The bonds of sisterhood are said to be eternal. For Payson's oldest living natives, the bonds of sisterhood have survived and strengthened over nearly a century, as they've endured separation and tragedy. Mirth and Myrl Pyle celebrated their 99th birthday together last week.
In 1890, the Pyle family traded land in Los Angeles for land in the area now known as Star Valley.
Disappointed in the quality of the land for farming, the family settled in a cabin on what used to be known as Bonita Creek, where Mirth and Myrl were born, the youngest of five children.
The entire family pitched in with work around the farm, including cattle ranching and orchard and crop harvesting.
"They ate what they raised and raised what they ate," Lee Jones, Mirth's eldest son, said, recalling stories his mother had told him.
Never having lived anywhere else, the Pyle sisters had a limited perception as to the world outside their small ranching community. It was during trips to ship their family's cattle that they discovered the wonders of the world outside Payson. That's where they saw their first electric light, their first grocery store and their first vehicle.
Education was their next first. Raised in a time when education was unobtainable for many women, the Pyle twins would not be denied.
The girls began their schooling in the Star Valley area, and then continued at Myrtle Middle School, named after their sister who died of appendicitis before they were born. They continued their education at the only high school in Payson.
The teenage years can be awkward for some, but the Pyle sisters were known to make their suitors downright uncomfortable, Jones said.
Sharing everything from secrets to clothes, the twins were known to occasionally swap boyfriends.
The two go-getters didn't drop their intellectual pursuits after high school. They uprooting from the familiarity of Payson and attended Lamson's Business College in Phoenix.
But home is where the heart is, and the Pyle women moved back to Payson after college. Saturday night dances were a highlight each week, allowing people of all ages to mix, mingle and dance the night away.
The dances provided more than a night of entertainment for the Pyle sisters; they each met their husbands during one of the Saturday night galas.
Myrl was the first to leave the nest. She married Claude Evans, who was quite a few years her senior, in 1923.
And as if sharing a birthday weren't enough, Mirth married her love, Claude Jones, five years to the day, after her sister's wedding.
Marriage was the first parting the previously inseparable pair experienced. The departure from each other was difficult for the sisters to handle. Mirth and her husband stayed in Bonita Creek, while Myrl and her husband moved to the Verde Valley, so Mirth would travel on the long mail trail, by horseback, to visit with her sister.
As the years passed, the distance grew wider between the two sisters, but their lifestyles stayed virtually identical.
Both women were ranch wives and mothers. Myrl was raising her son and daughter on their ranch in Phoenix, where her husband was in charge of livestock inspection. Mirth, on the other hand, was raising her two boys and one girl in Bonita Creek.
Their hearts and thoughts, however, always remained with one anothe, Jones said. One night, while in Phoenix, Myrl had a dream that the Barkdoll Hall, a community hall on Main Street in Payson, had burned down. Two days later, she received a letter from her sister recounting the burning of the Barkdoll, an accident that mirrored the events in Myrl's nightmare.
They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and distance made Myrl long for the close companionship of her sister. When her husband retired in 1970, the couple left the congestion and noise of Phoenix and moved back to her home town of Payson, building a small house within 100 feet of Mirth and Claude.
They all lived side by side for 10 years in Bonita Creek before tragedy struck in the early 1980s, and Myrl and Mirth's husbands died within four years of each other.
Shortly thereafter, unable to care for themselves, distance once again separated the two. Myrl moved in with her daughter in New River and Mirth moved in with her only daughter in Pine. These women have resided in these respective regions ever since.
"They make a lot of phone calls now to keep in touch and worry about each other frequently," Jones said. "Mom is always asking how Aunt Myrl is because my aunt has asthma."
The memories that the two women have shared and made have not slipped from their memories' grasps, Jones said. They still recall everything from their childhood together on the ranch. They can remember the names of each of their many farm animals, he said.
The twins, however, have lost their short-term memories. That, combined with deteriorating eyesight have diminished their zest for life, Jones said. They are unable to enjoy their grandchildren and great-grandchildren's smiling faces, he said, and they're unable to see the beauty of each day.
"Mom wakes up in the morning and simply says, 'well, I'm still here,'" Jones said. "But they still get around on their own, bless their hearts, with their walkers. They still are absolutely amazing."