Two weeks ago, I wrote a column that included a few comments that were made about Payson in an Arizona guide book, written in 1940 and revised in 1956. It got me thinking.
There are bound to be thousands upon thousands of tales of Old Payson known to people who lived here at the time -- tales that might soon be lost forever.
There could be stories out there that only you know, and no one else. Or stories your mom or dad told you. Or stories you heard from some old-timer.
Those stories, those precious memories, are as important to Payson -- no, even more important -- than the official history of the town.
It isn't roads and buildings that make a town. It's people. It was people who settled Payson and people who made it what it was and is, and the stories of those people should not be lost.
I'm quite a history buff, and I've been touched by some of the things I've read here and there that involved people, rather than dates, place names, wars and politics, and all the rest of the stuff found in history books.
Here's just one example. In a book by Jacques Cousteau, the famous skin diver and inventor of the aqualung, I read of a time when a cave diver in France entered a flooded cave passage and swam a long distance, emerging in a dark and silent chamber, which, from the geologic history of the cave, had been inaccessible for at least 10,000 years. There, by the light of his headlamp, he found a footprint in the mud, which looked as though it had been made just minutes before. That footprint was made by a human being, someone not unlike you and me, who had passed that way and left a trace of himself or herself behind.
That footprint was so vibrantly human that the diver felt he could almost sense the presence of its maker.
With a deep feeling of brotherhood and reverence, he left the chamber untouched and swam away.
It would be a great service to Payson for someone to collect the tales of Old Payson. In other words, to collect the human history of Payson before it is lost forever. If you know a story of Old Payson and want to share it with others, you can help to preserve some of Payson's heritage by writing to me c/o the Payson Roundup, P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and Autumn Phillips will forward them on to me.
Include names and dates, if you know them. Locations are important, too. As are descriptions, particularly of places that no longer exist.
I'll include as many stories as possible in future columns and give you full credit.