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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reading the Western News

No doubt it is possible to buy The New York Times in Tucson or Phoenix, but no one sells it here – and by “here” I mean Willcox, our nearest real town, not little ghost town Dos Cabezas, where there has been no store of any kind for many years. One can read the Times online at the library, but I say, why bother? “The News Hour” with Gwen Ifill gives me as much national and world news as I can handle. And besides, I’m keeping my online time to a minimum, averaging well under 30 minutes a day on the Internet, most of which time is spent downloading and reading e-mail, updating one or two of my blogs, and briefly checking Facebook to make sure I’m not missing an important message from anyone (though I’ve tried to get across to friends that e-mail is my preferred contact).

Anyway, in general, I like to be where I am. By that I mean that for me the point of being somewhere other than home is immersing myself in that different place. And so, here in southeasternmost Arizona for the winter, it is Cochise County news that really captures my attention. The big Arizona newspaper comes, of course, from Phoenix, but news of where we are is most thoroughly covered by the Arizona Range News, published in Willcox, Arizona, since 1882. The office on Haskell Avenue isn't in a fancy building, and it may look at first like there's not much happening there, but sit and watch a while, and you'll see people coming and going. And every week the paper comes out.

The Range News (like our own Leelanau Enterprise back home) is a weekly newspaper, generally two sections, and it covers news in the communities of Willcox, San Simon, Sunsites, Bowie, Cochise, and Dragoon, which is pretty much the whole Sulphur Springs Valley. There are feature news articles, obituaries, columns, editorials and letters, public announcements, and advertisements. When we first arrived in the area, I couldn’t get enough of the obituaries and loved the one about a woman who was a lifetime rancher and whose favorite activities were knitting, quilting, and “working cows.” Reading a local newspaper is a good way to begin getting acquainted with a community.

Is this week’s Range News particularly interesting, or am I just paying closer and closer attention, the longer we’re here? The following stories pulled me in:

1) Feeding the hungry: “Distribution center to help area hungry,” reads the headline of the story of a $1.2 million donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for what will be called the Willcox Food Distribution Center and will serve Cochise, Graham and Greenlee Counties: The HGB Foundation, I learned from this article, advocates for those who are “food insecure,” not only in third-world countries but right here at home. Howard Buffett (son of Warren Buffett) was born in Illinois, and his foundation owns farmland in Illinois, Nebraska, and Arizona – most interestingly to me, this winter, a research farm right down the pike from us on the Kansas Settlement Road – and his foundation’s threefold mission is to improve lives worldwide through food security, water security, and conflict resolution. I am most interested to learn more about HGB projects, especially as they are being tested so close to Dos Cabezas.

2) Gould’s wild turkey: Have you ever heard of it? I had not, until now, but a long piece in the Range News informs me that a wildlife project in the nearby Pinaleño Mountains (north of Cochise County, in Graham County) has received national awards for habitat restoration and re-establishment of Gould’s wild turkey, the largest wild turkey in the U.S., and found only in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and Mexico. A partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation is “part of a broader effort to restore habitat for Gould’s Wild Turkeys in southeastern Arizona’s ‘Sky Islands,’ 12 mountain ranges primarily managed by the Coronado National Forest.” The article calls the birds “spectacular” and their comeback “incredible,” their population in SE Arizona now standing at an estimated 15,000 birds.

3) Copper mining: The brief boom that brought Dos Cabezos into its most populous era was based on copper, and it was copper and iron that fueled the mining industry in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so of course a headline reading “Opposition organizes for copper mine” would get my attention. I also know from what I’ve read of mining in the Dakotas (SD my birthplace) that modern mining leaves more than holes in the ground. The news is that Excelsior Mining, having “recently completed a drilling program” in the Dragoon area, is now preparing applications for permits “to inject sulfuric acid deep underground to release copper and pump the pregnant solution back out to retrieve the copper....” Concerns are about “the use of groundwater in an area where supplies are limited” and possible contamination of groundwater. Like fracking, this process bears close scrutiny and “faces a long period of review,” according to the paper. Present-day alchemists take note: there are plenty of metals besides gold and silver much needed by modern technology! Being able to manufacture (rather than mine) copper or a good substitute could solve a lot of world problems and make the successful inventor very, very rich!

