Friday, 12 November 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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