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Andy Towle

Stories by Andy

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Photographer's farewell

Jerry Garcia sang it best: “What a long, strange, trip it’s been.” Amen.

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Payson globe-trotter tells tales of travels

Mavis Denofsky pestered me for months. It was my own fault. We grouches are like that.

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In the nick of time

Confession: Sometimes I need prodding. Don’t get me wrong — I love to shoot. It’s like breathing; can’t hold it in for too long. Still, sometimes I get stuck to my chair. But, then, when the editor suggests it might be a good idea to get to the lake and capture that mist before it’s gone, one moves.

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Enjoy latest landmark

You’ve probably noticed the brightly painted, Arizona-themed elk down on Main Street, just past McLane.

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Dutch oven delights

The Payson Senior Circle took a break from its usual Lunch and Learn format with a Dutch oven cooking demonstration and reward at Rumsey Park. John Swenson, Marie Lyles and James Feezor got together and prepared a meal in several Dutch ovens.

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Art in the Park

Local artist Heather O’Berg launched an Art in the Park program recently (June 3 to 7), at Green Valley Park.

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Murder Self-Defense?

I set out to get a quick shot of Rim Country Middle School Resource Officer Michael Hansen impressing students with his bullet-proof vest and air of authority — but these days you never know what you’ll find when you actually get inside a classroom.

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Kids’ calm courage can soften even a curmudgeon’s heart

I’m a certified curmudgeon, one of those grouchy people you cross the street to avoid. But somehow my editor keeps sending me off on articles that are supposed to melt my heart. Ha, good luck with that.

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Cupcake Cutups

Library squeezes cake decorating event into Art-rageous week

Katie Sanchez, children’s activities coordinator at the Payson Public Library, and Monica Vaughn, cake decorator par excellence, waited patiently, as children slowly trickled in to the all-purpose room at the south end of the building, Thursday, Feb. 21.

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Riding into an epic past

Photographer on the trail of the Hashknife Pony Express finds a buckskin time machine

Lots of people dream of the Old West, but have to settle for movies and daydreams.

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Hollywood buzz at the Beeline Cafe

BMW, The Picture Lab and Reel Men rode into town in a caravan of vehicles, equipment and people. They parked on the ‘set’ and spent most of the day filming inside the Beeline Cafe.

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Trunk or Treat doles out candy, chit-chat & thrills

This year’s Halloween scene at Main Street’s Trunk or Treat and the Oxbow Saloon’s haunted house featured parents with children, excited teenagers, and even grandparents in costume.

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All the buzz on Halloween

Halloween morning’s first phone call was from the Beeline Cafe on Highway 87 — better known as the Beeline Highway.

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Popping pumpkins

What’s Halloween without a few exploding pumpkins?

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Bee Line Halloween Surprise Breakfast

Never assume today will be another yesterday; you know, the same thing will happen today that took place yesterday.Never assume today will be another yesterday; you know, the same thing will happen today that took place yesterday.

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Horns win shoot-out with Cowboys

The Payson Longhorns and the Camp Verde Cowboys locked horns early and tortured each other all night long with their back and forth battle, trying to outscore the other and close the game.

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Musical magic from Abrams Brothers

Back in the day, after purchasing a homemade acoustic guitar from a local rock ’n’ roll talent, I raced home to begin practicing so I could turn into a famous person.

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Ladies of St. Paul help local organizations

St. Paul's Episcopal Church recently helped the Time Out Shelter of Payson and Payson Helping Payson, both of which are charitable organizations assisting those in need in the Payson area.

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First Responders Day celebrated in Payson

Pat Johnson is not one to stand still for long.

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Good things expected from girls soccer squad

One thing is obvious about the 2012 Payson High School girls soccer team — they respect their coach, Amy Wilcox.

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Snippet here, glue it there.

The Paper and Metal Scrappers Store, located in the Sawmill Crossing Shopping center, holds a group of different but dedicated scrappers hostage once a month on Saturday morning.

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Against the Light

Wait, wait, until the light finds you

Photo journalists must look always for that elusive image, light and luck caught in the frozen click of a shutter before it vanishes like a shadow on a cloudy day.

