking of defense, it seemed like we spent the better part of 2004 defending ourselves from the "W" fires -- the Webber to the north and the Willow to the south. Things got especially hairy when the Willow jumped the Beeline and started creeping back toward the Rim country.
Year of the Spider
Speaking of hairy, creepy things, the Sept. 1 Roundup front page featured a full-color picture of a giant tarantula striding across the Rim country. What's even more frightening, the story reported, is that some Rim country motorists intentionally run them down when they cross the road.
Year of the Masses
Speaking of motorists, it was a record Labor Day weekend as throngs of Flatlanders clogged highways 260 and 87 en route back to Hell. But it could have been worse -- they could have decided to stay.
You can vote as often as you want. Official ballots cost one dozen homemade cookies each and are available at the Roundup office.