( 10/31/2007 07:05:00 AM ) Bill S.
THE WAY WEST - IV: A few things I've learned about Our New Little Town in the past four weeks:
And that's it for now from this transplanted Midwesterner . . .
- Safford AZ has, at last count, a population of 8,932, though that's probably expanded some since the 2005 census estimates with all the additional mining going on the area. Whenever we mention to someone from the area that we've just recently come to town, the first assumption is that mining company Phelps Dodge (or "PD") has brought us out there. Half the time when I say that I'm in social services, I get a mildly puzzled look.
- Once they learn we're from Illinois, the inevitable response is "You're gonna really enjoy our Winters."
- The town's major hub of activity is its Super Wal-Mart. Go to the store on the weekend and - even if you've only lived there a few weeks - you're guaranteed to run into someone you know. This happened to me on my first trip coming out of the Pet section (saw one of my neighbors) and the second looking at computer tables for the study (this time t'was one of my co-workers).
- My first full week in town concluded with a Harvest Day parade down Safford's main drag; apparently, they also hold parades in December for the Xmas holiday and in May for Cinco de Mayo. The agency I work for had a small trailer in the event, so I got to ride and toss out candy to the crowd. They sure do love their parades in Safford!
- I hadn't yet made carrying along my prescription sunglasses second nature when we rode in the Harvest Day parade, but I've since learned better.
- Drivers in Arizona don't look when they back out of parking spaces.
- Safford may be a mining community, but that's not its only reason for existing. To see a pure mining town, you have to drive thirty miles into the Black Hills to Morenci, where dull gray concrete houses nestle on the side of the mountain and look down into an open copper mine. The houses are provided by the mining company (talk about owing your soul to the company store) and have a waiting list to get in, but they're pretty depressing to visit. Soon as you step out on your front steps, you immediately see the place where you work.
- Live on the mountain and you apparently need to get your house fumigated monthly to keep out scorpions. I haven't seen any yet, but I expect to. I'm told if you get 'em in your home to circle your bed with baby powder. Okay.
- Guard rails are for sissies.
- Out on the desert highway, you regularly see road signs warning you to watch out for wildlife. Back in Central Illinois, you grew accustomed to see dead deer along the side of the road; in this part of the country, the biggest danger apparently comes from Javelina pigs (a.k.a. collared peccary). "You do not wanna hit a Javelina with your car," I'm told, since they're profoundly greasy.
- A loaf of bread dries out really quickly here.
- Arizona is apparently facing a major problem with crystal meth usage. In town and on the highway, you regularly see shock tactic billboards warning about the dangers of meth: most of 'em are calculatedly horrid looking, with scabby faces flashing their rotting teeth at passing drivers. It's yucky enough to make you long for the days when Lady Bird Johnson was promoting her campaign to beautify America by getting rid of billboards altogether. I thought this kinda shock tactie had been largely proven ineffective years sgo.
- Teevee scheduling takes some getting used to in Arizona. Because Arizona Mountain Time is unlike any other Mountain Time ("Daylight Savings Time, we don't need no steenking Daylight Savings Time!"), network prime time runs from seven to ten, while cable channels like fx and Comedy Central often go from eight to eleven. Haven't seen an episode of The Daily Show yet since I've gotten down here. I need to program the DVR.
- In our part of the country, double-wides don't appear to carry the same degree of social stigma that they do elsewhere. Desert sands are a great equalizer.