Community Turns Out To Welcome Hashknife Riders

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What an exhilarating treat to see the towns of Pine and Strawberry come out in full force to welcome the Hashknife Pony Express riders.

Some members of the Pine Strawberry Elementary School band were there early to help liven the place up in anticipation of the riders’ arrival. The two cowboys entered the post office parking lot around 2:30 in the afternoon and were welcomed by a large and boisterous crowd of young and old alike. They posed for pictures and chatted with the folks while a couple of their contingent passed out colorful bandanas to all the children. I’m sure that the cheers and whoops could be heard throughout the entire town as they rode off toward Payson.

Congratulations to Terri Fleming who won the beautiful quilt donated by the Strawberry Patchers during the recent blood drive in Pine. Terry was one of the 62 donors who showed up to support this year’s drive. That’s a pretty big turnout for a small community!

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Principal Mike Clark held a community forum at the Pine Strawberry Elementary School for the purpose of informing the community of the impact to the school regarding proposed budget cuts. During his power point presentation he gave a comprehensive overview of the various measures the school might be forced to take in order to compensate for those cuts.

While the impact would be minimal for the remainder of this school year, there are many potential changes necessary for the anticipated $237,211 shortfall for the 2009-2010 school year.

The shortage will most likely have to be compensated for by a series of budget-reducing measures which could include a combination of potential layoffs of teachers and support staff (bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc.) in addition to eliminating purchases of items such as textbooks, computers, consumables, lab material, etc.

Obviously, extracurricular expenditures for sports programs, art, science and library funding will be affected to some degree as well. Since Pine Strawberry School is the largest employer in our two towns there will no doubt be a trickle-down effect in the entire community.

This is just one more example of the belt-tightening that is taking place within families and businesses all throughout our region and beyond. My daughter came home last night and recounted that a young boy she knows told her that the family’s mortgage payment is due in 17 days and his dad only has two jobs scheduled for the month of February.

It absolutely breaks my heart to think of the stress and fear that so many are experiencing. I have definitely seen a reduction in my husband’s tile and flooring business and many others in the private sector have been feeling the crunch for a while now.

It can be tough to stay positive when the news seems to get a little bit worse each and every day. While we may not have much of a hand in the managing of our national economy (whatever happened to a government of, for, and by the people?), we can certainly resolve to treat our neighbors and business associates with dignity, respect, honesty and fairness.

On a lighter note, congratulations to the spelling bee winners for the Pine Strawberry School. Fifth-grader Dakota Certain won first place and fourth-grader Josh O’Connor was the runner-up. Both students will travel to Globe on Feb. 6 to compete in the Gila County Spelling Bee. We know that you will represent our communities well. Good luck to you both!

Wednesday, Feb. 11, is an early release day at the school and the kids are invited to join Roberta “Punk” Madaras at the library starting at 1 p.m. to hear her read her book “Piney V’s Discoveries at the Bark Park.” Refreshments will be served and the kids can ask questions about the book and even purchase an autographed copy if they would like.         

Also coming up at the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in March are genealogy classes which will be taught by Judy Voran. The first class for beginners will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday March 11. The second class takes place the following Wednesday, March 18. The classes are $10 each and the fees will go to support the computer lab maintenance fund. If you have questions or would like to register for either class call the library at (928) 476-3678.

Last, I want to wish CERCA president, Melvin Palmer, a speedy recovery after taking a nasty fall recently while hanging the gutters for the new ramada. He broke one wrist and may have sprained the other, bruised some ribs, and suffered a slight concussion.

Melvin has been instrumental in keeping the ramada project moving forward and has spent numerous hours participating in the actual construction as well. In fact, I first met Melvin while he was at the ramada cutting steel beams by himself on a Saturday afternoon.

According to his wife Helen, Melvin’s biggest regret is “Those gutters would be done by now if only I hadn’t fallen off that darn ladder!” Somehow I suspect we’ll be seeing Melvin back at the ramada, casts and all, directing the finishing up of the project!

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