We've been learning a lot about Oracle's oaks since the collapse of one of ours narrowly missed our electric line. Upon inspection it was apparent fungus rot did the mighty tree in. The tricky part was that from the outside it looked healthy. Anyway the upshot was that we brought in a team that has done plenty of work in our neighborhood which we admired to have a go at cutting out dead wood and pruning for structure clearance.
I had no idea how anyone could get way up to the tippy top of an oak without a bucket truck (try manuevering one of those in the back yard!). Now I know. Now I also know I wouldn't recommend trying this unless you're exceptionally strong, well versed in the arborist craft, well equipped, and daring. An unusual combination for the average property owner. Not cheap but a hell of a lot cheaper than having a limb crash into the roof, down electrics or fuel a structure fire.
Dub Ragels' plumbing expertise extended to local wells. We didn’t think much about an old well-house fitted out with a jack pump that was at the bottom of our property until he enlightened us. Typical of the time he said it was hand dug not drilled. That’s how they did it back then - excavating bucket load by bucket load. Dub showed us how to measure the depth to water and depth to the bottom of the well. About 20 feet of water. No idea how fast it might recharge. We decided to take a chance and go with a half horse submersible. The Gould was guaranteed for 10 years. (Almost 4 decades later it was still pumping away.)
We asked Dub if our well water was drinkable. He said he had no idea but there was an easy way to check it out. Drink a glass and if you get sick you’ll have the answer. Then what do we do? Pour some bleach into the hole and wait a while. Then test it again the same way.
That we never did. Arizona Water Company was a reliable if expensive alternative while the well served as a source for irrigation of trees and garden.
We obviously didn’t know shit from shinola about water, wells, or septic tanks and for good reason. Both of us had lived in cities and suburbs where such matters were invisible to us. In fact, climbing up hill 30 miles out of Tucson Oracle seemed to us a sparsely populated near wilderness. A place where we breathed easier. Light traffic, oak, juniper, manzanita along with cholla and prickly pear cactus.
An old saw has it that to a hammer everything’s a nail. To a writer everything’a a story. Since writing is what I’m doing these days, stories abound. Take the the experience of living for a few days with my great niece. There’s a ton of story material right here.
So what do we do with an energetic nine year old?
A possible answer - Zipline! How about that?
Actually the Arizona Zipline Adventure is a story in itself. And behind the Zipline is an Oracle ranching family (the Goffs), also a story. But I digress.
As it happened, our nine year old visitor really wanted to go for it out there in the high desert Catalina foothills just a spit away from Oracle proper. We were excited by her excitement and hoped there was an opening in this busy season. Sure enough Emily Goff paved the way.
So there she is - our nine year old - hanging on a wire ready to go zipping after being trained up by the rugged staff/crew that knows the ropes.
And she’s off! To five zip lines for about two hours.
Of course we watch the kick off and the landing and in the mean time we have an order of really good french fries, enjoy the atmospherics of the place which are beautiful and fascinating and ponder the history of the Arizona Zipline Adventure itself. (When one gets right down to it, it really is an engineering marvel in its own right).
A picture tells the ending to my Oracle Zipline story much better than I can write it.
The Oracle Authors Meetup came off well, meeting or beating expectations for turnout and quality of readings/presentations. At least that's the feedback many of us got. There's a story and hard work behind every book, that's for sure. A special thanks to Jean Wilcox for the photos memorializing the event. Also a big thank you to Susan Schiek pictured to my left for her recognition of deceased Oracle authors who preceded us.
I was drinking my morning coffee at our dining table when Kaz called from the kitchen:
“There’s no water!”
“There’s no water!”
So I get up to investigate - a trouble shooting scheme hatching in my brain.
Double check kitchen valve. She’s right. No water.
I stride purposefully to bathroom and open a tap. Nope. Head for the quonset and turn on valve there. Nope. I conclude we have a big problem.
It’s got to be a burst AZ Water Company main I theorize. I tell Kaz I’m going to take a drive around the hood to check it out. But I never get out of our driveway on to Bonito. There it is - a gusher from the line coming to our house producing torrents of water flowing well down the street.
