Cowboy Returns To Roots, Writing

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Jinx Pyle is the genuine article -- a real cowboy -- and the point was driven home to him after his family had sold their ranch in the Rim country and bought one in Oregon.

"We ranched up there for about 10 years, and if you're a southwestern cowboy, you can never really get used to that buckaroo stuff," Pyle said. "Buckaroos are the ones that run around with their pants tucked into their boots and their hats about six inches taller than the tops of their heads."

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Jinx Pyle

It was fire -- or the threat of it -- that drove Pyle's family out of the Rim country after six generations had ranched in the area.

"One day my dad and I were riding off the top of the Rim," he said. "A summer rainstorm hit, and we saw lightning hit a pine tree on Roberts Mesa. In two minutes there was about 12 acres on fire."

The fire was quenched by the drenching rain, but the speed at which it had spread made a vivid impression.

"Neither of us said anything for a couple of days," Pyle said. "Then one day at lunch my dad said, "Cowboy, we better sell this place or we're going to burn up."

At the time, the Pyles owned a considerable amount of land.

"We had Myrtle Ranch and Bonita Creek and we owned the Cross V's," Pyle said. "When I was in high school, we ran cattle all the way from Star Valley to 10 miles back on top of the Rim."

The decision to leave the Rim country for fear of fire proved prophetic.

"We sold the ranch and about five years later along came what you folks call the Dude Fire," Pyle said. "(The area that burned) was our winter range."

When he had his fill of Oregon ("I never could grow webbed feet.") and its buckaroos, Pyle bought a ranch in New Mexico. Today he splits his time between there and Payson.

"I have the ranch in New Mexico, and I have a business here in Payson," he said. "I'm in the book business with my partner Jayne Peace.

Two of the books published by their fledgling company were written by Pyle. One, "Blue Fox," is a novel set in the Rim country, New Mexico and old Mexico.

"It's about a boy in Georgia who has family troubles," Pyle said. "His family is after his inheritance, so his parents take him west to avoid a feud and he ends up orphaned and living with Indians for awhile. He learns how to fight, then comes back to take care of his family problems."

The second book, "Looking Through The Smoke," is a political treatise that presents the ranchers' vantage point on wildfires, the Mexican wolf program, the wildlands project, and a number of other topics of concern to that group.

"It's what every rancher should have written and a lot could have written," Pyle said.

The book presents a perspective that is seldom seen.

"People hear the Forest Service side and the environmentalists' side," Pyle said. "This is our side."

In it, he addresses the causes and effects of the Rodeo-Chediski and Dude fires.

"The Forest Service came into existence in 1905 and instituted a fire protection policy where they don't let fires burn anymore, Pyle said. "As of the 1890s there were 13 to 30 pine trees per acre. By the 1980s there were from 600 to 700."

Complicating the situation is the overgrowth of plants like manzanita.

"This manzanita brush growing up under the Rim is 12 feet high in some places," Pyle said. "Old timers used manzanita in their forges because it's the hottest burning wood in the country. You can even melt metal with it.

"When you get manzanita thickets crawling around under pines, you have the worst fire hazard you can imagine."

Ranchers like Pyle believe the Forest Service created the hazard and is now trying to blame it on everybody else -- including environmentalists, and even cattle.

"They were wrong and everybody knew it," Pyle said. "Look at who managed the cattle. The ranchers owned them, but the Forest Service told us where to build the fences, which side to put the cattle on, when and how often to move them, where to build stock tanks. In other words, they micromanaged."

Pyle believes the solution lies in letting people who live in the West set policy."It was written in stone on the other side of the Mississippi, and it didn't matter what was going on here. The way I see it they took the most beautiful stand of ponderosa pine in the world and created the worst fire hazard in the history of the world. This country will not support 800 or 900 trees in an acre."

As he steps down from his soapbox, Pyle again assumes his cowboy persona.

"This is just my horseback opinion, and if anybody has a better explanation, I'm willing to listen," he said.

Pyle's books are available for $15 apiece at Jackalope Books in Payson and Hashknife Feed and Tack in Rye. For information on ordering by mail, call 474-0380.

If you want to meet this real cowboy in the flesh, Pyle will hold a book signing from 2-5 p.m. at Corral West Ranchwear on Friday, Feb. 14.

And if you're still not sure how to tell a real cowboy from a pretender, Pyle has a foolproof method.

"If he gets up and puts on his hat and gets in a pickup, he's probably not a cowboy," he said. "But if he gets up and saddles a horse to go to work, he probably is. About four days out of five, I saddle my horse."

Profile

Name: Jinx Pyle

Occupation: Rancher, cowboy, author.

Employer: Self (owns Canyon Creek Ranch)

Age: 58

Birthplace: Tempe, Ariz.

Family: Mother (Dorothy Lovelady Pyle)

Personal motto:

"Man is never victorious, never defeated,

The cheater gives up his loot to the cheated,

But wisdom and folly can never be parted,

And the waters return to the hills where they started."

(In other words, we're all going around in circles.)

Greatest feat: Roping a wolf and getting away with it.

Inspiration: My two grandfathers, Floyd Pyle and Walter Lovelady.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Ranching, because it sure isn't a living.

Person in history I'd most like to meet: Thomas Jefferson

Luxury defined: A gaited horse and a good saddle.

Why Payson? My daddy once said, "There are two kinds of people who live in Arizona -- those who live in Payson and those who wish they did."

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