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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OFF THE RIM: It's over

OFF THE RIM:
Gazette creates new blog, discontinues print edition

By Jim Keyworth
Gazette Editor

And so it’s over.

After 179 issues, the Rim Country Gazette is discontinuing its print edition – victim of the economy, victim of ignoble tactics by a competitor that very much wants its monopoly back, and, to a degree, victim of the times.

Newspapers are failing everywhere. Bigger and better newspapers than the Gazette.

But we are making no excuses. And actually, we’re proud of the product we created – the best and fairest newspaper in the Rim Country – and of how long we lasted.

It’s been exhausting, exhilarating, exasperating.

But in the end, we ran out of time. We ran out of money.

What we didn’t run out of was heart.

In considering a final headline for this issue, several came to mind – each with a good rationale behind it.

Assistant Editor Paty Henderson’s choice:

“What a ride”

Because it was exhilarating to create a newspaper from scratch – almost overnight – that stood for the right things. We were a ragtag, undermanned group, and for over three years we’ve been running twice as hard to keep up.

My choice of a final headline won’t surprise you:

“God help us now”

Because it is exasperating to think about the new state of journalism in the Rim Country. I wish I could recommend a paper for you to read now that the Gazette is gone – but I can’t. The choice you have left is between really bad journalism and manipulative journalism.

I will read neither. If I were a businessperson, I would advertise in neither.

Advertising is a good thing, but there are two radio stations that are trying to play fair for you – KMOG and KRIM. That’s where I would place my advertising dollars.

This paper began because of Payson’s theft of Star Valley’s water via the Tower Well. It began because some journalists and some politicians were not being honest with you.

The original Gazette investors gave us free rein to go where we wanted. Some people saw us as a shill for Star Valley, especially in our early days. We find it ironic that right now it’s the other guys who are shilling for Star Valley.

And we’re very proud of the fact that Gazette Correspondent Matt Brabb’s front page story about the Tower Well in last week’s Gazette is being hailed by politicians on both sides of the aisle as the fairest, most honest piece written on the subject of Star Valley water.

And while I’m on the subject of the Brabbs, Matt’s wife Mitzi has made a wonderful, even spectacular contribution to the Gazette the last few months. She is a professional in every sense of the word, and together the Brabbs could have maintained this paper’s excellence for many years to come.

And there are so many others.

The Consort, who put up with so many weekends filled with nothing but the Gazette – and who graciously allowed herself to become a character in this 179-week drama.

Our great volunteer columnists and photographers. Shelley Schadowsky who designs the most beautiful paper in the Rim Country. The investors who put up the money that let us get this far.

Paty Henderson and George Binney, the lead managing investor, have been rocks of stability and support. As was Al “The Butcher” Poskanzer, a managing investor and elk murderer. Through some pretty turbulent times, we were always on the same page.

The ad team, led by Sheelah Golliglee, did a yeoman’s job trying to keep us afloat. Art Russo and Tiffany Williams were wonderful.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Ann Haver-Allen, my original partner in founding this venture. We have gone our separate ways, but fair is fair.

There were others who weren’t around at the finish line. Carol LaValley. Pia Wyer. Jenny Dennis.

Those of us who did stick it out are proud that we went down swinging, that we never compromised our principles, that we are walking away with our heads high

Despite what happened, we still believe in journalism. We believe in its mission in a free and democratic society, and we hate to see it minimized or misused.

Personally, it’s time for me to slow down. The Consort and I hope to spend a little more time in Denver with family and friends, but our primary home will still be the Rim Country.

I want to continue to teach my creative writing class at GCC, and one day teach a similar course in Denver. That would be perfect.

I also want to spend some time writing – just for me. Some poetry for sure, and wherever else the pen leads.

But I’m not walking away. And neither are a solid core of Gazette columnists and contributors.

We have created a blog at www.rimcountrygazette.blogspot.com. There we will continue to post our columns, your rants and letters, and such political coverage and commentary as we deem necessary and appropriate.

We want you to be a part of this. In fact, that’s why we’re doing the blog – to keep the wonderful core of Gazette people together and united.

We may disagree on particular issues. We may be left or right. Payson or Star Valley. Pro or anti growth.

But we are the people who care about this community. We are the people who care about quality of life. We are the people who believe all sides deserve to be heard. We must not lose our voice.

Together, we can all do our best to continue to keep the other paper honest. Or at least to expose their dishonesty.