Now that’s a homeowners “Oh, shit” moment. I tell Kaz what’s up. She suggests I turn the valve off at the main. Good idea! I pull the cover to the meter and close the thing manipulating two wrenches simultaneously calling A to Z Plumbing. Now I’ve known Tim Ragels since he was fetching tools for his daddy at the age of 7 (43 years ago). And I know he’s busy as hell. But he answers my call and happens to be coming down from a job in Aravaipa and will stop by with his side kick Trevor. Great!
15 minutes later he and Trevor show up in Tim’s truck loaded with pipe on the rack, a jumble of tools in the bed and side boxes containing who knows what. Anyway, by then, I’ve got a shovel and revealed the busted joint where old steel pipe joins to plastic. I’ve concluded it would take me at least a day to get the tools and materials required to make the fix,.. presupposing I had the skills to do it - which I most certainly do not.
Tim and Trevor begin digging furiously exposing six or so feet of line and deep enough to get under the failed joint. Tim goes about cutting and measuring, torches the joint to extricate one end of the pipe, glues the new sturdier connector in and there it is. Completed in roughly ten minutes. Water back on. No leak! Trench covered up. Done.
Now I’ve heard complaints about how expensive plumbers are these days and I always nod sympathetically. But the fact is that 43 years experience along with lots of native smarts is worth its weight in gold when push comes to shove and you want water to flow when turning on the tap.
I run up to the house for my check book happy to part with a few bucks for a job well done.
Back in the day, my Uncle Orrin used to cut firewood on his few hundred acre farm in Otisville, NY this way - with a two man crosscut saw (also called a “misery saw” for all the human energy required by the sawyers). That was well before chain saws became widely available.
Shortly after we moved into our Oracle home in 1979 one of our neighbors proposed heading to the San Pedro Valley to cut up some mesquite for fires on cold nights. "OK", I say, having no clue what I’m getting in to. (The two man “misery” saw of course was long obsolete.) Being unfamiliar with chain saws I looked forward to learning. So my generous neighbor (Ted Johnson) showed me what’s what and, when we got to where dead and down mesquite were plentiful, we traded off doing the cutting (well, he did most of it). The power of the chain saw kind of blew me away. In short order the bed of my 1971 Dodge half ton was full up. Its three speed on the column/slant six labored mightily returning up hill to Oracle but we made it safe and sound.
After that, sold on chainsawing, I bought an old one from Darrell Klesch (scrupulously maintained of course) and went about cutting up dead trees and limbs on our property. It turned out there was as much oak as we could possibly burn to heat our living room and enjoy regular fires. (And that was before the wrack and ruin caused by climate change accelerated die back.)
When Darrell’s hand me down punked out I bought a McCullough which did the job for many years then graduated to a Stihl MS 250.
I never thought of chain saws as particularly dangerous until Kaz read me a story about a guy trying to cut a limb over his head who laid his skull wide open instead. He was found dead in a pool of blood by his wife . It was reported that he likely lost control as the saw kicked back and he paid the ultimate price.
There are plenty of ways to get hurt using a chain saw but the closest I came to lethal injury cutting wood was with a pole saw. Not a power pole saw mind you but one of the muscle driven jobs. I was cutting away at a limb over my head with a sturdy step ladder strategically placed to protect some plant life underneath. That’s when a little voice suggested I step back a bit. Which I did. Right then with one more stroke of the saw the oak limb snapped and dropped straight down - all several hundred pounds of it - making a dent in the top of the very robust ladder - evidence of what would have been a knock out blow had it been my head on the receiving end. Nowadays every time I pull that ladder out I’m reminded of what might have happened had that little voice gone unattended.
