The Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum has had a problem getting a foothold in the Rim Country, but the project is back on track after five years of relative inactivity.
The project was originally conceived by Payson Public Library Director Terry Morris in 1991. The Northern Gila County Historical Society took it over in 2001. But financial issues led to another period of inactivity.
"Essentially what happened is that the museum was in financial trouble, and the Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame was a subsidiary at the time and it's been kind of held in limbo -- nothing's been happening," said Jinx Pyle, president of the hall of fame's board of directors. "It's ridiculous that Arizona doesn't have one -- all 11 other Western states do.
"And naturally coming from that culture I have a vested interest in seeing that that happens. So I decided to ask the board at the museum to let me chair another board and make another run at it."
Pyle, a member of one of the Rim Country's pioneering families, put together a board that includes Diamond Star Mayor Ronnie McDaniel as vice president, Bill Conway as second vice president, Velma Tucker as secretary, and John Peel as treasurer. An advisory board is also being established.
"I just called a bunch of people like me who had an interest in it," Pyle said. "My feeling was that the people who tried to do it before were not really from the culture, so they didn't have a vested interest.
The idea originally came to Morris at a library conference she attended back in 1991. The subject of one of the conference seminars was community identity.
"It really piqued my interest," Morris said. "This gentleman was saying that heritage is an integral part of every community and it needs to be spoken to.
"It just kind of evolved from there. Payson's heritage is a cowboy, ranching heritage, and I think it's important for people to capitalize on what's special about their community."
Serious planning began in 1992 with the filing of articles of incorporation, but a number of issues and complications put the project on hold until Morris approached the historical society in 2000. After taking over the project in 2001, the society began searching for a suitable location, and began defining what the museum would and would not be.
While the historical society was considering a Main Street location for the hall of fame, Pyle said he now favors a location near the Payson Event Center -- or at least somewhere on Highway 87.
"Until a year ago, I would have probably said (it should be in) the Ox Bow Inn, but having our store here at the Western Village has really changed my thinking," he said. "Eighty percent of the people who stopped at this store didn't intend to, but saw the signs.
"The way most of us feel is that if Payson wants it in Payson, they better give us some land or give us a hand here."
The new board is conducting a statewide contest to select a logo for the hall of fame. Deadline is Feb. 1, and entries should be submitted to: Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum, P.O. Box 2940, Payson, AZ 85547.
The winner will receive a 26-ounce candle with the approved logo on it and a membership in the Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum. For more information or to help with the project, Pyle can be reached at Git a Rope Art & Antique Corral, (928) 474-3227.