Winter, Spring And Other Rim Stories

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This winter reminds me of what the old-timers have consistently told me about winters here: It hasn’t been like it used to be. Yet to many, it’s obvious that this winter has been different. The totals from our earlier storm were on par with that of the 1967 snow and 1970 flood. The moisture, unlike many recent years, hasn’t stopped coming. In many ways, it’s an old-time winter. How was it back then? Here’s a clip from a conversation I had with longtime Mead Ranch local Royce O’Donnell a couple years ago.

“It’s amazing how the weather changed from the snows we used to get to what we get now. It’d snow nearly all winter long sometimes. I have pictures somewhere of me standing with snow up to here on my chest.”

This leads me to spring. This has long been a hot bed of gardening and farming, ranging from the magnificent fruit orchard that Charles Boquet had in Tonto Basin, to many great gardens and fields under the Rim. Spring is definitely on the horizon, with all its excitement and splendor.

It’s easy to forget just how wonderful the climate is here, but it’s never been a secret to outsiders as this clip from an 1899 report by the Governor of Arizona to the Secretary of the Interior shows.

“The climate of Gila County presents features of the widest diversity. In winter one may drift from the snow-clad forests of Pine and Payson to the rare salubrity of Globe and the Salt River Valley; in summer he may be seen wending his way back to the perfumed groves in the shadow of nature’s stupendous wall, ‘the rim’ of the Mogollons. Even from Globe, where in summer the climate is sometimes on the ardent order during the heat of the day, a 10-mile drive to the Pinal Mountains will bring one to a cool and delightful atmosphere.”

This country is magnificent, and so are the people. An old story from the October 1903 Law Notes, published in Long Island, N.Y., caught my eye. I think it shows the compassion that the old-time cowboys often had for each other.

“A Justice’s Trial In Arizona —A few years ago there officiated in a precinct near Tonto Basin, in Arizona, writes a correspondent of that State, a justice of the peace. At the same time there resided in his precinct a very impoverished man with his wife and 10 minor children dependent upon him for support.

This part of the country was then entirely occupied by stockraisers and cowboys, but little mercy was ever shown to the unfortunate man caught stealing cattle.

This family man was accused by his neighbors of stealing and killing a calf belonging to his nearest neighbor, who had his ranch about 15 miles distant. He was arrested for it and brought before the aforesaid justice for trial. At the trial the proof of guilt was strong, showing, among other circumstances, that the feet and hide of the calf had been discovered hidden beneath the floor of his cabin; and the prisoner offered no defense.

The justice then rendered his judgment, and found the prisoner “guilty of murder in the first degree;” and thereupon sentenced him to be hanged forthwith.

The cowboys were there, and about to execute the sentence, when it occurred to them that this was rather severe punishment for a mere calf, and that possibly the prisoner’s family might suffer for a livelihood after his death; they therefore concluded it better to try and induce the justice to make the sentence a little lighter.

The justice listened to them, and ordered the case continued for one week. At the appointed time he again called court, and announced that he had given the case most careful consideration, and that he still found the prisoner guilty of murder in the first degree; but, as he was a poor man, with a large family, and needed the meat of the calf for food, he would acquit him on the ground of self-defense.”

Thanks to John Kevin for emailing me a weather story. It’s always good to hear people’s stories and if you have one or some pictures to pass along, I’d love to hear from you at timothy @zanegrey.net.

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