Send your rants, letters and other contributions to peoplesgazette@gmail.com. Or you can post your comments right on the blog.

So thanks to you all for your ongoing support. And remember to tune us in at www.rimcountrygazette.blogspot.com.

And who knows, The Newspaper of the People might just return in print one day. Properly capitalized and knowing what we’ve learned these past three years – we’d run the Payson Roundup right out of town.

In the meantime, stay vigilant, stay involved, and stay the course.

Unlike what we watch on TV, the bad guys win more often than they lose in this life – but “for one brief, shining moment,” we sure had them squirming. In the process, their entire editorial team – top to bottom – was replaced.

In the end, the best headline is the simplest:

“It’s over.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RIMSHOTS: Rumsey is Rodney Dangerfield of parks

By Noble Collins
Gazette Columnist

Within the town of Payson lies one of the nicest and most versatile public parks of any in Arizona.

Its 40-plus acres contain covered ramadas for picnics, hiking trails, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, a skateboard rink, baseball and softball diamonds, soccer fields covered with Astroturf and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The park is well maintained and inviting. It even has a large separate area where dogs can exercise their bodies, and a wonderful public library where people can exercise their minds. It is not fenced in, nor is there a gate to keep folks out.

It also appears to be one of the least known areas within the town, if you ask around. I know. I did.

Ask folks the name of this park or even where it is, and watch the blank stare on some faces. Ask if they know the name, Rumsey Park, and you'll get mostly “yes” answers, but many who still can't tell you much about it.

Ask young people in particular to tell you about Rumsey Park. I did, and I was surprised at how little is actually known. Rumsey is the Rodney Dangerfield of parks.

Perhaps the most definitive document telling the story of Rumsey Park is a newspaper article done some time ago by Payson historian Stan Brown.

I have borrowed from it liberally for this article. Other documentation about the park only exists in bits and pieces, here and there. Some of it is well organized. Some is contradictory or confusing. As far as personal interviews, history is remembered quite differently by various people.

This account is an attempt to pull together as much of the real story as possible, but even so, some parts are still incomplete or difficult to describe with perfect accuracy. I invite anyone with real knowledge about the park to contact this author, either to add information or to correct errors. The following is pretty well documented, though:

As with most things dealing with Payson history, the rodeo played an integral part. The town itself was only incorporated in 1972, but the rodeo had been a centerpiece of the community for many years, giving Payson a special identity and the people something which was widely shared and enjoyed.

If there was a problem, it was that the rodeo never had a real home for most of its life. It was frequently moved from place to place due to crowd needs or property issues.

At one time or another it was held on Main Street, Pieper’s Field (the old sawmill grounds), back on Main Street, and for a long period of time on the Wilbanks Ranch just west of town.

More or less permanent stands were built there, and the beginnings of the Northern Gila County Fair resulted from folks bringing in their prized produce and canned goods to display. The annual gathering took on the name “August Doin's” and a festival atmosphere was enjoyed.

After a long period, the Wilbanks family decided in 1957 to sell their property, and it was offered to the chamber of commerce (the rodeo sponsor) for $2,500. The offer was turned down, and this resulted in a frantic effort to relocate the rodeo.

The property at the intersection of highways 87 and 260 was suggested, but it was Forest Service land. Even so, an arrangement was made and the Rodeo was moved there for a few years. No improvements were allowed to the property, however.

Enter Mr. Dale Rumsey, a land baron from either Phoenix or California (accounts differ.) There was a listing for a Rumsey Company on South 23rd Street in Phoenix which apparently belonged to Dale Rumsey, his brother Donald, and his wife.

Actually, Mr. Rumsey did not appear, but a Mr. Milt Franz was on the scene buying up land for the Rumsey family. The land where Basha's is now located and the land where Walmart now stands are two of many properties he eventually acquired.

Another piece of property, amounting to just over 20 acres, west of where Walmart is now located was acquired from the Forest Service. Depending on the source, this property was acquired by Rumsey for “the express purpose” of giving the Rodeo a home. Certainly it did him no harm to have the town's most popular event staged on his property, and no doubt this added value to his other holdings.

Once the new property was acquired, the Rumsey family did, in fact, make an arrangement with the chamber to use this property as a rodeo grounds. In 1961, the chamber purchased 10 acres from Rumsey to establish a permanent rodeo home. The property was later valued at $7,000 dollars an acre, but it is not clear that the chamber paid that much. It was, however, more than the original Wilbanks offer.