4) Auctioneer recognized: Hooray for Paul Ramirez of Tucson, auctioneer extraordinaire of the Willcox Livestock Auction Market! At the Greater Midwest Livestock Auctioneers Championship in Motley, Minnesota, Ramirez carried off the Reserve Championship. We have seen and heard him at work and were very impressed, so we’re happy to see that he holds his own in competition. Good work!

5) Film Festival: This is the next big event coming to the Willcox Historic Theatre, the same little movie house where we were fortunate and privileged to see the Paris Opera not long ago. It’s only the second year of the festival, but it looks like great fun, with 20 regional independent films in competition. Expect to hear more of this in the near future.

6) Junior Rodeo: Expect to hear more of this, too! Admission is free for the two-day junior rodeo, with food concessions operated by the 4-H. “Don’t expect much,” David warned, and I told him, “Don’t expect to keep me away!” Will there be calf roping? Barrel racing? I can hardly wait to find out!

There was more in this week’s newspaper – a community service award for the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative; results of the spelling bee in San Simon District; Willcox Middle School Honor Roll; a call to host an exchange student; local team sports news; the usual (but always unique and fascinating) obituaries and letters; and ads, display and classified, just one of which I’ll share. Under HELP WANTED is this notice:
TEMPORARY Open Range Livestock workers needed for Legacy Land & Livestock, Roswell, NM, from 2/15/15 – 11/15/15. Workers will be required to be “On Call 24/7,” perform a variety of duties related to the production of cattle and sheep; feed and water livestock; herd livestock to pasture for grazing and into corrals and stalls; distribute feed to animals; assist with calving, lambing and shearing....
Well, I can’t go on. Yes, there is castration and branding and spraying with insecticide involved, as well as cleaning stalls and pens (not as bad as castration and insecticide and branding). Oh, no, I can’t stop yet. How about this?
Must be able to find and maintain bearings to grazing areas. [Check!] Must be willing and able to occasionally live and work independently or in small groups of workers in isolated areas for extended periods of time. [Check!] Worker must be able to lift and carry items weighing up to 100 pounds. ...
Uh, okay, that’s enough. Hard outdoor work. Much as I love to work outdoors, sadly I think I’m past my cowgirlin’ prime.


Dawn said...

Look at the light in that last photo! Stunning! Thank you so much for sharing the items from the's all real life, a life so different, and yet so much the same as ours back here. Interesting.

bannblogger said...

Great post! I love local newspapers! Should we look for your guest byline anytime soon?!

Karen Casebeer said...

So glad you are immersing yourself in local life. That's so much more interesting than FB, I think. I was interested in the Film Festival and wondered if it's going to be in the winter or the summer. It made me further wonder whether winter is the big season there, with lots of snowbirds, or if summer is prime time, like Northport.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, I feel the same way -- real life, like ours in Michigan, but at the same time very different. Barbara, I doubt VERY MUCH that the RANGE NEWS has noticed ME! Karen, the "season" here is, strangely enough, summer (I guess because kids are out of school, and families make big trips Out West), but the film festival is week after next -- fortunately for us!

BB-Idaho said...

Those western rural areas are so interesting. Those of us who pass by are often unaware of "that world". For years, we drove back and forth from Idaho to Wisconsin
every year: an interstate journey
with 3 kids in the back seat. One
year, they flew back and I drove
solo, having to work that week.
Even the interstate had few vehicles between Billings and Bismarck and the radio offered
only Rush Limbaugh. I finally found a station out of Baker, Montana, a burg some 80 miles
south that I had never heard of.
But between the country music
offerings, the young lady announcer promised that in the
next hour she would give the
"Hospital Report". The highway
there followed the Yellowstone
River for hundreds of miles;
the 'Roche Jaune' terrain of
ochre stones had grown as tedious
as Mr. Limbaugh..and my anticipation of the news of local hospital affairs grew with each
country song. Finally, after a
commercial for fencing, the big
moment came, "The Baker Hospital
reports that this week there were
no admissions and no releases."
..."Stay tuned for the summary"
I laughed out loud and pondered
whether the few folks who lived in that 6000 sq mi of stony back country were so tough that they
needed no medical care...or that
anyone at all actually lived there!

P. J. Grath said...

BB, I read your story to David, and we both LOL'd, to put it in modern vernacular. "Stay tuned for the summary" was the perfect capper!