The Year That Was In The Rim Country

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As 2005 draws to a close, we have one final chore -- anointing the old year in Payson in the fashion of the Chinese New Year.

In case you haven't checked the placemat in your favorite Chinese restaurant lately, 2005 was the Year of the Rooster. The other animals the Chinese name years after on a rotating basis are monkeys, goats, horses, snakes, rats, oxen, tigers, rabbits, dogs, pigs and dragons.

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The black bear who lost his life was a beautiful specimen, but Arizona Game and Fish policy left local officials no alternative but to kill it.

The reason these particular critters were picked, according to legend, is that when Buddha called all the animals of the kingdom together, these were the 12 who obeyed and showed up. My theory is that these were the 12 who had nothing better to do.

I mean, you don't see cats on the list. Cats have things to do, like squeezing all those naps into one short day, or trashing the family Christmas tree, or scaring some Rimaroo into thinking they're killer feral cats. And besides, cats don't take orders from anything resembling a human being, even if his name is Buddha.

Next, you're probably asking yourself why the Chinese have this quaint New Year tradition?

One explanation can be found on a Web site called China the Beautiful (for more info go to www.chinapage.com/newyear. html):

"This system is extremely practical," the Web site 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, "Huh?"

Of course the Chinese name their years in advance. 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 Rim Country variation on a theme is to wait until the year is pretty much history and then name it after an animal, event, object, circumstance or condition that had a pretty decent year -- or at least a conspicuous one.

Of course, we invite you to play along by voting for your favorite from the following 14 candidates (a baker's dozen plus one for good measure) to represent the year 2005:

Year of the Silent Dogs

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The Clydesdales proved that elegance can come in big packages during their Rim Country appearance.

You've heard of silent lambs, but silent dogs? How is this possible? Leave it to your local town council to pass a tough new barking dog ordinance by which dog owners will be cited for noises "including but not limited to repeated howling, barking, whining or other utterances." Carol Stubbs, legal adviser for the Payson Humane Society, explained it this way:

"We take dogs (picked up by the town's dog catcher), including barking dogs they were going to cite, which they own for a period of 72 hours," she said. "So they want us to pay a fine to them because their own dogs are barking."

Year of the Earthquakes

Just when you thought you had chosen to live in a place where the only natural disaster that could befall you was a forest fire, darned if the Rim Country doesn't have a couple of earthquakes. Could they have anything to do with all the groundwater we're sucking up? Could this be the beginning of the end? Stay tuned.

Year of the Roundabout

Who would've guessed an innocent traffic control device could get people so worked up? Somehow the idea of having to yield when you're on the Beeline is just more than some people can handle. Combined with the fact that ADOT waited until the last possible moment to start building the darn thing, The Home Depot roundabout was about as popular as Buzz Walker in Star Valley.

Year of The Home Depot

Only in Payson is it big news that The Home Depot came to town in 2005. But for those of us who were getting tired of watching the goldfish die at Wal-Mart on Saturday nights, it has created a whole new social venue.

Year the College Died

When those Globe people set out to get even, they are not to be taken lightly. In a stunning power grab, they rose up and took back their college, handing it over to Eastern Arizona College faster than you can say "Whaddya mean, you want to see a budget?"

Year the Buses Died

The same town council that silenced the dogs also euthanized public transit. After a couple of studies said a bus system could work in Payson, the council decided it didn't believe the numbers and administered the needle.

Year of the Dead Bear

It wasn't a great year to be a male bear in Payson, but the 200-pounder that Game and Fish destroyed in September when it decided to climb a tree near Rumsey Park was so beautiful we just had to include him. RIP.

Year of the Bloated Raises

Despite the best efforts of Councilors Henley and Reese, town staff salaries were brought up to "market." The problem lies in how you define market, with the town's personnel people choosing to compare Payson to places like Flagstaff, Gilbert, Sierra Vista and Surprise. Now the town has a whole new fraternal organization known as the $100,000 Club. Rumor has it members wear top hats and smoke pricey cigars at their secret meetings. Meanwhile, in the real world, the rest of us pay a below-market price to live in paradise.

Year of the Complexes

No, our complexes were not psychiatric conditions. They were fires -- big fires. After we thought the Willow Fire had cleared our southwestern flank of fire danger, along came the Edge Complex and Cave Creek Complex, one on either side. Surely our southwestern flank is now safe and sound ...

Year of the (Bronze) Elk

What's a roundabout without an elk controversy, and we had us a beaut in 2005. First ADOT said you can put a bronze elk in the roundabout, then they said you can't, and now they seem to be saying you can. Let's get it done before they change their minds again.

Year of the Horse

The Budweiser Clydesdales came to town in 2005, and they were truly larger than life. Since this is a cowboy town and the Chinese do have a Year of the Horse, we thought it only fitting to include them.

Year of the Pipeline

Do we know how to feud, or what? No account of 2005 would be complete without mention of the great water war waged between the town of Payson and the new town of Diamond Star/Star Valley. For you newest of newcomers, the Payson council told a local developer it would accept water from Star Valley to meet the requirements for three new subdivisions. But the people of Diamond Star rose in unison and shouted, "Not from our back yards, you don't." As water is wont to do, it all went downhill from there.

Year of the Petitions

Seems as though you could hardly go grocery shopping in 2005 without being asked to sign a petition. Diamond Star residents petitioned the town, then the county; and Payson residents petitioned the council on behalf of Diamond Star residents.

Year a Town Was Born

A new star shines brightly in the Rim Country's firmament with the incorporation of the town of Diamond Star. The new entity gives every indication of fitting right in -- it's already been sued.

Coming next year: The Year of the Dog.

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