Sharon Richmond arrived in Oracle about the same time Kaz and I did. She was traveling around the US, came upon Oracle, brought food service experience to the table and decided to purchase Mother Cody’s Cafe in the center of town with her husband George. In addition to her restaurant duties she emerged as partier-in-chief often moving across the street to the Oracle Inn after Mother Cody’s closing time. That was years before the Oracle Inn owner Red Hildreth tripled the size of the place and fitted it out for the gaming bonanza he believed was coming. The OI served as the epi-center of Oracle nightlife. The steaks were great, the bartenders local and convivial, with spontaneous dancing mid bar led by the likes otf Sharon and some of the rest of us.
Sharon was ahead of her time in one respect. Informing any and all who would listen, she predicted that Oracle was the next Sedona (about which she claimed vast knowledge having once passed through the booming Red Rock tourist town). She pitched Oracle’s future as a tourism bonanza waiting to happen.
Pictured below is what Mother Cody's Cafe has evolved into these many decades later - a restaurant, market and (not pictured) The Cook Shack just down the street. Like Sharon Richmond, owners Stacey and David Ranieri bring their own special food and hospitality talents to the enterprise and to the town of Oracle (which no one these days will mistake for Sedona).
For many of Oracle’s residents our Oaks are like cherished friends. They do so much for us in good times and bad, offering beauty and comfort year round, shade in the summer months and fuel in the winter. They also represent OTown with a friendly visual aspect appealing to the outside world in artist's renderings and community promotions alike.
We don’t offer much in return. Occasionally contributing to their health by directing and retaining rainwater and judicious pruning but, those virtuous efforts not withstanding, the pattern of drought induced dieback is pretty clear. We humans have to take some responsibility for that, or so 97% of climate scientists assert. Of course, diehards in OTown may deny human caused climate change as a major culprit but this is becoming more and more difficult as dead and down carcasses of emory and white oak increasingly dot our landscape and scientific consensus debunks the deniers.
For sure our oaks sometimes pose a threat to the health and safety of Oracle’s residents and neighborhoods - from fire, collapse on homes and other structures and danger to property owners attempting inexpert sawyering by way of remediation.
We just lost the last remaining trunk - one of six from the same root system - that once graced our property right out our front door. This led me to fire up one of my chain saws and start (carefully) clearing the path to our house.
If oaks could talk - and some folks think they can - they could tell the story of our town. And maybe they could offer insight into our shared future if we stubbornly continue down the road of business as usual we’re on right now. They might even render judgments on the humans who claim to “own” them.
Michael Moore is the graphic artist who produced this promotional piece for our Oracle Authors Meetup. He's also the author of three books one of which features his remarkable charcoal drawings. An all around creative, Mike has also built his own unique home in Oracle and contributed greatly to community betterment efforts. He joins eight other authors inviting you to the Oracle Center for the Arts (OrCA) Saturday, December 10, 3-5pm.
What started as a conversation between myself and Lead Pastor James Ruiz 10 or so days ago led to today's makeover of the triangle of property adjacent to the Oracle Post Office. A team from his church worked hard all morning to weed whack, prune and haul away the cuttings.
As pictured here the Living Word team really got after it. Their skills were applied to multiple tasks including the pruning of trees and shrubs which requires delicacy and even artistry. Pictured below is Fina Guisinger who rose to that challenge along with others she coached.
There's more to this story than meets the eye and what meets the eyes is quite strikingly beautiful. As owners of the land (really temporary stewards) today's work raised our sights in the direction of a parklike setting with trails suitable for wandering, reflection, bird watching and appreciation of the glory of Creation.
Otown has done a pretty good job of promoting the arts of all sorts. The two day event coming up this weekend is a prime example. Visitors and some locals will look at and sometimes buy the works of local creatives.
Rancho Linda Vista set the arts and crafts world in Oracle spinning several decades ago - think Charles Littler, Fox McGrew, Andy Rush, Pat Dolan and a host of others. And we have Sharon Holnbach/GLOW/Triangle L, OrCA/Oracle Piano Society and the Oracle Historical Society with its inspiring "historical" story telling. There's more but you get the point.
