Arizona: Christmas in Apache County

Apache County, Arizona is high in elevation and low in median income.  A beautiful piece of America, the county lies in the north east of the state.  This high desert area has plenty of snow in the winter, but not much money for schools in the fall.  I recently went there to visit family during the Christmas vacation. I saw the white of the snow and the orange red of the terra.  Outside, the stars were bright and beautiful.  The ground was bright with fresh powder from the night before.  It was truly a white Christmas, and spirits were high, but I could only begin to wonder what gifts lay under the trees.

I was at one of the two churches in the community.  Ironically, they were across the street from each other, but it seems like it would help the two church communities hold joint functions because of the serious lack of income in the area.  The other church was of Latter Day Saints, and there was a large population of Mormons north from where I was.  The church I was at was neither denominational, nor clearly explained to me.  It was obviously not a catholic church, and they seemed to believe in predestination, so I can only assume they were some branch of Protestantism.

The Church service was fun.  Almost each family in attendance participated in some specific way or another.  The house was packed.  There was a large number of retired people in the audience, but out of the about hundred people were a handful of twenty-something’s, and some young couples.  The couples all seemed to have at least 3 or 4 children. The best part was the chili pot luck dinner in true rural Arizona fashion.  We ate chili, and home-made tortillas, guacamole, salsa (both kinds: hot, and really hot), and cookies for dessert.


It should be said that Apache County is a diverse and interesting part of Arizona.  It is within Navajo county in the state, but has autonomy within its own boarders, and their own government institution.  It also has criminal jurisdiction over areas near, but not within the reservation land, including a highway used by many non-native Americans.  The last Democrat representative was knocked out of office because of some anti-gun law legislation that he supported in congress.  The political, ethnic, and nationalistic diversity allows for very captivating conversation

It costs about ten thousand dollars for an acre of land, and there are many mobile homes, permanent prefabricated, and trailers.  It is all zoned for agriculture, but the land is poor for farming, and there are goat farmers in the area, but not many.  They are all using well water, which was absolutely delicious, but had a sulfuric smell when heated up for a shower.  My family made very good iced sun tea instead of boiling it.  My family had built a house up to California’s state code. When my uncle went to submit the plans, he was informed all he needed were walls, a working toilet, and a working sink to be a safe dwelling.  The real laugh was when he was asked what some lines were on the plans, and he responded by saying it was where the insulation was going to go.  The planner laughed, “We don’t care if you want to pay more for heating in the winter.”


I was technically in a part of Vernon, Arizona, but my uncle informed me that I was also in the city of Show Low when we went to the local post office.  If you mail to one address, the mail is delivered to the home, and the other needs to be collected from the post office itself.  Show Low is named after how the city was founded, and a mayoral race.  The race ended in a tie, and to decide the winner a game of poker, low hand wins, and there is a statue in the city square depicting the affair.

I had managed to drive there in between snow storms and had plans to leave before the next one would blow through.  There is a thirteen thousand foot mountain only about 20 miles from where I was staying.  There is really good skiing and snow sports there, but you really need to bring or rent a snowmobile to take full advantage of the x games.  The town has a gas station, and of course a Wal-Mart. There aren’t too many mom and pop shops left there, but for the cost of a time share you can own your own acre of serenity in one of the poorest, most awesomely serene places in the United States.

Isaak Koenka Written by:

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