Kaz wandered down to the horse corral at the Bear Mountain Lodge outside Silver City, New Mexico on a recent visit there. Two farriers who were re-shoeing horses attracted her attention. I showed up a bit later curious about what was going on. Together we witnesed a human/horse encounter that pushed the limits of an ancient craft in the direction of an art form.
Having lived in "horse country" since 1979 one might expect we'd have learned all about horse shoeing by now; but not so. In fact what I imagined a simple task requiring no special skills turned out to be a delicate dance between humans and horses requiring a set of skills running the gamut from fine hand/eye coordination, brute strength, years of practice, and mastery of the arcane world of horse whispering. In other words, it's a calling in which danger lurks and the consequences of missteps are severe; getting stomped on by an animal weighing in somewhere between 1,000 - 2.000 lbs or kicked by hoofs packing the wallop of a sledgehammer driven by the likes of John Henry.
Several months ago an HVAC technician announced we wouldn't see him around our house anymore because he was leaving Pride Mechanical to pursue his true vocational passion. Yep, you guessed it - to join the ranks of farriers on a full time basis! OMG! Really? He assured us that he already had a client base sufficient to support his growing family.
But we had no earthly idea what he was actually going to be doing until our encounter with Christin and Vince at that Bear Mountain Lodge corral.
Fortunately for us they were willing talk as they worked, offering up a tutorial on the farrier business. We learned that Vince has been at it longer - 30 years or so. Christin "only" 12. Both are serious famous in horse and farrier land for their mastery of the practice.
Merriam Webster says the term "farrier" is now "usually applied specifically to a blacksmith who specializes in shoeing horses, a skill that requires not only the ability to shape and fit horseshoes, but also the ability to clean, trim, and shape a horse's hooves." The farrier craft, Webster declares, extends back well before Roman times when iron emerged as the material of choice for shoes.
The extraordinary care evidenced in Sell's and Vesley's work is justified when you consider the well being of a horse depends on the quality of the shoeing.
I got to know Jim Caid better than before while serving as one of his occasional drivers back to Oracle from the Banner Cancer Center in Tucson. We'd exchanged words over the years around town and at social events but mostly in passing. The first time he called to set up a ride he couched his request inside a declaration - "it'll be a chance to get to know you better", he said. And that's the way it worked out.
Jim was exceptionally modest about his impressive professional career and thoughtful about whatever subject arose between us. He briefed me on his health condition but not in a way intended to inspire pity. I was flattered when he said he read my new book and proved in conversation that he actually had.
It's fitting that his care for the "human & furry" creatures of the world is reflected in a fundraiser for the inspiring, selfless work of OARR. Come to think of it, OARR and Jim have a lot in common.
Decades ago Oracle was an early adopter of the "Firewise" program. Many residents have pitched in doing their bit to reduce fuel loads of weeds and brush and clear defensible space around structures. The brush dump and brush burn has played a key role in these endeavors. In fact the brush dump has been so successful that it has led to abrupt closures like the one we are experiencing now. Several explanations have been offered for the closures including there's just too much brush; the weather isn't cooperating; there's a shortfall of skilled hands to safely perform the burn. Since all of these are anticapatable, together they seem to pose a management challenge. For example, recruiting and training a team to oversee safe burns could address the staff shortage issue; a quicker response when the weather is cooperating would shorten closure time; and more timely burns would deal with the overcrowding problem.
There's some talk around town to the effect that burning brush is itself an environmental pollutant. So there are some tradeoffs we may or may not want to make here. How this all adds up I don't know but what I do know is that while recent rains may damp down fire threat in the short term, when we dry out the resulting fuel loads will likely be hellacious. Maybe the Firewise Town Hall at 6 pm Thursday at the Oracle Community Center (dinner at 5 pm for $10) will shed light on these and other important matters.
You've got to hand it to everyone involved in the free dump days organized by Pinal County in San Manuel yesterday and today. We took full advantage of it as did hundreds of residents from San Manuel, Oracle, Mammoth and elsewhere around the region. Photo credits to my niece, Alice Raine, for the photos and her two boys, Theo and Thomas, for brush cutting and loading.
