Friday, November 12, 2010


THIS CARD GAME WOULD LEAD ME TO THE COMMONS----I'll explain: My friend Pete, touring me 'round Show Low, Az---shows me this work of art---capturing a real moment in time---explaining the Town's name and its equally odd main thoroughfare name: Deuce of Clubs. I could show you the plaque---but I'd rather poetize: MR COOLEY AND MR CLARK

Partners in ranching long years ago
came to the end of their rope;
personal or money, we can only guess
but devising one last hope:

They would play a game of cards;
both men finally agreed:
The winner could stay and thrive--
The loser must pack and leave!

They chose to play a favorite game:
A game called seven up;
requiring some amount of skill
and a little bit of luck.

Clark smiled to see his trey of clubs
and knowing low trump would win
The odds of Cooley drawing out
were somewhat less than thin.

So he uttered the words that named the city
"SHOW LOW" and laid it down.
What happened next would name the street
that marks the center of town.

For Cooley drew the Deuce of Clubs
And showed it in his hand.
Winning the house and all the cattle,
the ranch and all the land.

Cooley celebrating his luck
named his ranch Show Low;
The street he named Deuce of Clubs;
That's how it happened---now you know!
So what's all that to do with the Commons? Well, the 100.000 acres that the partners ranched were leased from the government---The National Forest---which we the people own and may use IN COMMON. (The seas and the air and the rivers are also a commons---how to manage them and use them is a somewhat tricky legal issue) Anyway, lucky me--My host Carol Berry has invited me to go see her favorite part of it---this little known backroad from Vernon to Greer.

The aspins are showing their color.
Green hill--top shrouded---with snow clouds?
A real "line shack"---have heard them mentioned often in cowboy movies--my first to see. I investigated and found signs of recent use. The Idea is to have shelter while way out here tending cows--- too far to drive back to the ranch each night.
I don't know why the forest naturally and abruptly gives way to grassland. But there you see it--almost a straight line. Anybody out there know the answer?
The frost line--clearly visible. My host is bold and may take us up there to see the seasons first dusting of snow.
And so she does! Isn't that frosting exactly what you hope to achieve on a christmas tree?
Looking down from Green Hill----more sharp division of forest from grass. We will follow that road to perhaps the last cowboy town in Arizona---Greer. It's there on the map but I defy you to find it.
There's part of it--perhaps the most famous part---a cowboy cafe--in constant operation for more than 100 years. Perhaps Cooley ate here. (I didn't think to ask) Their specialty is peach cobler--get it hot with ice cream.
Served by this happy guy whose friendly smile belies his villian mustache.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: My readers of course know that the ultimate Commons is planet Earth. The hotly debated issue is whether the invisible hand of individual self interest would do a better job protecting our commons than government. I ask those advocating little or no Government oversight: What happened to the Buffalo? What happened to the billions of Passenger Pigeons? The fish off the Grand Banks? The big Redwood trees before government rescued a few of them? Face it--Human greed and rapaciousness is boundless---look what unchecked Individualism did to the trees in Haiti. We are savages unless checked by collective institutions (government). Hobbs was right (Leviathan) The grazing lands I showed would certainly be overgrazed were it not for enforced government regulation. Oh I wish I could get a semi-rational anti-government--right wing nut locked with me in a room and forced by referees to confront the folly of their position. I would make a Coolie/Clark wager with them--The loser would have to leave the country. (haven't seen me rant in a while--have you)
I'll give you a heads up on my next adventure: I intend to go down to Phoenix and experience the deep luxury of those clustered colonies of comforts called Sun City. The question I will ask: Is this really the good life? Any critical element missing?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Randy.

Am curious... of all the places, any particular one stand out? A potential homebase if you had to hunker down?


Randy said...

Easy question for me Jack--Arizona--The low country (Yuma to Phoenix) for the Winter and the high country (Flagstaff to Show Low) in the Summer. One can be forever comfortable by traveling as little as 150 miles. But OK if I have to pick just one place, it would be Prescott, Az. (close to lots of good stuff--elevation 5000 ft--not too hot or too cold)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response, Randy!


Anonymous said...

The benign place we grew up in, the planet Earth, has already changed to a more erratic, droughty, crowded Eaarth (McKibben).
So we damn well better accept some regulation, or go with the Aztecs, Mayans, and a lot of other once prosperous communities.

Dixxe said...

Im loving that "line shack"...would love to spend a day or two there riding my horse-
Show Low looks to be a very interesting place, lots of open space to allow ones mind to expand-
People cant even be trusted with the honor system in public restrooms how can the right think less gives more?--its a very unfortunate society we are part of-I think a NEW set of rules is in order to go along with the times we are living--streamlining and simplifing--Many govt agencies could be pooled one thing that I see as non transparent is just how many agencies there are-its mind blowing.
What about Las Cruces, NM? I've read its a great place.

Randy said...

Good points Dixxe--I like the public bathroom reference. Re: Las Cruces---Have not spent much time there.

Jim said...

Per the WHY of tree lines:
The mountain valleys of my youth were completely treeless . . . they also were grazed by thousands of cattle all summer long and EVERY summer. When snowmobiles first became popular, we had organized racing events on our pastures -- they were barren snowscape in the winter and perfect for high-speed snow machines.
Now that most of these same areas aren't grazed at all, the trees are getting bigger and more numerous every year. My theory is that in heavily grassed areas, the grazing is so intense it keeps all the seedlings tromped down. Back in the day, only the larger, more established trees prevailed over the cows and sheep and eventually even they died or were cut down. Mountain valleys can also be very marshy through the long spring months = less than ideal environment for cultivating seedlings. Roots need water AND air.

Anonymous said...

Randy, what a wonderful descriptive poem of a town I have never visited:)
I would challenge everyone to think much harder about how we view authority. I am neither Republican nor Democrat, conservative or liberal. I have found there are indescrepancies in all organized groups that fashion themselves off of a dichotomized way of thinking. In fact, that is much of how we as humans relate to the world in everything we engage in and most importantly the view we have of ourselves. Free yourselves from yourself(the ego) and become whole, and then take another look at your brother and sister and begin to realize that they are no different than you, except of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
The only power that we have is when we come together and stop giving the politicians and corporations what they want--divided and conquered citizens.
Exercise your rights by getting involved and you will start to notice change.
We create what we believe that everyone is out there is an illusion..we are not seperate from one another.
Anyways, the real issues to read up on,and I highly recommend that you do, are: Genetically modified foods(our freedoms are being threatened by giants like Monsanto) , farmed fish that are killing off wild fish(especially salmon) off the coasts of British Columbia, Scotland, Ireland, Chile, etc., RFID chips placed in humans (already in driver's license and passports)
and the threat of losing our freedom to purchase nutritional supplements(technically making them illegal in the eyes of the government). The person that proposed that to Congress is none other than Senator McCain.
So, here is my final comment.
Government is not what anyone thinks it is in this day and age,and neither is the two-party system. To waste precious time by believing in and therefore fueling one or the other side, we are missing the point and ignorant to the pot of water we are ALL being slowly cooked in.

wisesongbird said...

The poetry is great. I never knew the story of Show Low - fascinating.

Another great blog. Thanks.