Spend a little time with Barbara Zachariae and it's not hard to understand why Pleasant Valley old-timers felt so comfortable sitting on the front porch of the Zachariae ranch telling deep, sometimes dark, family secrets into her reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Not only is she pleasant and charming, but she has a disarming effect on you. She just seems like somebody you can trust.
What is surprising is the fact that Zachariae was an outsider.
"I was an Air Force widow back in 1969," she said. "I just wanted to get away from it all, the Vietnam War and stuff. So I moved to Young and rented a house. My husband's sister was my mom's best friend, so I met Fred and got married."
At the time, at least in Young, good conversation was still a primary form of entertainment.
"When I married Fred, we had just gotten electricity," Zachariae said. "People didn't call first. They just stopped in, and you were expected to drop whatever you were doing and sit and talk."
Of course, the conversation often turned to the event that Pleasant Valley is notorious for -- the Pleasant Valley War, also known as the Graham-Tewksbury War, the Sheep and Cattle War, and the feud "To the Last Man." Through Fred, Zachariae had a solid connection to the war.
"My husband's father came here in 1894, when the trial was still going on, and he worked with or for every survivor -- for Ellison, Haigler, Higsby, and Young. He worked for all of them."
And while Zachariae moved to Pleasant Valley from the Phoenix area she was no stranger to the Rim country, spending virtually every summer here.
"When I was a kid, my uncle had the cabins there at Christopher Creek," she said. "They still have them, but its been turned into a church camp."
It didn't take Zachariae long to realize the value of what her Pleasant Valley neighbors were telling her.
"When these ranchers started calling on us and dropping by on their way home from wherever they were working cattle, they started telling me these stories, and I thought this is the most fascinating thing I have ever heard. I had been into music -- hi fi, stereo -- and I started taping them."
Several hundred hours of tapes later, Zachariae wrote a 160-page book called "Pleasant Valley Days -- A History of the People."
Unlike other accounts of the early history of the area and, in particular, of the war, Zachariae's book focuses on the people who made it happen rather than just the events. As she put it in the prologue:
"This book is not about the Pleasant Valley War; it is about the character of the Valley, and of the people who lived here, how they lived here, and why they lived here. These people were not just statistics; they lived."
From her unique vantage point -- inside the heads of the sons and grandsons of the participants -- Zachariae came to understand the mentality that allowed the "bloodiest feud in American history" to happen.
"People came to Pleasant Valley partly for the grass, but mainly because it was isolated," she said. "The people who come to an isolated area do it for a reason -- not necessarily because they are wanted by the law, but because they wanted to be left alone.
"As the new frontier grew up and the law came with it, they couldn't take that. They had to go on to where it was still free and easy and they were their own persons. They took care of their own law."
Zachariae, along with partner Kathy Hunt, has also produced a two hour-plus video containing the photographic history of Pleasant Valley.
"In the old days, you'd go to visit somebody and you'd take pictures on the steps as you leave, then take them home with you," she said. "I would get photos of old-timers and I'd get passionate phone calls from people because they had never seen their great grandmother.
"They were early Kodaks. I had over 10,000 original photographs. We took probably 1,000 and we put them to music, and we spliced in some selections from my audio tapes. We are not Disney, so it's pretty primitive, but it is the history of Pleasant Valley."
Zachariae and Hunt have also produced a historic events calendar featuring old photos in sepia. Now Zachariae is hard at work on a second book, and in it she promises to reveal a least a few of the Pleasant Valley War secrets that only she knows.
"I'm pretty good friends with both families, the Grahams and the Tewksburys," she said. "There's a picture in my book of Billy Graham, the first man killed, that they allowed me to print first. I got it from the son of the only son that didn't come to Pleasant Valley because he was too young."
But there are also some secrets that will have to wait.
"I have taped stories that are not possible to tell," she said. "There might be a great grandchild of some of the people who did these things still alive, and I'm not ready to tell the general public. I want to pick and choose."
And that's probably precisely why Pleasant Valley's old-timers entrusted their family secrets to Barbara Zachariae.
Buy the book
"Pleasant Valley Days -- A History of the People," which sells for $20, is available at Jackalope Books in Payson.
The book, video ($30) and calendar ($7.50) can also be ordered by sending a check to Barbara Zachariae, 9561 Knoll Circle, Mesa, AZ 85207. Add $1.50 for normal shipping or $3.83 for priority mail.
For more information, call Zachariae in Young at 928-462-3558 or in Mesa at 480-357-4679. She would also like to hear from those whose families were inadvertently omitted from her book or who have historical information or photos they are willing to share.
Name: Barbara Zachariae
Occupation: Semi-retired real estate broker and rancher's wife.
Age: Do I have to say that? And please don't call me elderly in the article.
Birthplace: Headrick, Okla. We came out here when I was 4 years old.
Family: The late Fred Zachariae, who died in November, and three children, Marla Knickrehm, who owns the Pleasant Valley Inn in Young, Sara Routhier, she lives in Taylor, and David Zachariae, who lives in Buckeye.
Personal Motto: I would kind of paraphrase an old one -- "If there's a remedy, find it." I would say, "If there is a way, find it."
Inspiration: My late husband -- his memory of the old days and his love for the old times. He was truly one of those born 100 years too late. He was an old-time gentleman.
Greatest feat: My audio tapes, my photo collection, and my interviews with almost all the old-timers in Pleasant Valley.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: At different times in my life I've been through the sewing routine, the painting routine. I like it all. Reading. Listening to old-timers talk. Genealogy. Primarily right now what I plan on doing is traveling.
Three words that describe me best: I'm a very curious person. I am adventurous. I am determined. And there's another one that is probably one of my very bad things. I am outspoken, and to me that's another way of saying opinionated.
I don't want to brag but: I was an Air Force widow when I came here, and these old-time ranchers when they stopped by, they sat and talked with this outsider who had come in and married the only eligible bachelor in town. They accepted me and they talked to me -- even when I got the tape recorder out.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: Captain Hugh Bullock, my great, great, great, great grandfather. He was a captain and a factor in Jamestown. I'd love to be able to sit down and talk to him about early Jamestown, the early history of transporting people from England to here. To meet him is to know the history of this country.
Luxury defined: Sitting on a deck chair on a ship with a good book or looking out at the ocean.
Dream vacation spot: Tuscany in Italy.
Why Payson? It's Young, but it could have been Payson. My uncle had the Bob Kiser Ranch. My dad had been coming up here to hunt and fish and trap. The day after school was out, we were on the Bush Highway or, if it rained, the Apache Trail, and we went up to my Uncle Bob's cabins at the head of See Canyon north of Christopher Creek.