Many hundreds of families loaded trucks, trailers and even passenger cars to make the drop. Here we are in Oracle part way loaded. County workers were unfailingly helpful and competent moving all the vehicles and trailers though quickly, while leaving them cleaned up and cleaned out. Thanks to all!
Our District 4 Supervisor Jeffrey McClure says that Pinal County has no "control" over Waste Managment operations in Oracle but we all know that what Pinal County does have is a responsibility to Oracle citizens AND state law to oversee the delivery of waste hauling services and recycling opportunities.
The truth is that Pinal County has leverage with Waste Management starting with more than a decade of violations of "stipulations" linked to ownership transfer of the tiny parcel of land on which the transfer station operates (.05 acres to be exact). And let's not forget that our fast growing county is a big and rapidly growing market for waste haulers which means Pinal County has multiple opportunities to impact the direction of that business while defending vulnerable towns like Oracle.
Kaz and I dropped off a bag of recyclables at Catalina transfer station in Pima County (also Waste Management) a couple days ago. No questions were asked about which county we were from. Good! But this may be an unstable situation which could change at any moment.
So now, when it comes to waste disposal and recycling in Oracle the ball continues to be in Supervisor McClure's court.
An email from McClure to Oracle resident Deb Gaines helps clarify the current situation as our supervisor sees it. I quote his email in full with bold emphasis mine.
"Thank you for your email. Just to set the record straight, the Area Manager for Waste Management was told by his superiors to shut down the Oracle Transfer Station, but he did not want to remove services from the area as it would put an additional burden on the area. The issue for WM is that they have been losing money on the operation for quite a few years ($30-50,000 per month). The next issue seems to be that recycling is not a profit center for WM, or anyone else for that matter. To top it off, the recycling is not being seperated correctly by customers and when this occurs the company to which WM sends the recycling refuses the entire load and charges $100/ton to remove the "trash" to a landfill site. This cost is much higher than WM pays to merely send product to a fill. Representatives for WM stated that if they did not handle recycling that their operation would be sustainable."
"The option for a customer is to not recycle and place items in the regular trash, or save their recycling and go as a group to the Oracle site and pay $15 as a "co-op", or take recycling to the Catalina transfer station and drop it off for free."
"On another note, we are working with Oracle Fire District to solve the brush dump issue. Hopefully that will come sooner than later."
Waste Management local managers delivered a threat message from their big bosses at yesterday's meeting at the Oracle Community Center (OCC). They want the Oracle Transfer Station closed now but (guess what?), we'll leave it open for a month. Call it a momentary corporate two cop routine with corporate honchos playing the bad cop and local managers playing the good cop. Surely their end game is not squeezing a few more bucks out of their recycling operation. Duh!
A big group of Oracle residents did themselves proud with precise questions trying to get to the heart of the matter. Mike Weasner weighed in with an especially clever observation by breaking down the $15 dollar fee for a 1,000 pound load into dollars and cents for a typical amount of cardboard and glass delivered by a typical use. "I'll write that down," said one of the WM guys.
If Waste Management follows through on the shut down threat, Pinal County officials will have some big legal issues thrown in their lap; not to mention lots of pissed off local residents, taxpayers and voters. Pinal County has statutory obligations and institutional commitments made more than a decade ago to deal with; and judging from the brain power in evidence yesterday Oracle folks are likely to get very creative.
From: Rachel Opinsky <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 7, 2023 7:51 PM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Subject: Oracle Transfer Station: Waste Management
March 7, 2023
Jeffrey McClure Pinal County Supervisor, District 4
Dear Supervisor McClure:
My husband, Michael and I are aware of the current situation with Waste Management charging $15 per load for recyclables and that as our Board of Supervisor you stated there is nothing that you can do about this situation because WM is a private company.