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Payson Care employees tanked for good cause

The dunk tank was part of Payson Care Center’s fund-raising events to raise money for the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 22 at Green Valley Park. When Christy VanderMolen, Payson Care Center Health Care Services Liaison, took department heads to task to raise funds, they eagerly jumped at the opportunity.

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Against the Light

Universal traveler

On July 17, thanks to John Stanton, the manager of Rim Country Chamber of Commerce, I was introduced me a young lady from Germany. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

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Photographer discovers jail is ‘my kind of place’

Fund-raiser for domestic violence shelters gives a prisoner’s-eye view of county’s new jail facilities

Everyone else was already on some assignment or other, so the burden of touring the Gila County Jail, fell to me. Whoo-hoo. Suck it up and do the job. We assembled in Payson, a motley assortment of reporters, photographers and people who actually paid to spend a night in jail with the money going to benefit the Time Out domestic violence shelter in Payson.

Spray paint artist has over-the-top creative energy

Backhoe operator turned artist makes any surface explode with color

Kratos, the popular video-game hero of “God of War,” and Kratos, the not-so-well-known Payson spray paint artist, share obvious similarities: bald heads, bearded chins, scars of battle, and colorful tattoos. Oh yeah — and a rollicking, over-the-top creative energy. A character in a game, however, cannot match Kratos Lira’s inner strength, a drive to create, and the skill to transform a bare surface into a spray-painted marvel of design.

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Spray paint artist has an over-the-top creative energy

Backhoe operator turned artist explodes with color on any surface

Kratos, the popular video-game hero of “God of War,” and Kratos, the not-so-well-known Payson spray paint artist, share obvious similarities: bald heads, bearded chins, scars of battle, and colorful tattoos. Oh yeah — and a rollicking, over-the-top creative energy. A character in a game, however, cannot match Kratos Lira’s inner strength, a drive to create, and the skill to transform a bare surface into a spray-painted marvel of design. Kratos’ current project is helping bring life to a wall with a mural and a salute to the many generations of veterans. You can see it on Highway 87, going south just past the Twin Pines shopping area. Lira, a construction worker, worked a backhoe with precision and skill for 20 some odd years. Originally from San Diego, Lira and his family gravitated to Arizona so his daughter could attend the University of Arizona. Eventually, they found their way to Payson and have recently purchased a home.

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A passion to teach

Some people find their passion early in life. Lucky people also find the outlet for their passion, whether writing prose, flying planes or working at a library, organizing, formatting and involving young people in reading programs. Katie Sanchez’s intense involvement with the programs sponsored by the Payson Public Library shines through when leading parents and children or teens in activities. A creative writing class for teens, the Reading Corner, a scrapbooking experience, all contain some element of Katie’s commitment.

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Women helping women survive breast cancer

Group meets second Thursday of each month

Walking into a breast cancer support group with my camera bag over the shoulder, I felt like a pair of combat boots among ballet slippers, little realizing I was about to get a lesson in living. Ilona Swenson had talked me into covering the session, hoping an article would help get the word out that this group of cancer survivors was eager to help women cope with a life-threatening trauma that affects about one in eight women — which works out to maybe 1,200 residents of Rim Country. I had braced myself for the story, expecting to emerge frightened and depressed.

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Life as art

Biologist and teacher turned artist discovers that with oils, as with life, sometimes you have to listen to the painting

Most people figure artists live in some alternate world — cutting an ear off to impress a girlfriend and living lives of outrageous strangeness. Perhaps we embrace that stereotype so we can ignore the artist that lurks in our own hearts. But then along comes a painter like Tina Crabdree. Suddenly, you have to rethink your assumptions about artists — and maybe even yourself. If you look at her dense, moody oil paintings now, you’d assume she has painted all her life. Instead, her path includes incarnations as a wildlife biologist, science teacher, alternative school founder, full-time mother — and even a stint in the insurance business. All of that proved perfect preparation, as it turns out, for life as an artist.

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Finding her voice

Singer’s passion reveals secret to music’s allure

For many, music has always set the rhythms of life — a touchstone of memory — the wedding, the breakup, the first rush into love. Early in my introduction to this drink of life in rhyme, I wanted to become a musician. So I found a guy who lived near us who had a homemade guitar for sale. I bought it with visions of becoming famous, writing fantastic songs and having girls fall all over me. Sure.