In 1968 grandstands were built along with several other amenities. Lumber for the stands was donated by Kaibab Industries, although several sections of bleachers were constructed of steel, some left over from the grandstand on the Wilbanks Ranch. Food booths were located underneath the stands, and many people recall the wonderful smells coming from them during rodeo week.

Later, as the area was more developed, some folks noticed more objectionable odors coming from stalls and pens, and this would play a part in the final move to another location. For 27 years, though, the rodeo prospered on the land that now holds a soccer field on North McLane Road.

By 1976, the chamber paid off the mortgage and donated the 10 acres to the new town of Payson. The town had begun to study the possibility of building
a public park, and negotiated with Mr. Runsey for the remaining 10 acres.

Having a total of 20 acres qualified the property for a grant from the Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordinating Commission (AORCC). Mr. Rumsey then sold seven acres to the town and donated an angular piece of three acres. For this donation, the new park was to be named Rumsey Park. AORCC granted $383,295 for construction and landscaping. It is said that George Randall graded land for the baseball field on his own bulldozer.

The park became a huge success, so much so that an expansion became desirable, and Payson obtained a long term land use permit from the Forest Service for 40 adjoining acres. Several small parcels were actually purchased including one for building a large swimming pool complex.

A grant was obtained, again from AORCC, for this purpose. Mr. Willard Taylor was Mayor of Payson at the time and instrumental in obtaining the grant. The pool was named for him.

In time, the remaining Forest Service land was deeded to Payson. U.S. Congressmen John Kyl and Eldon Rudd moved the bill through Congress.

On July 4, 1976, a formal inaugural of the original 20 acres of Rumsey Park was held. Attending the celebration was Mr. Dale Rumsey, and it was apparently his first and only appearance in Payson. As the additional land was acquired, it became known as North Rumsey Park.

The Rodeo was continuously held in Rumsey Park for 27 years. A fair amount of money for expenses was often generated from slot machines and other forms of “unofficial” gambling in various clubs around town.

In 1995, however, the old wooden stands were judged a fire hazard and the company issuing insurance refused to write a new policy. The grandstand was burned to the ground with the Payson Fire Department keeping watch. It is said that Mr. Bill Armstrong struck the first match. Some of the steel bleachers were salvaged.

The intent was to rebuild on the property, but encroaching housing developments and objections about odors and traffic were beginning to raise concerns. Mr. Barry Swartwood then stepped forward and donated some land just south of town for a new rodeo arena,

The rodeo was moved, but Rumsey Park continued to thrive and supply the people of Payson with wonderful outdoor facilities. It remains a monument to people with a vision and a drive to provide their town with something special – something to contribute to the health and enjoyment of their bodies and the serenity of their minds.

Every person in Payson should know and appreciate the effort.

Comedy of terrors during killer bee attack

By Mitzi Brabb
Gazette Correspondent
It was just another day for 17 year old Skylar Dineen-Johnson. The high school senior was doing homework when she heard her two dogs crying wildly outside, desperately pawing at the door.

Dineen-Johnson ran to the door and realized her dogs were being attacked by bees. She ran to her room, threw on some jeans and a hooded pullover sweatshirt and rushed out to rescue her dogs.

But as soon as she opened the door and stepped outside it was as if she were stepping into a terrifying Steven King novel. A swarm of bees immediately attacked her.

She yelled to her 11-year-old brother, who was in the house watching TV. “Help me! Help me! Call 911.”

Dineen-Johnson ran up and down her upper Round Valley neighborhood screaming for help. She stopped, dropped and rolled, she got up and ran again, she screamed some more, but the swarm kept coming.

One of the neighbors saw her and called 911, but the operator told him that Round Valley wasn't in their jurisdiction and he should call the sheriff’s office.

Within five minutes, all her neighbors heard her blood-curdling screams and her parents, who were just up the road, came rushing home.

Finally, a hero arrived! A neighbor arrived at the scene with a man who had come up from the Valley to give chiropractic care to her horse. Clell Husher did not hesitate. He immediately ripped off his shirt and began hitting the bees off the young victim.

By then her mother was also yanking bees off her daughter. Her father rushed to the truck to find something to help remove the bees, but he never made it back out of the vehicle; not for at least another hour as a horde of angry bees turned on the truck and began smashing into the glass and swarming the entire vehicle.

