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Strawberry AZ

Strawberry AZ is a small unincorporated community located just under the Mogollon (Mu'-gee-own) Rim in northwestern Gila County. If you have read any of the books by Zane Grey, many of the books were set in the Rim Country of Arizona although the Rim was called the Tonto Rim. Zane Grey had a cabin in the Christopher Creek area west of Payson which, unfortunately, was burned in the Dude Fire of 1990.

Immediately after leaving Strawberry, traveling north towards Winslow, you begin climbing the Rim for about three miles and come out on top with a lovely view to the south towards Payson and to the west towards Camp Verde. The Mogollon Rim is an escarpment formed by the geologic layers of sedimentary rock which continue from the Rim towards the north to become the Colorado Plateau, land of the Hopi and Navajo, and reach to the northeast to the Four Corners area. The little valley in which the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona and an old settler's cabin are still situated forms a small "V" with the Rim on the north side and Strawberry Mountain on the south side at an altitude of about 6000 feet. Somehow this small valley seems to attract more rain and snow than surrounding areas with the consequence that on the north side of Strawberry mountain there are Douglas firs interspersed with the more usual Ponderosa pine and Gambel oak in the surrounding forest. Strawberry is also the locale of wild strawberries which give the community its name.

Deer and elk are commonly seen here. Bobcat have been sighted and a herd of javalina (wild pigs) have a pathway down the mountain along the draw that forms our property line to the natural spring below. There was a rumor of a black bear a number of years ago, but, fortunately we haven't seen one here, although this summer a black bear crossed the highway in front of our motorhome south of Payson and several years ago a black bear ran into the side of our van on the road from Camp Verde to Strawberry. Two kinds of tree squirrels, gray and Abert with their long tufted ears, and a variety of ground squirrel, the rock squirrel have made their homes in the surrounding trees and rocks. Our feeders have attracted finches, pine siskens, rufous sided towhee, grosbeaks, scrub and Stellar jays, mourning doves, chickadees, juncos, woodpeckers, nuthatches, western climbers, and, of course, in summer, the hummingbirds--rufous and scarlet-throated--dive bombing each other at the feeders. A northern flicker enjoyed the apples at the top our golden delicious apple tree during the summer and fall. I would love to attract the western tanager closer to the house but have been unsuccessful, although I have seen them flying overhead with the flash of brilliant gold and scarlet which is their calling card. Wild turkey live in the area of a pond on a lower slope of Strawberry Mountain.

We first visited what would become our second home for twenty-eight years on Mother's Day of 1973. Michael was three years old and had a difficult time with the enormous stumps and logs that littered what had once been national forest land. After coming back the next week and signing the papers we spent a number of weekends that summer camping out at our lot. The road from Strawberry to Camp Verde was unpaved at the time and in places full of deep ruts which made travel to and from very interesting. In August we asked for an estimate of putting in a septic tank only to come back and find that the septic tank had been installed. So we figured God was telling us something. :-) We then purchased a prefabricated two bedroom house and kind friends helped us put it up over the Labor Day weekend. The fireplace was built from red sandstone which a wonderful gentleman from Pine just down the road constructed for us.

We brought our first Boxer, Kodo, here in 1980 and all subsequent Strawberry Boxers have spent snowy weekends and lazy summer vacations here since then. All Strawberry puppies learned to climb the fourteen stairs from the dog yard out front to the front deck at about six weeks. All that have lived with us have taken many walks through the forest past Fuller's Ranch, one of the oldest ranches in the area. All have been tormented by squirrels and teased by the jays.

In August of 1999 with the passage of the years Bruce had retired and we were looking towards my retirement the following May. Bruce had been working very closely with an architect in redesigning the small house that had been "Strawberry" to us for so many years. In August we signed a contract for construction on the remodeling of the house. Before that we had looked at a number of areas as places where we might possibly relocate after retirement--British Columbia, Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Washington. All of them have two things in common--forests and cool weather. However, when all those places had been checked over carefully, none offered quite the combination of beauty, weather and location that we already had in Strawberry.

We moved into the house here in March 2000. There are links at the top of the page to views of the new house. Bruce had entered a dog show in San Antonio the weekend after we moved the furniture in in March and I was on my spring break that week. So Bruce missed the three feet of snow that fell from early Sunday morning to early Wednesday morning. I had four Boxers, we were low on propane, and at times all electriciy and phones were out, but I had plenty of food and wood and I have never, ever seen such beautiful snow!!!

I did retire in May 2000 and we spent the summer and fall travelling to Argentina for dog shows, to the Pacific Northwest for dog shows, and numerous landscaping and gardening projects. As I write this we are having a beautiful January snow storm. The birds and squirrels have taken over the front yard where they know a reliable source of food is to be found. The Boxers, never too enthusiastic about the cold, wet, white stuff, are snoozing in front of the fire. The mail is full of seed catalogs and we are drawing diagrams for a new configuration of the vegetable garden and plans for new spots for wildflowers and garden flowers and shrubs. I have the beginnings of a birdbath/fountain in two wine barrels out front, and I am looking forward to the first flowering bulbs. We are looking forward to a trip to MD in May for the ABC specialty and to Toronto in June for the specialty there with a side trip to Montreal as tourists.

Strawberry is a wonderful place for Boxers, people, birds and squirrels, wildlife and flowers and we are enjoying retirement here immensly.

© Judy Voran
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