Music Man

Appraiser turned musician riffs on oft-delayed dream

Bob Smolenski understands about life and dreams — and patience. That’s because like many other Rim Country residents, he worked his whole life, pursued three different careers and always put practicalities over passion — until he discovered his art.

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Appraiser turned musician riffs on oft-delayed dream

Bob Smolenski completed three careers before finding his true calling in Rim Country

Bob Smolenski understands about life and dreams — and patience. That’s because like many other Rim Country residents, he worked his whole life, pursued three different careers and always put practicalities over passion — until he discovered his art. Now, the appraiser, broker and insurance salesman has returned to his first love — music.

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Local business builds dreams that go with the grain

Randy and Karen Wood build dreams — mostly those involving wood. Their motto sums it up nicely: “If you can dream it, we can build it.” On one recent afternoon, Randy was at his desk in a custom-built, travel trailer showroom in Payson, working on a drawing of kitchen cabinets for a new project and Karen was inviting people to tour their display. The trailer had a Murphy bed, a desk, new cabinets everywhere and a partially bare wall to show what the interior looked like before the conversion. Randy chatted about his work and how they came to convert this travel trailer into a showroom.

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Expressions in Porcelain

Being a photographer has hidden perks. Oh, not what you are thinking.

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A hat for every skill

Some people wear many different faces, or to phrase it in another way, they wear many different hats, according to the task at hand.

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Stepping into history

From the past to the present and into the future

I like adventurous assignments. Every assignment is an adventure, some, more than others. Going to a place you’ve always wanted to go but never had the time or opportunity for, is an especially wonderful activity when it becomes real. The Roosevelt Dam Centennial filled the bill.

Riding the mail into history

Sometimes one can imagine a parking lot in Payson as being the flat top area of a mesa. Some riders are grouped around a fire.

All aboard!

Fascination with trains took engineer on long ride

Bob Dylan wrote a song, titled; “It takes a lot to laugh, but it takes a train to cry.” I pondered that for some time, before I understood what he meant.

‘Reel’ Good Rods

Goughnour crafts custom fishing rods

When I was a kid, fishing seemed like the cool thing to do. Like other kids, I dreamed of catching “the big one.”

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It’s all in the blank

Jim Goughnour handcrafts fishing poles that obey the commands of the handler

When I was a kid, fishing seemed like the cool thing to do. Like other kids, I dreamed of catching “the big one.”

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Confessions of a curmudgeon

Back in the day, way back before cell phones, CDs and DVDs, my boys appeared in just about every school play and holiday pageant our small-town elementary school could muster.

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JRE fifth-graders surprised by German pen pals

The hardest part of doing anything is getting started. Writing stories is no exception. I say, just write.

Students sharing their talents, joy of life

As I entered the building, kids were moving chairs, running up and down aisles, singing, doing short dance routines and raising a small ruckus in a cacophony of sound.

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On the Job Training

Or how to be many and still be one

As I pull into the Talent Factory, the sweet sounds of jazz float from the multi-purpose studio. It’s the Starlighters — Mike Steelman on keyboard, Howard Brown on guitar, Colleen Brown’s lilting vocals and Roscoe Dabney III, pacing the flow of the music on drums.

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A Book Fair is a hit at Rim Country Middle School

Rim country Middle School recently had a literacy event in the school library that put books iin the hands of kids and raised funds for the schools.

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Basket cases

I originally met Bob Gleason at a First Friday, August, I believe. He was at the Down the Street Gallery, on the porch, weaving a basket. I rushed past him on the way in and didn’t take much notice. As usual, my mind was fixed on getting this photo or that photo and seeing who was in and who wasn’t.

Bringing model planes to life still thrills

John Hancock is soft spoken, and slight of stature, but he draws, builds and flies model planes as if they were real.

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Model aircraft maker

In the wind-swept skies of Payson

It’s amazing sometimes, how apparently random incidents work favorably toward a goal or need. Know what I mean?

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Princess Tea Party

Every young lady is a princess

Twenty-two princess-dressed girls aged 4-7 recently had a party at the Payson Public Library; with iced tea and snacks, games, a Fashion Runway Show, a princess bag race, story time and an abundance of pictures taken by parents and grandparents.

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