Writers are a different kettle of fish. A mostly solitary bunch who think, gaze out windows and tap away on a keyboard - mostly by themselves. That makes Oracle authors a curiosity. They are for sure a diverse cast of characters that includes the aforementioned Rush and Dolan, the inimitable Michael Moore, architectural wizard Jeff Zucker, yours truly and, we hope, a few others of note waiting on confirmation. So while you're touring Otown save another date: December 10, (probably) 3-5 PM at OrCA.
Everytime I enter the Oracle Community Center (OCC) I recall the adventure residents shared in getting it built. That old time feeling surged again at the gathering yesterday. It occurs to me now that revisiting, even briefly, the whole construction experience may help inform current projects including efforts to promote tourism.
Other stories are also important. One I try to narrate in a chapter in my book (Sometimes David Wins) references a community survey that was conducted door to door in the 1980's. (Kaz mentioned it at yesterday's meeting.) The survey was designed by a local team headed by Ann Woodin with the help of Jim Sell from the University of Arizona. I suspect resident views haven't changed much since then. Among the takeaways were attachment to "dark skies", minimal traffic, peace and quiet, "small town" scale and a slow to moderate rate of population growth. What these desirables have to do with "tourism" is an open question well worth considering.
Since its "founding" in 1880, Oracle has grown in its own unique way. Sure, small subdivisions were built to accommodate miners flocking to jobs in the San Manuel mine in the mid 1950s, but no way does Oracle resemble a company town or a planned community. In fact, Otown contrasts sharply with the old corporate town model built by Magma Copper 10 miles east or the new corporate cookie-cutters of SaddleBrooke / SaddleBrooke Ranch 10 miles west. Touting the twin SaddleBrookes as the gold standard of planned development design, Robson Luxury Development moguls called Oracle a "hodgepodge". I think most of us who live here would take that as a compliment.
When Kaz and I bought our home in Oracle in 1979 there were no building codes, multiple unnamed streets, and bits and pieces of zoning with no overarching plan. County oversight was almost non-existent. Folks built however the spirit moved them. Much of Otown looked like what's pictured above - open and beautiful. To be sure the subdivisions - Oracle Village and Los Robles "Estates" and Mitman Addition - were planned and hooked into sewer, electric and water service on a modest scale (but without HOA governed restrictions and gated entries).
When it came to marketing, individual business enterprises took that on. Lamar Cotton for example, placed ads far and wide in newspapers advertising his subdivisions. Rancho Linda Vista (RLV) made a name for itself (and Oracle) by launching a "dude ranch" with a national following. Later, a chamber of commerce formed up - SMOR (San Manuel Oracle Region) - that never seemed to gain much traction or community support and ironically never approached the "marketing" impact of RLV which morphed into an arts and crafts mecca and set the stage for the Oracle of today.
In the 1980s, mega development schemes were proposed for Oracle by the likes of Cherokee Development that sought to ring the town with 25,000 homes. But that venture crashed and burned as local opposition and an economic down blip took their toll.
These days, Oracle still follows the individual business marketing model, with local ventures mostly doing their own thing. So you get the idea. While economic development used to be thought of primarily as bringing in large enterprises with lots of jobs (Magma Copper's mine, mill, railroad and smelter, for example), smaller scale options now seem to make more sense to us locals who value small town life and our special place in it.
The image above captures the work of a local collaboration between the Community Garden, Darrell Klesch's rockwork, Quentin Branch and Julie Szekely's rammed earth and Sharon Holnbach's gateway metal work. Masters all of their craft. It represents a "hodgepodge" of talents drawn together through a labor of love.
Maybe Steve Soriano, Ed Robson's tout, was on to something when he and his planning gurus described Oracle as hodgepodge. Lots of different kinds of people living in lots of different sorts of housing making livings lots of different ways. Maybe when it comes to quality of life, that beats the alternatives.
We all know the drill. Big rallies with politicos fulminating about one thing or another, sometimes with prominent allies thrown in. Chants and cheers, paraparnalia and merchandise hawkers, attack lines and grandiose claims of a new day or catastrophic implosion. Energizing the base, demoralizing the opposition. And afterwards the media judgment - the numbers scorecard. Bigger or smaller than expected. More or less "energy" than anticipated. Bottom lines of evaluation.