In 2008 when the site was reconsidered to become a waste disposal transfer station, a majority of residents objected to its location near a residential area and the possibility of toxic and flammable materials being disposed of in our backyard. A location outside of San Manuel, some distance from residences was part of the discussion. WM objected to this because of the extra commute and transportation expenses. Despite our objection, the BOS at the time, unanimously voted in support of it. After the vote, a supervisor came out into the parking lot and informed the Oracle group, he wouldn’t have voted for this if it had been in his district. However, the board had an agreement; if one supervisor wanted a certain vote for their district, all voted that way. So, democratic! It left a bad feeling for Oracle because it seemed so obvious that WM, a private company, was given priority over the community.
Now a repeat of WM dominating their wishes over the community and suspiciously the BOS by charging $15 a recyclable load! We are reminded of the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open (seen by the world, no less!) Known as both the “Greenest Show on Grass” for its 11th consecutive year of sustainability efforts-it’s the world’s largest zero waste event…per visitphoenix.com and reiterated by the various media outlets that covered it. In comparison, view the Oracle Transfer Station.
On any average day, the site may have trash strewed about and no solid protection to keep hazard materials from leaking into the ground. Only green visible are the dumpsters. Have you visited Pima County’s Catalina Waste Management Transfer Station? It is immaculate! This site is on county property and operated by WM. Apparently, the Pima County BOS is on the side of their residents and believe they can manage a private company on county property.
Oracle is non-incorporated. Our representation is you, Mr. McClure! You essentially are our mayor and city council. I know that you will be visiting Oracle this week and I appreciate that. Unfortunately, my husband and I are unable to attend. I ask that you step up, get to know the community you are representing and represent its residents. Oracle wants to be included in WM’s Greenest Show in the World” by being allowed to participate in zero waste management right here! I am sure there is something that you can do for your Oracle constituents.
Rachel A Opinsky
PO Box 5377
Oracle, AZ 85623
623 523 9989
In a Facebook Comment Drew Kirk reminds us of what happened at the last event with Pinal County Supervisor Jeffrey McClure. Drew wrote, "I was at the last meet and greet with him, his assistant and the folks at the community center did not let people ask him questions... they said he was literally just there for a meet and greet and nothing else."
Drew got me thinking about the whole M & G format. Based on Oracle's experience it seems designed to burn time with "staff" who effectively work for the Supervisor. At least that's exactly how they functioned at an event Kaz and I attended - or so it seemed to us. So what ever focus (and accountability) Oracle residents might have wanted to bring to the gathering was deferred and deflected in a bureautic soup overseen by the Supervisor. (Was that the intention or did it just happen spur of the moment?)
I will suggest here that the M & G format chaired by a public official of interest is a weak format subject to easy orchestration by that individual. Staff, in his employ, know their role and how to please the boss.
When you think about it the meet and greet thing seems a better fit when an unknown is coming to town. Supervisor McClure isn't that having served 6 years on the Oracle School Board and then been gerrymandered into his current role.
BTW The staff of a Supervisor including folks who work for the County in various departments should be responsible for briefing the Supervisor who in turn is accountable to residents and voters to know what he's talking about.
This Thursday, Mar 9, 1pm at the Oracle Community one way or another we'll learn a lot from the "Re-Meet and Re-Greet" with Supervisor McClure. I'm looking forward to attending and writing about it in my blog.
Betrayed promises aren't unusual in small town Arizona if Oracle is any example. A big one happened here when the University of Arizona decided to defecate on a commitment made to JT Page who was into arid lands research when it pulled an ethically challenged switcheroo by turning his ranch into a toxic/radioactive waste dump.
Lo, these many years later comes another mega switcheroo, this time crapping on a Pinal County commitment to other ranch owners - the Kannallys - who thought they had sewn up an agreement to maintain the Oracle dump for Oracle residents secured by a deed transfer. As Jane Woodruff's letter to District 4 Supervisor Jeffrey McClure makes clear, now the county is stepping all over O-Town (and the Kannally's death bed wishes) at the behest of transfer station operator Waste Management.
Right off, Oracle voters who follow such things will recognize that nobody around here voted for McClure. His status as "our supervisor" was bequeathed to him by a sort of "Tinker to Evers to Chance" play triggered by redistricting manipulations.
