Nine Decades Of Rim Country Memories

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Anna Mae Deming's roots run deep in the Rim Country. She has made her home here almost 91 years -- she will have her 91st birthday on May 2.

Her father, Andrew Ogilvie, was a native of Scotland. He was related to the Goodfellows who settled the Tonto Natural Bridge for another relative, David Gowan, who is credited as being the first white man to find the site. The Goodfellows sent for Ogilvie to help them at the bridge property, with the promise they'd share the ranch with him. He came to the Rim Country in the late 1880s and married Agnes Lezear, who was born and raised in Pine.

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Anna Mae Deming was named one of Arizona's Culture Keepers for her contributions over the years. She has been part of the Rim Country's culture for more than 90 years.

Andy and Agnes Ogilvie homesteaded a ranch in Star Valley. Their first child, a daughter, Margaret, was born eight years before Anna Mae arrived. The Ogilvies' second child was followed in short order by daughter Beryl and sons Andrew and William.

Margaret went away to high school and college, then married a man from Missouri and never came back to the Rim Country. "Except for the funerals when our parents died," she said.

The Star Valley place was a working ranch with all kinds of cattle, chickens, turkeys and geese. They had every kind of fruit tree and a huge vegetable garden, potatoes, acres of corn and several kinds of beans. Her mother would can more than 500 quarts of fruits, vegetables and meat. "All kinds of nutritious foods were prepared three times daily," she said. The family ranch also provided hay, grain, fruits and vegetables for Payson families.

As for Deming and the younger children, "We were the happiest four children that ever lived."

That happy childhood came to a screeching halt when Deming was just 12. All the children and their mother came down with scarlet fever, Agnes stayed up to take care of her children and became so ill she had to go to the Valley for care. That left the young Anna Mae in charge of the house, her sister and brothers.

Deming's mother was hospitalized for two years before she died.

"All that time I had to be mother of the three other children," Deming said. "It was not a burden. I took her place and went from there."

"We'd get up about 4:30 every morning and Daddy would cook breakfast for us," she said. "He was a good cook. Then we walked half-a-mile to the bus stop. It took well over an hour to get to Payson from Star Valley."

The vehicle they and the other Star Valley children traveled to school in wasn't really a bus, she said. It was a pickup truck that had a metal roof over the bed and benches to sit on, though most of the little children just sat in the truck bed. Deming herded her sister and brothers along every morning, helping them keep track of their books, lunch buckets, coats and sweaters.

"It didn't bother me a bit," Deming said. "It was my job and I did it."

Things changed some as she became a little older. The town's doctor, the first Dr. Risser, made calls to the ranches on horseback and he also made time to help at the veteran's hospital in southern Arizona. While at the hospital, he met a trio of Navy men who were recovering from various ailments and had made such good progress they were itching to get out of the hospital.

Deming said they asked Risser what made him so healthy and he told them about the Rim Country.

"That very day, they went to the people in charge and asked to be let out of the hospital." One of them was Jim Deming.

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This is the United States National Weather Office in 1948 where Anna Mae Deming recorded weather every day.

The Rim Country was a friendly place for servicemen in those days, even though it was off the beaten path and Jim Deming frequently was a guest in the Ogilvie home.

"I loved him as a friend, but not romantically," Deming said of the Navy fellow, who had grown up in Oregon.

Then Jim asked to take Anna Mae to a dance in Gisela. She said she didn't think she could leave the children to go to a dance, but her father liked Jim and said it would be all right -- if her sister Beryl went with them.

"From then on she went everywhere with me," Deming said, a trace of a teen's annoyance with a tag-along sibling in her voice.

The dance in Gisela was in July 1932; a year-and-a-half later Anna Mae Ogilvie became Anna Mae Deming.

The couple rented a home for about a year and then bought an unfinished house at 710 W. Main St. in Payson. A friend of the family, Al Vaughn had been building the place for his wife, he even brought three carpenters over from California to work on it. Then Mrs. Vaughn died unexpectedly and the widower had no more use for the house.

"He offered to just give it to me because I'd taken care of his children," Deming said. But that wasn't the way things were done, so she and her husband paid $1,500 for the house and the property, which runs from the north side of Main to the south side of Frontier.

It was a few years before she took on the task for which she is best known today, an observer for the National Weather Service.

"In 1947 the U.S. Navy wounded from World War II were being flown in very small planes from southern California to Veterans Memorial Hospital in Utah," she said. "They had to fly over the Rim, which was the most dangerous part of the trip because of the height. The government advertised for a weather observer and I applied."

She was hired and still reports her observations to the National Weather Service every day.

Although she had a husband and two children to care for and work for the weather service, Deming continued to care for her father and younger siblings.

"I'd go out to the ranch every weekend to do the laundry and clean the house," she said.

Deming also had time for civic activities; she participated in both the Junior Women's and Womans Clubs, she helped get the town library started and served as one of its librarians and she helped in the club's campaign to get a medical clinic.

Later Deming became a career woman, working at Valley National Bank for many years.

She has seen a lot of changes in her almost 91 years in the Rim Country.

"We have better cars now and nice stores," she said. One thing that hasn't changed -- the weather. "The climate we have is the best of any place in Arizona." And since she has been observing it for 50 years, she should know.

Deming is sad to see so much of old Payson disappearing. She said there weren't more than 20 homes in the town for the longest time, all of them along Main and Frontier streets. The area south of Main was a big, beautiful meadow, with tall grass and a creek. They and other residents would keep milk cows in it. "Now there are lights and things going on day and night."

She'd like to see Payson stay a small town, "with the good character it's always had."

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