Don't get me wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with big rallies. They serve a purpose and prove a point. We used to call them "actions" in my community organizing days like the one pictured above, with our turnout numbers frequently topping 2,000 in places like Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and even Yuma, Sedona and Henderson. They worked to help build powerful organizations, do public business and prove that a shitload of folks cared enough to show up in person. But they were the icing on the cake, ratification of work that had gone on for months, sometimes years. It's easy to forget in the glow of mega turnouts that the real action - where people actually changed, where perspectives were actually altered - happened in small groups; before, after and sometimes even during the big events (when time was blocked out for breakouts).
In Sometimes David Wins I narrate a few of those conversations, trying to make the point that in tandem with the big actions they were the drivers of change.
Recent events in Oracle jibe with something I discovered a long time ago. Some politicos (whether office holders or candidates) are less capable than others of engaging in the give and take of conversation, even when circumstances are optimal. Like some preachers, teachers and bureaucrats (not to mention residents), they're over scripted and under "relatable". And who can blame them? For politicos the stressors go up with the stakes and going off script is dangerous when everyone has a smart phone and maybe an axe to grind. The same could be said about preachers, teachers and rest.
One of my observations is that Oracle is a pretty safe space for conversations. But this may also true of neighborhoods, schools, religious congregations, and organizations of all sorts where the face-to-face craft of conversation is respected, encouraged, taught and learned; that is where conversation is practiced.
I don't know for sure how to answer the question. Oracle is small, politically close to 50-50. Obviously not home to a tranche of votes for any candidate or either party. Nor is it home to the rich and powerful. So what's the attraction?
Lauren Kuby, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, was the third major candidate to visit Oracle, The others were Kris Mayes and Katie Hobbes. All of the events were conversational which was the point of the invites. A small amount of money for each was raised but chicken feed in the larger scheme of things.
I went to all three and was impressed by the simplicity of the formats. Direct questions, direct answers. Absent was the bombast and catastrophe mongering that seems to characterize so much political discourse these days. I may have to eat my words down the road but so far Oracle has weathered the epidemic of what pundits/big media call "polarization" pretty well.
That's got me thinking about the "why". I'm trying to formulate an answer.
Our last visitors from distant places dropped anchor in Oracle in March of 2020. After that the covid plague killed appetites for travel and raised the risks of local hospitality. Plus covid deepsixed a lot of what we used to take for granted - community activities that visitors would enjoy along with us. Well, guess what, fingers crossed, those days seem to be in the past and a new day may have arrived.
The two adventurers pictured above, one of whom just happens to be my cousin, spent the weekend with us. They helped usher in this new era which may be dawning. We were uncertain what would appeal to them but figured Glow was a pretty good bet.
Glow as we know it is one of a kind - the creation of Triangle L impressario Sharon Holnback. Even for locals it just doesn't get old with all the fresh creatives pitching in.
And our visitors loved it.
Kaz and I signed up for Covid vaccine # 5 at our local health clinic - Sun Life. When we showed up Friday the parking lot was nearly full.
Several friends were in the waiting room for the same reason we were. A neighborly welcome for sure including from the folks who work there.
That got me thinking about the importance of easy local access to health care. Would we have driven 30 minutes or more to Oro Valley/Tucson for the same purpose? Or, as in my case, likely put it off? What about routine blood tests? Another long drive? Maybe put it off til next month or longer?
At age 76 I've had plenty of blood draws and watched many more (of parents and in laws). One time I was jabbed three times by a sweating nurse who finally gave up and sent me up the street to a place with the ambiance of a methadone clinic. That was in Tucson. So I was a bit apprehensive about the jabbing and drawing my first time at Oracle Sun Life. Guess what? Easy in, easy out, vials filled, done. Next time - same drill. Same outcome. What's not to like about that?
