Oracle institutions are pulling out all stops with an array of events. All are important. All deserving of community-wide support. There's something for everyone, even visitors who are curious about what's going on up here.
For readers, there's the Oracle Library book sale. For animal lovers there's the Oracle Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation fundraiser in remembrance of Jim Caid at Way of Bean Coffee Club. For gardeners there's the Oracle Community Learning Garden plant sale. Of course for all there's the day long Oracle Oaks Festival. And let's not overlook that for the devout on Sunday there will be Easter observances in all the churches. A very helpful calendar with event details is up here: https://www.visitoracle.org/events
I should add that a week after Oracle's Big Weekend comes the Big Car Show - the 35th Annual Spring Run! It's sponsored by one of Oracle's most important local institutions - The Oracle Historical Society/Acadia Ranch Museum.
Not too many Oracle residents have lived here long enough to remember the cracked slab next to the Oracle Cemetery. As a newcomer to town in the early eighties Kaz and I sure do. "What's with the ghost town ruin at the top of that rise?" we wondered. "That's the Oracle Community Center," was the retort. "We used to have dances on it to raise funds."
The four individuals in this picture embody what the OCC is all about these days. I don't know who took it, probably Laura Stiltner or Hailey Lugo, but the point is meal prep is going on for a very important Oracle meeting on fire prevention held in the Oracle Community Center. Board members are at the center of the kitchen action!
A cracked slab no longer, OCC has graduated to become a community building "institution". I could go on about the personal histories of all four but that's for another time and venue. Right now the OCC board including those not pictured deserve great credit for making selfless contributions to town betterment.
In this grand tradition the Oracle Oaks Festival is happening this Saturday, April 8, 9-4. A great place to spend the day!
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 7, 2023 7:51 PM
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
We salvaged a gate with permission from a new property owner down the street from us. It's a remarkable old time construction dating back maybe a century. But alas it was several feet too short. So who could possibly figure out how to make it work?
Maybe small towns across America have individuals who can figure out how to do and fix any thing. I don't know for sure but I do know that Oracle has Rebo Robinson. Measuring, cutting, welding, piecing, posting, latching - just for starters.
Aided and abetted by his son, Eric and grandson, Aiden, he works wonders. With Kaz pitching in.
A perfect fit!
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.
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.