Under Duress, We Become A Stronger Community

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About the only good thing to occur when a forest fire threatens our homes, our town and our way of life, is camaraderie.

In Payson's recent history, the intimidation and bullying of a raging inferno has only made us stronger.

Under duress, we become family.

It's as if we are the well-coached and well-conditioned high school football team that finds itself trailing on the scoreboard with only minutes remaining in the game.

Somehow, some way, the players come together as they never have to scratch, claw and battle their way back into the game.

The players simply refuse to be denied.

Remember the Horton Creek Fire when a young Native American firefighter from New Mexico was struck by lightning and killed? We were stunned by his death, so our townspeople reached out to help his family. We didn't know him, but we knew he was in the Rim country helping us and that's all it took for an outpouring of support.

Stop by the Green Valley Park firefighters memorial and you'll see his name etched in bronze.

During the Dude Fire, our community rallied as never before to support the firefighters who were in harm's way.

Can anyone ever forget the homemade pies that were baked and taken to the weary firefighters at Houston Mesa base camp?

I was there when a load of pies was delivered and etched in my mind will always be the smiles on the firefighters' faces and the gratitude they expressed.

We tied red ribbons around trees, telephone poles, car antennas and about anything else to show our support for the firefighting effort.

Those were simple gestures, but they meant so much to those who were toe-to-toe against the big bad Dude.

When evacuees from the Rodeo-Chediski began flowing into Payson, we opened our homes and our schools to them.

The town of Payson's youth recreation program had to be shut down so the Rim Country Middle School gymnasium could be used as an evacuation center. Many Payson teens participating in the program, stayed on after the closure to befriend the youngsters who had been chased from their homes by the blaze.

Local residents donated blankets, clothing, soap, toothbrushes and money to the evacuation effort.

Days before the Red Cross arrived, our townspeople had the situation well in hand and the evacuees were being expertly cared for.

I recall a Red Cross worker saying, "We might not be needed here."

Some call the unique fortitude we have "Cowboy Up." Some call it "Holding the Rope." Others say it's "Get 'er done."

No matter the name, our townspeople have proven they have courage -- what Mark Twain defined as "the resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."

Whatever challenge the Willow Fire offers us, we will handle it.

History proves that.

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