We could smell water. Large cottonwood trees formed a green line above the tan landscape disclosing the winding path of a hidden stream. This was exactly what we were looking for. We ducked behind the ridge to avoid being seen. We talked with excitement and gave thanks. We were one of several scouting parties sent to find a new home suitable for our people. Despite years of prayers, the water and game in our ancestral territory were growing scarce. Our families were slowly perishing in the hot country seven days’ walk to the south.
Suddenly, an arrow slammed into my back. It’s sharp flint punched through my ribs and lodged in my sternum. I fell forward, gasping in shock. I heard shouts and the sound of bodies falling. My hands raked the ground, uselessly seeking my bow, uselessly seeking escape. Shadows moved over me, but I couldn’t see their sources. I thought urgently of my wife and young son until a second arrow tore through my heart.
The wind had increased and radically changed direction. We stopped work on the firebreak, looked down the steep hill and saw the unthinkable. The wildfire threatening Yarnell, Arizona, previously obscured by smoke, was shockingly close and racing up the draw toward us at unbelievable speed.
No one can outrun a wind-driven wildfire leaping up a hillside. We had no vehicles to extract us. We’d hiked miles to a planned firebreak site with just the tools in our hands and on our backs. Our only hope was immediate fire suppression from the air. Eric, our leader, was yelling into the radio.
Burning embers began to pelt us. “Clear an area! Shelter in place!”. We all knew that this was the worst scenario. The unnerving sound of high-revving chainsaws ripped the air as we dragged brush clear of a space forty yards across. We spread fire shelters, thin aluminized tents, as the fire approached. The scene was hurried but orderly. Rookies climbed into their shelters first helped by the more senior firefighters. We lay head-to-head with our feet radiating like spokes. The fire was moving fast. Maybe it would pass over quickly. Shouts of encouragement competed with the wind and growing roar of the fire.
Prescott does a western take on the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. Instead of dropping an 11,875 lb Waterford crystal ball, Prescott drops a paper mâché cowboy boot.
Scores of US cities drop balls…or oranges, or tangerines or strawberries. Other dropped objects include: A stuffed goat (Falmouth, PA), A live opossum (Brassville, NC), A sausage (Elmore, OH), A conch shell (Key West, FL), A red crab (Easton, MD), A 600 lb Moon Pie (Mobile, AL), A Liberty Bell (Allentown, PA), A guitar (Memphis & Nashville, TN).
The use of a descending object as a time signal originated in the United Kingdom in the early 1800s. (more…)