A Side Trip To The South

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Gila County Recorder Linda Haught-Ortega was right after all when she said that the rift between the northern and southern ends of Gila County could be healed if we only made an attempt to understand one another.

Taking her up on the notion, my consort and I recently spent a weekend in Globe-Miami just for the fun of it. It was an idea that grew out of an overnight stop in Gallup, N.M. last summer -- a town with a sullied reputation if there ever was one.

But while there, somebody recommended a restaurant where we had a wonderful meal and found the people about as nice as people come. We were hoping to find a similar experience in Globe-Miami.

Unfriendship

The animosity between the two ends of the county seems to be based on the fact that the balance of power has shifted from their end to our end due to a combination of the demise of copper mining and the growth of Payson as an upscale retirement community. We are resentful of the fact that the supervisor districts appear to be gerrymandered to keep the balance of power in the south, and because our property taxes cover a disproportionate amount of the cost of running the county.

People who live in the north also look askance at the equity of the services provided to the north compared to the south in such areas as street maintenance. And then there is just the bad taste that's left from having to drive all that way for jury duty.

Haunted hotel

While down south, we stayed at the Noftsger Hill Inn, a bed and breakfast fashioned from an old two-story elementary school with 15-foot high ceilings. Each of the 10 classrooms is now a spacious guest room, complete with a private bath converted from the cloak room.

Innkeeper Rosalie Ayala, who, along with husband Dom, own the place, was everything you could expect, the price was right ($90), and the ambience unbeatable.

Best of all the place is haunted. While the claim of neighborhood kids that a mean teacher is buried in the basement seems pretty unsubstantial, several ghostbuster type folks have stayed there and documented some strange goings-on.

But mostly it just feels haunted (my consort said she wouldn't care to spend a night alone there), and the fact that 70 years worth of children, including former Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford and our own Jeanne Langham, went to school there lends credence to the possibility that some restless spirits are still roaming the corridors and cloakrooms looking for a stale graham cracker or corn dog.

(E-mail info@noftsgerhillinn.com or call 1-877-780-2479 for reservations or more information.)

We had heard that both Globe and Miami were hard at work revitalizing their downtowns, so we decided to spend a day Christmas shopping and treasure hunting in each.

Miami

Downtown Miami, it seems to me, has the most potential of the two, but also the farthest to go. Abandoned houses and buildings abound.

But look down the row of bridges spanning the dry river bed running through downtown and consider the possibilities.

They even have a grand old abandoned YMCA building up for sale.

Why aren't the developers who are swarming all over Payson and Star Valley down there looking at renovating a town without water issues that is directly in the path of the Valley's growth?

One of the more interesting shops on Miami's Sullivan Street antique row is Oldies But Goodies Antiques, owned and operated by Rickey and Esther Sifuentes. Rickey, who spent many, many years in the mines, is a fount of information and welcomed his Payson customers as if we were locals.

Globe

While Globe doesn't seem as economically depressed as Miami, it is not, by any stretch, a boomtown. There is evidence that some progressive people are setting up shop (visit Toni Tallerino's Seasons Gifts & Antiques on Broad Street, for example), but a couple of local artists we talked to said the town's leaders were not very visionary when it came to the future of the downtown area.

Like Miami, however, Globe has the old downtown buildings that Payson is lacking. And also unlike Payson, Globe seems to have at least the rudiments of a cultural scene -- despite the fact that it only has a population of 7,500.

The old county courthouse building on Broad Street is now occupied by artists, and the building also houses a theater and an active theater company. And like the Noftsger Hill Inn, it, too, is haunted.

Southern hospitality

But it was the people of Globe-Miami who left the greatest impact on me. Overwhelmingly working class, the people are warm, friendly, humble and open -- even to visitors from Payson.

In fact, they seemed to welcome the fact that somebody from the Rim Country had taken the time and trouble to find out what they were all about.

In all, it was a very pleasant and educational weekend, which I would heartily recommend to Rimaroos seeking a quick getaway someplace other than the Valley. I came away from it happy that we share Gila County with such people, and that we are there to help them during a down cycle in their history.

And if the water holds up and the boom continues in Arizona, don't be surprised to see Globe and Miami rediscovered and revitalized one day in the not too distant future.

Even when they're down, Globe and Miami have a lot going for them -- not the least of which is a "gran abundancia" of good Mexican restaurants. In fact, ask the locals for the best Mexican food in town and you'll get about six different answers.

Try them all.

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