My dad, Gene Pyle, ran the R Bar C Scout Ranch for the Boy Scouts from 1952 through 1960. The R Bar C was a working cow ranch in those days. When Dad took the job, George "Chief" Miller, who was the executive director of the Boy Scouts in Arizona, gave Dad his first and only order during his tenure there. He said, "Gene, you know more about running a ranch than I do. Run it."
The R Bar C cattle were plagued by mountain lion when Dad took the job, so we spent a lot of time hunting the big cats. I was 8 years old when we went there to live, so I grew up hunting mountain lion and ranching on the R Bar C and our own ranches, including the Cross V's and the Myrtle Ranch.
Parts of the R Bar C Ranch were made available to Boy Scout troops for camping, outings and various other activities. Although Dad's job was solely to run the cattle operation, he taught the scouts horsemanship and we even took some of the boys, and occasionally entire troops, on lion hunts. In my book, "Mountain Cowboys," I tell the stories of some of these lion hunts. Some of the Boy Scout troops returned year after year and I became life-long friends with several of those boys. Also, some of the men associated with scouting became life-long friends of my Dad and thus, my family. Of these friends, one man and his family stand out.
For several summers during the middle 1950s, the Boy Scout organization hired Herman Deitlaff. Herman taught many scouts the art of packing, using his string of burros as assistants. I sometimes wonder if the boys learned more from Herman or from his assistants, but in either case, and after about two weeks of lessons, the boys would be sufficiently schooled to hit the trails with a guide and a pack string. Their reward was a pack trip into the back country which usually lasted several days.
My dad and Herman hit it off from the moment they met. Herman was an old Nevada prospector, a Dutchman, and sure a man to tie to. Dad and I enjoyed the company of Herman and would often guide the pack trips, taking the boys over old trails and into country that seldom knew the tracks of men.
Near 20 burros were packed on one fine summer morning. Herman, Dad and I left the R Bar C Ranch with 34 Boy Scouts leading and driving burros laden with camp gear. We were destined for the deep bottom of Chevelon Canyon and the great trout fishing therein. Dad and I were on horses, as were some of the scouts that had riding experience, but Herman -- ever the prospector -- preferred his feet on the ground and the halter rope of a burro in his hand.
We climbed out on top of the mountain on the Lewis Trail which was crossed at several critical points with great, fallen, ponderosa pines. We worked our way around the trees when it was possible, but twice had to stop and chop our way through with axes.
That first night, we camped at a tiny mountain lake west of Promontory Butte.
Dad made a great pile of his famous Dutch oven biscuits, which with jerky and coffee, completed the meal for Herman, Dad and I. The Boy Scouts had their mess kits and prepared their own burnt offerings, but they, too, feasted mostly on biscuits from Dad's Dutch ovens.
Noon of the following day found us dropping off the Rim of Chevelon Canyon on some obscure trail known only to a few Mountain Cowboys. Far below, we could sometimes catch the shine of water winding ribbon-like along the canyon's depth. Before we had all the animals over the canyon rim, we had killed two rattlesnakes, or rattlebugs as Gene called them. I will never forget the ride down that trail to the bottom of Chevelon. We were never out of hearing of rattlesnakes. Sometimes there were several buzzing within a few feet of us. We killed the snakes that were in the trail or close enough to it to be a threat to the pack animals, boys and horses, but ignored those over a few feet off the trail. This trail was little more than a path through a rock slide with more hiding places for snakes than a dog's back has hair.
We stayed two nights camped on Chevelon Creek where I spent the days swimming in several of the deep pools stretched along the canyon's floor. I killed 31 snakes, Dad and Herman didn't keep a count, and I have no idea how many the scouts killed. Many of the boys who had fishing poles were dangling flies at the big snakes and then casting them about when they struck and hooked themselves on the lines. The burros stomped one snake into the ground the first night in the canyon.
Dad and Herman cut our stay there a day short and we spent the following two nights camped in an aspen grove on the mountain where Dad knew of a little spring. I talked later with some of the boys who made that trip into the canyon and all admitted that they were jumpy for weeks afterward. There is just something about the evil rattle of a big timber rattler that stays with you for awhile!
We shared many more adventures with Herman during the scouting years and often visited with him at his home in Payson after he retired and while we were living at the Myrtle Ranch up under the Rim on Ellison Creek.
On one of these occasions, I was sitting with Herman and his wife, Eva, on their front porch in Payson. As stated before, Herman was a Dutchman and he liked his Limburger Cheese. Eva had warned him that the stuff was too nasty to eat in the house, so Herman was whittling off slices of the gooey stuff as we reminisced on the old R Bar C days.
Eva's cat was keeping a close eye on Herman's eating activities in obvious anticipation of an invitation to join in the feast. Herman was an obliging fellow so he pitched a sliver of cheese into the yard. The cat trotted over to get a smell and possible bite. She never made it past the smell! Her hair stood up on an arched back as she circled and hissed at the offending substance. This alone was enough to bring gales of laughter ringing from the porch, but when the cat walked away on stiff legs to dig a hole ... She wouldn't even pick the stuff up, but yowled at Herman with no small measure of disgust until he dropped the offending cheese into the hole where she promptly buried it!
Herman, Eva and my Dad have all passed over the Great Divide, but tonight my wife, Jayne, and I had dinner with Herman and Eva's daughter, Frieda Reish, and her husband, Fred. After a dinner of pheasant, mashed potatoes and gravy topped of with mixed-berry pie and "woodpecker" cider, the conversation shifted to a time 20 years ago. We recalled when Frieda and other members of her family and friends went on a later lion hunt with Gene and me. Freida recalled that Gene had run down and roped a coyote and asked me the name of the horse he was riding and then the names of the other horses and dogs on that lion hunt.
We looked through a "Mountain Cowboy" book, and enjoyed the pictures of the horses, Jip, Chiso, Smoke, Tinker, Taffy and the hunting dogs Lead, Jack, Tucker, Rock, Rex and more. I showed them pictures of the bear that my Granddad, Floyd Pyle, took alive for filming of Zane Grey's movies made here during the early 1920s. We looked at the picture of Jimbo Armstrong with a lion that he had taken some years ago, and I told the Reichs about how Jimbo had learned the art of hunting lion from my uncle, Malcolm Pyle.
We had a pleasant evening, and it made me think of how important it is to write down our local history and to include the stories of all the people we know in that history. The people who will be remembered years from now, will not be the people who do the greatest deeds today, they will be the people whose stories are written today.
Jinx Pyle's new book, "Mountain Cowboys" is now available for $25 at Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral, Jackalope Books, East Verde Trading Company, and the chamber of commerce. Look for Jinx's other books, "Looking Through the Smoke" and "Blue Fox," and Jayne Peace's book, "History of Gisela, Arizona" at the same stores.