When Kaz and I got back from two weeks away our land resembled an untended farm in upstate New York. It's quite remarkable - a second straight year of Big Weed after Big Monsoon.
Looking around the town it's clear that Oracle residents have adopted a variety of strategies in response. They very widely, running the gamut from the "let it grow/do nothing" position on the one hand to the "blade and grade" position on the other. In the vast middle are the rest of us, anxiously eye balling to our neighbors, hoping to avoid the humiliation of being judged slackers on the weed front. Not to mention hoping to reduce fire risk after the potential fuels dry out.
During weed season someone is always firing up some sort of gas powered engine to have a go at the growth. They range from heavy equipment like tractors and riding mowers down to tinker toy corded and/or battery powered hand held line trimmers.
The tradeoffs are obvious because the tinker toys don't pollute and the gas guzzlers do. But the tinker toys can't deal with Big Weed very well and take forever on the small stuff. And anyway there are plenty of options in between to which most of us resort.
Weed whacking has its own language and skill set. (Do you use an 80 or a 95 (that's short for .08 line vs. .095 line)? Stihl, Husquvarna, Echo, Other? Mower or rolling line trimmer? Switch to battery operated? Powerful enough? Hire anybody when overwhelmed? Who? How much? Bump line or auto feed? Measure the trim line or guesstimate? Newfangled head or the old reliable? On and on through a hodgepodge of questions and answers.
There's some folks around town I won't talk politics with, but weeds? Everybody can safely weigh in on weeds and get right down in there with them. Which is what I've been doing a lot of lately.
Relationships among local residents never came easy either. From the beginning tensions simmered and bubbled up only to simmer and boil again. Internal battles occasionally devolved into public arguments and fisticuffs as factions contested for town dominance.
National movements - the labor movement; the environmental movement; the peace movement; the tea party movement; Trumpism - swept in and out and some back in again.
All of this makes for compelling story telling.
As of now Oracle seems to linger on the success side of the ledger: A small, unincorporated town buffeted by powerful forces that has managed to carve out a unique identity while exercising a degree of self determination. Threatened by drought and fire, vulnerable to contamination and/or exhaustion of the aquifer sourcing its water, sometimes wracked by political divisions , perched precariously on a north facing granite ridge, nothing about Oracle’s future can be taken for granted.
Nothing in Oracle, Arizona has ever come easy. In the late 1800’s when the indigenous people populating the area were driven out by force of arms and Oracle was “founded” (conquered) a post office naming the place after a ship was established. Just getting here was a major accomplishment. The stage coach out of Tucson was a body hammering ride on wooden planks and crude springs that softened the rocky jolts very little. Native American raiders were mostly gone but few visitors made the journey and fewer still wanted to repeat the experience.
Only the tough endured. Ranching was a brutal test of human and beast against drought and distance to markets. Hard scrabble gold mining was replete with minimal returns and outright failed ventures. The mine with the iron door became a cinematic favorite despite, or maybe because of, disappearing. Buffalo Bill Cody had some capital to invest but no success digging for gold.
The local economy picked up only as the bodies piled up. A cottage industry serving tuberculosis refugees seeking a healthier clime sprang up to welcome the living, many of whom were soon to be dead. (To be continued)
Kaz and I have known Ellie Brown for many years. Through St. Helen Church, the Oracle Community Center, Sun Life Clinic, the Oracle Fire Department, Deb Breen's Zumba class - the list goes on and on. This knowing helps explain why we along with so many others supported her run for Copper Corridor Justice of the Peace. We believe she will do a great job in a position that is of critical importance to our town.
Oracle is a community of quiet successes. Most never attract much public attention. And so it goes. Until a crisis breaks out or a key political decision focuses the spotlight on one or another problem or local institution.
The position of justice of the peace is pivotal because so many of the trials and tribulations, the family disputes, the acts of desperation and addiction - not to mention outright criminality - find their way to our local courthouse.
In Oracle and places like it a mix of broad community experience along with deep family roots and relationships is foundational to sound judicial decision making - which is exactly what we can expect from Ellie in the coming years.
