An eventful 2007 in Rim Country's heritage community has come and gone and it's time to look forward to what will occur in 2008. While there is nothing as big as Payson's 125th Anniversary to commemorate during this new year, there are some memorable things to come. And better yet, there are also going to be some memorable books coming out this year.
The first big event, and one that will draw national and even international attention, is the 50th Anniversary of the Hashknife Pony Express ride from Holbrook through Payson to Phoenix. Now, in any given year, this is a memorable event. It helps to kick off the Parada del Sol in Scottsdale and their annual dance in Payson provides a night of cowboy fun. But this year, it's an even bigger event, fitting for its 50th Anniversary as this year's ride leads into Super Bowl XLII in Glendale. There are plenty of souvenirs available such as their commemorative poster and stationery which you can mail, and there'll be a night of fun yet again in Payson when they come through.
The next big anniversary, albeit of a different sort, involves a different form of transportation. This time 50 years ago the final work was being done to connect Phoenix to Payson via pavement. The fully paved Beeline Highway opened in July 1958, helping pave the way for growth that continues to this day. Before the paved highway, travel to and from the Phoenix area was quite a bit more difficult. I've heard stories from people stating that it took them nearly five hours to make the trek -- and that it was if they racing. The road was so rough that people had to carry not just one spare tire, but two, to make the trek. When rains came, old Jeeps were known to help pull people across flooded crossings. Even as the paved highway opened, some relics remained initially. There used to be mining in and around Mount Ord, the remnants of which were mostly removed when the highway expanded to four lanes in that area.
While it's not quite a memorable anniversary, mid-August should prove to be plenty eventful and attention filled for Rim Country. It will be the 49th year of Arizona State University football practicing at Camp Tontozona. This year should attract a great deal more attention than previous years for a few reasons: 1) The entire athletic program is up, particularly when it comes to major sports. Woman's basketball made the round of 8 last year, Men's basketball is a tournament contender this year, baseball and softball were in last year's College World Series, and last but not least, football will be coming off a 10-3 season under Coach Dennis Erickson. 2) At least one Elway is expected to be in the house. Jack Elway, the son of Hall of Fame Quarterback John Elway, verbally committed to Arizona State last fall. Here's guessing (and hoping), that a national sports outlet such as ESPN sends a lucky reporter to Rim Country to cover all the fun. On the heels of Tontozona, will be the 124th World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo in Payson. It'll be a fun August, that's for sure. I hope y'all can make it out to both events to see why they've been around so long.
It's also worth noting that very, very valuable and long overdue addition to the state heritage community will likely go into service in the latter part of 2008. The Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building is slated to open in 2008 in Phoenix. This will replace the very cramped quarters of the third floor of the Arizona State Capitol Building, where state archives currently resides. As a researcher who visits the archives every month or two, I will miss the walk through the old capitol building, but not miss the cramped quarters. The new facility is long overdue and will greatly help the preservation and presentation of Arizona's history. To top it off, the building is named for one of our own. Polly Rosenbaum proudly represented Gila County for more than 45 years in the Arizona state legislature. Given that Gila County is home to some of the finest history in the state, not to mention the home of the first male and female governors, it is fitting that the building will carry the name of one of our own.
Other noteworthy items of some historic note: Will Payson elect a mayor to two consecutive terms in a row for the first time since Vern Stiffler? Will a different sort of rail, light rail, open on schedule in 2008 in the Phoenix Metropolitan area? Will this be the year that Payson turns the corner on getting water from Blue Ridge Reservoir?
On the writing front, expect to see a lot of new history books from the local heritage community this year. But first, I want to highlight a book that I can't wait to see come out. A lot of people are familiar with Arizona Brewing Company and A-1 beer because of one thing: the painting "When Cowboys Dream" by Lon Megargee. But A-1 and Arizona Brewing Company absolutely has a place in Arizona's past. For a long time A-1 was the beer that cowboys drank in this country. Fitting then, that a book will come out about Arizona Brewing Company, and about breweries in Arizona in general. Ed Sipos of Scottsdale is nearly finished with a marvelous book about Arizona brewing history. I have met Ed personally, gotten a sneak preview of his book and I can tell you, it is awesome. This book will cover from the 1800s all the way to the current generation of microbreweries. Ed's also making every attempt to include as comprehensive as possible a list of breweries during Arizona's history. Look for more on this book in this column when it comes out.
On a more local front, I swear that this is the year that my book, "Zane Grey's Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead," comes out. I've been working on this for a couple years now, trying to juggle many things in the process. I am just putting the finishing touches on my index and final edits, and then it should be ready to print. This book tells the story of the Boles Homestead, of which Zane Grey owned 120 acres during the 1920s. It's amazing that a piece of land can tell a broader story, but this homestead does just that. It's gone from pre-homestead possession by a Pleasant Valley War participant (Jim Roberts), to the farming and cattle running days of Elam Boles, all the way to the weekend getaway era. My book covers it all, including a couple of fires that we've had in the area.
I would be neglectful if I didn't mention our town historians, and Arizona Culturekeepers, Jinx and Jayne Pyle. They've got two big books that they're working on, both of which I'm helping them research. The first one expected to be out, is Jinx's book about the Pleasant Valley War. While many books have been written about the war, none of them have been written by someone who had history passed down through his family about the war. It helps to give Jinx a unique perspective, and combined with some incredible research done by Jayne, it should create a unique book. The other big Git A Rope book will be on Payson. People have long asked for a book specifically about Payson and Jinx and Jayne will be delivering on that. I think it's going to be really intriguing how they put everything together. Jayne's a fantastic genealogist and has put her skills to great use in tracing Payson's families. There will be some significantly new information in these books, some of which is being pursued as I write.
All in all, I think that 2008 will be a great year and as always, I invite y'all to write in to me with any questions or comments that you may have. I love hearing folks' stories and it's just amazing what people can turn you on to at various times.