Supervisor Jeffrey McClure:
I heard the tale of the Oracle transfer station's plan to start charging for recyclables. As a disabled person on a limited income, I am inclined to shame both you and the gouging and vulturous Waste(ful) Management. This is how wildcat dumping starts. I now will have some real problems disposing of my paltry amount of trash and all of my recycling.
Some history I am quite sure is in order. In the 1950's the site was a wildcat dumping site, used by the community with the knowledge of the owners, the distinguished Kanally family. It was an attraction for scavengers, four and two legged. The Kanally family and the county came to an agreement for the Kanally family to cede the property to the county for our community's continued use, and the county would hold the land for Oracle's use. It worked for all of us, and we ponied up to take our trash to the site, and the county maintained the site.
I recognise that political memory is indeed short. Mine is pretty long, since 1956. Involving a for-profit garbage hauler who dumps the recyclables in a landfill is an insult, raises the cost to us and illustrates an insensitivity on policy makers' part, and shortsightedness in elected officials' vision. How soon are you up for reelection?? We are part of your constituency and we vote!
Jane B. Woodruff
985 N John Adams
New Recycle Fees Anger Oracle Residents; Supervisor McClure Makes Bizarre Claims; Residents Push Back
Pinal County has an ugly history of oversight of the Oracle Transfer Station (formerly the town's dumpsite). In 2008 matters came to a head when it was revealed that Waste Management was operating on the county owned property without proper zoning. Tucson media ran a big story on the screw up under the headline: ORACLE WANTS ACTION, NOT TRASH TALK.
You might think that the current group of county supervisors including Supervisor Jeffrey McClure, Vice Chair of the BOS, would pay close attention when waste and recycling issues move front and center in the lives of locals. But no! McClure is executing the age old political "duck and roll" claiming he and his colleagues have no "control" over the situation - an obvious fiction in light of the dumpsite/transfer station history. Keep in mind this is the same county that has messed with local businesses in a damaging, even life threatening way (Oracle residents know what I'm talking about). So here's the moral of the story so far: If you're a struggling, small business start-up, Pinal County can mess you up at will. If you're a multi-billion dollar operation with tentacles all over the place, you can do whatever you want, even on land the county itself owns. Check out the result below of a simple county records search and stay tuned. There's a lot more to this story yet to be revealed.
Waste Management of Arizona is squeezing Oracle residents once again. And a day after Pinal County Supervisor Jeff McClure reported that it’s “still in the hands of the corporate powers that be” residents are being slapped with a $15 per load fee. Kaz suggested in an email to our Supervisor Jeffrey McClure that she thought he was one of “the powers that be”. He responded he would be but BOS does not have any control over the affairs of a publicly operated business.
So does no “control” mean no contract with the county and WM can do whatever the hell it wants?
Two Waste Management workers report via a reliable local source that it’s Pinal County’s decision (meaning the Board of Supervisors on which Jeff McClure sits) to impose the new fees. This, of course, directly contradicts McClure’s claim.
Just to review: Move one by Waste Management/Pinal County was to cut the number of cherished dump vouchers from 6 to 3. Move two as of Monday, March 6 is to impose $15 per load assessment fee.
The bottom line here is that taken together Oracle residents are on the receiving end of a big financial hit.
Some old timers will recall that when Pinal County turned the Oracle landfill over to Waste Management to serve as a “transfer station” a contract was signed that included negotiated terms. The Pinal County Board of Supervisors was a party to that and subsequent contracts with Waste Management of Arizona.
We don’t know what the current status of that contract is. We’ve asked both Supervisor McClure and County Manager Lew for specifics but to date neither have been forthcoming. Yet the fees are set to go into effect this Monday, March 6.
Supervisor McClure will hold a “Meet and Greet” along with the Pinal County Recorder’s Office on Thursday, March 09 with an “open house” format between 1:00 - 2:00 at the Oracle Community Center, 685 E. American Ave, Oracle AZ 85623.
Kaz and I moved to Oracle in 1979. The house we bought dated to the late 1940s. With little advance knowledge of the place, we set out to build a new life together, intending to settle in and raise a family.