Oracle is home to a variety of wildlife, running the gamut from deer like the one pictured here, to a black bear frequenting one of our neighbors yard, to bobcats, everpresent javalina and an occasional mountain lion. Overall pretty good company. Of course the bear had to be moved to a different location and the javalina can be a pain in the ass.
Oracle is a pretty good little walking town. Lots of folks are up and about early these days to beat the heat and enjoy the landscape. Some are quite disciplined - daily, twice daily, couples, groups, even step counters racking up big numbers.
For myself it's beauty of place, the company, the encounters with friends and (sometimes new) neighbors that makes the walkabouts so gratifying.
When you think about it, it's a whole lot safer to meet strangers on the road than walking up a driveway and banging on the front door. In that case you might be greeted by a cold stare leveled behind cold steel. That happened in our neighborhood to a woman who thought she was approaching the right house hosting a baby shower. Wrong. The experience left her shaken, even traumatised.
Speaking of being traumatised, how would you react to encountering someone who looks like this?
I freaked out until Kaz assured me it was just our next door neighbor walking while netted.
To outsiders - some politicians, distant bureaucrats, and residents of neighboring planned communities - it may appear insignificant. What's the fuss about cutting the county's free trash voucher program in half (from 6 to 3) and raising some bureaucratic hoops in the process? No big deal, right?
But stop to consider this: In the real world of Oracle and its environs, the free voucher program at minimal cost has reduced desert dumping, cut into backyard trash accumulation, cut fire risk and encouraged neighborliness of mutual aid. Not to mention helping out with family budgets.
So maybe what looks like "little stuff" to outsiders matters a lot to the folks who live in Oracle and the other communities in the Copper Corridor.
There's another angle on this situation that bears consideration. That is how local government can turn local relationships into an excercise in suspicion. Distancing the voucher program (and obviously so many others) means applicants are by definition suspect. Who are you really and are you worthy of what what we're conditionally bestowing on you if you manage the hoops properly. If you don't you're just plain stupid or technologically incompetent which is another way of saying the same thing. Small communities in the Copper Corridor are still face-to-face and trust based. We give up that ground grudgingly. Our Florence Goverment is severing those ties bit by bit. Game the system for a voucher? OMG. Scottsdale lawyers fronting Goliath developers know what gaming the system really means. They're talking millions and tens of millions not nickels and dimes.
The Oracle we moved into in 1979 was a blue collar town. Sure there was a handful of mining executives building on hill tops but everyone else was employed in mine work, ranch work or hard scrabble small business. Even the revolutionary changes wrought by the Rancho Linda Vista art colony were hands on (blue collar) in nature. (A visit to the workshops of RLV made that abundantly clear. Dirty hands, weird weldings, strange fabrications on desert paths and the like were the order of the day.)
At that time Oracle residents lionized "blue collar" excellence - endurance and skills underground and/or in mill or smelter; cement work, block laying, framing, sheetrocking, roofing; heavy equipment operations. I rarely heard of someone praising IT skills, lawyering, marketing, accounting or executive management and the like.
In the economy of local respect, wealth didn't figure. No one was that rich anyway and the few that had some extra bucks gained no particular esteem for it. One important venture in the 1980's illustrates my point, namely, construction of the Oracle Community Center.
A cracked slab was all that had been accomplished by a group formed up originally to build it. The slab lay fallow along with the dollars raised to complete the building. In the early 1980's there were board conflicts (which is a story for another time) but the bottom line is locals turned out to put the building up with whatever skills they brought to the project or were willing to learn on the job.
Pivotal in this effort was Central Arizona College/Aravaipa Campus building trades instructor Glen Johnson. Glen took the Community Center project on with several of his classes, pitched in himself, and mentored the rest of us. Kaz and I loved the guy for who he was and what he accomplished.
We also noted the number of fellow residents who swung into action workday after workday. With volunteer labor the building ended up costing $15 a square foot (total 2800 square feet), a remarkable and enduring achievement.
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.