About that time another neighbor, Mick Umbenhauer, arrived, apologizing profusely for unleashing the bees by removing a cover from his well. He told the family that he was checking to see how dry the well was, and when he removed the wooden lid he was surprised to see rows of yellow. That’s when the attack began. The man escaped to his truck after suffering some 50 stings. The bees then apparently became attracted to the noise of his neighbor’s barking dogs.

Finally, about 10 minutes after the nightmare began, an ambulance and a fire truck arrived. They loaded Dineen-Johnson into the ambulance and put an oxygen mask on her face.

When all the emergency care professionals had left, Christopher Johnson was still trapped in his truck. The young boy was still alone in the house, and other victims, such as Umbenhauer, had not been treated.

Amanda Johnson, the mother of Dineen-Johnson, says she begged a firewoman to do something about the bees still attacking her husband’s truck.

“You have to call poison control; we’re not going to help you,” she reportedly responded.

“My son was on the phone with 911 for an hour and a half. The woman kept him calm, because he was so frightened and didn’t know what was going on,” Johnson added.

Dineen-Johnson was transported to Payson Regional Medical Center.

“We were still killing bees in the emergency room,” the girl said.

She was later flown to Phoenix, where she was treated and then released after two days in ICU at Banner Health. She had upwards of 300 stingers removed from her scalp alone, and another 100 from the rest of her body. The crazed Africanized (or “killer”) honeybees had gotten underneath her clothes and had stung her in her ears, her mouth, and eyes as well.

Back at the house, neither the sheriff nor any other emergency personnel had shown up to rescue the boy or his father. Once again, it was the neighbors who came to the rescue.

Joe and Tiffany Wanderer arrived with a fire extinguisher and began battling the bees until they could safely remove the boy as well as his father.

Dineen-Johnson had suffered the most horrific experience of her life, and the aftermath of the attack brought additional devastating news. Her two beloved dogs had both died from the terrorizing attack.

Cubby, her Maltese Yorkie, died at the scene. The family’s Queensland Heeler, Jake, was rushed to Payson Pet Care where she received two days of excellent care. However, 500 bee stings were just too much. Jake got to see his family one last time before he died.

A week after the attack, Dineen-Johnson was still pulling stingers out of her skin and had to be taken to an eye doctor for an emergency procedure. One remaining stinger had worked its way through her eyelid and was scratching the surface of her eye. Dr. Troy Ford removed the embedded stinger at no charge.

Although Amanda Johnson is grateful to all her neighbors who helped, she is disgusted by the way everything else was handled. She called the Payson Fire Department to complain about how rude one of their employees had been. The employee denied the accusation, but Fire Chief Marty DeMasi assured Johnson that proper protocol had not practiced.

Julie Ballard, a veteran paramedic said, “The assaulting agent (bees) should have been removed from the victim before she left the scene. Also, the child should not have been left alone in the house, and it was unethical to leave the husband in a truck that was still under attack.”

Johnson was also upset about how the media handled the situation. A week after the incident happened, the Payson Roundup came out with its own version of the story.

“Almost all of it was wrong,” Dineen-Johnson said. “No one from the paper even bothered to talk to us about it. They didn‘t even get my name right,” she added.

The Roundup story gave brief mention about the incident and the deaths of the dogs before veering off on the topic of disappearing honey bees.

“People don’t need to know about where the honey bees are going right now as much as they need to know that there are Africanized bees within the community attacking people,” said Johnson.

“People need to be warned and need to be prepared for such an attack.”

There are many sources of information available online. One, www.utahcountybeekeepers.org, can help you prepare for this kind of situation. Suggestions include running inside and directly into the shower. They also recommend running, and covering yourself as much as possible. They advise against making loud noises or jumping into a pool of water because the persistent bees will wait.

Although the incident in Round Valley was unexpected and the bees should soon be migrating towards a warmer climate, Johnson warns that everyone should be prepared.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Himalayan Hairball regular Gazette reader


Photo by Jim Keyworth

Kleo, The Consort's Himalayan Hairball, is a regular Gazette reader, but she mostly looks at the pictures.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gazette readers around the world


Contributed Photo

The Rim Country Gazette is read throughout these United States, including this enthusiastic audience that just got off the narrow gauge train in Silverton, Colo.