Rodeo Shows We’Re Doing Fine After All

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Well, it’s bulls and blood

It’s dust and mud

It’s the roar of a Sunday crowd

It’s the white in his knuckles

The gold in the buckle

He’ll win the next go ’round

“Rodeo” by Garth Brooks

Man, they had cowboys flying every which way. And ain’t no doubt — the bulls won this round. But cowboys ain’t happy unless that bull’s darn near too tough to ride — and the mud not quite deep enough to drown in.

So even those tough young fellows without enough sense to let them bulls alone were winners too — even if they didn’t last the eight seconds.

And, of course, Payson won too — with the rebirth of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.

A plucky band of some 300 members of the Pro-Rodeo Committee pulled it off this weekend, despite all the gambler’s decks stacked against them — right down to Saturday’s downpour on the still lamentably uncovered arena.

Don’t matter. We’re talking cowboys here — and a town with a cowboy’s heart. Our favorite moment had to be when the three search and rescue volunteers waded out into the mud to get a hand from the crowd, after last week finding that missing 4-year-old boy Payson took to its heart.

That summed up the rodeo — and Payson — all in one gloriously happy, muddy moment.

So, congratulations — all you stubborn people who gave your hearts to a supposedly dying tradition — even when the sky opened up and the lightning cracked right overhead. For awhile there, it looked like the lawyers and the naysayers were gonna spoil everything — but now the rodeo’s back in the hands of people who love the whole idea of rodeo heart and soul and we’re glad of that.

See, it’s not so much the economic impact — although that counts in these hardscrabble times. Sure, rodeo brings a lot of business to town one weekend a year.

But that’s not why it matters. Rodeo matters because it connects us to our past — and who we want to be.

We want to be the kind of place where you get bucked off hard, land in the deep mud, then get yourself up and hobble off grinning.

We want to be like a rodeo clown who’ll make you laugh being foolish, then run right in between a fallen cowboy and a mad as hell 1,000-pound bull.

We want to be the kind of town where everybody will drop everything until they find that missing boy.

And judging by the rodeo and the search volunteers and the food drive — you’d have to say we’re doing fine.

Vital first step in forest

Rim Country got a desperately needed piece of good news recently, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture came up with $2 million to underwrite an innovative approach to protecting forest communities.

The money will help the U.S. Forest Service do the groundwork necessary to award a long-term contract to timber companies to thin an initial 50,000 acres of dangerously overgrown forest.

A host of Rim Country leaders deserve great credit for lobbying the federal government to turn the forests of Arizona into a model for how to reinvent the timber industry to offset the cost of the thinning needed to restore the forest to health. Foremost among those who have worked tirelessly to bring such a revolution about are Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, with the staunch support of local officials like Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, also successfully lobbied top Department of Agriculture officials to move the project forward.

Ultimately, backers hope they can convince private industry to invest millions in biofuel and small-diameter wood mills to provide useful products from trees that have grown so thick on millions of acre that they threaten the very existence of forest communities.

Of course, the $2 million grant is just a starting point. The unwieldy coalition that includes environmentalists, industry leaders, local officials and federal officials must continue to seek consensus — which for now centers on removing most of the trees smaller than 16 inches in diameter to restore a forest dominated by the big trees.

Still, we applaud the far-sighted spirit of cooperation and sharp-eyed political shrewdness that have brought the project so far already.

We human beings have made many mistakes in our often reckless and short-sighted efforts to turn a profit, no matter what the cost to the natural world. What we have begun to learn is that both the forest and the economy benefit by placing long-term sustainability over short-term profit.

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