Historian Draws Inspiration From Ground Under His Feet

MOVERS & SHAKERS UNDER 40

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On evenings when the chalk talk is heady and the beer runs smoothly, Tim Ehrhardt racks ‘em up with the rest of the local pool sharks at the favorite, and only, watering hole in Tonto Village.

The Double D is tucked off Highway 260 on a dirt road. Inside, a collection of baseball caps hang from the ceiling and the air is thick with cigarette smoke.

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Weekly pool tournaments that double as community social events lure 26-year-old Tim Ehrhardt from his small, remote Collins Ranch cabin.

It's the kind of tavern where people get away from the people getting away.

Weekly pool tournaments that double as community social events lure 26-year-old Ehrhardt from his small, remote Collins Ranch cabin.

It's here, among the ponderosas, that Ehrhardt, like author Zane Grey, finds peace.

"I love it up here," he said. "I'm more of a small-town guy."

At 26, Ehrhardt talks fluently about business and local politics with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. And when the subject moves to history and the research and writing of his books and articles, his voice increases and gestures become more animated with his enthusiasm.

Ehrhardt's talents are a mix of business pragmatism and artistic flair.

From a young age, Ehrhardt cultivated an appreciation for the arts.

"I learned a lot from my mother," he said.

She served as the music director of his church, and in fifth grade, Ehrhardt followed his mother's musical passion. He picked up the trumpet and by his senior year at Corona High School in Tempe, he had earned all-state musical honors.

The experience taught him to seek and experience the intangible harmony of life.

"You just feel a connection to things," he said. "In marching band, we'd talk about ‘feeling it.' It'd only happen once or twice a season. It's when everything clicks."

Ehrhardt's father -- a successful stockbroker -- represented the other side of reality: Money and entrepreneurship.

"When I got into college, I didn't know what I wanted to do," he said. "For everyone who knows what they want to do, there are people like me who don't."

Ehrhardt graduated in 2003 with dual degrees in finance and management from Arizona State University.

He served as president of ASU's Sports Marketing Association, and after graduation, went to work as a research and data analyst.

"I got a lot of exposure," he said. "Life in a cubicle wasn't going to work for me."

Ehrhardt knew he wouldn't be satisfied with the nine-to-five grind, so he sought professional and creative flexibility. That's when he earned his real estate license and went into business for himself.

"I don't mind busting my (butt)," he said. "I just don't want to bust my (butt) for someone else."

Ehrhardt has been coming to the Rim Country since he was a child.

As his financial situation settles into place, he focuses on his love of history.

For someone who calls himself the "The History Guy," the magnetism of the Rim Country's legends fuels Ehrhardt to research and write the chronicles of the area.

The most profound inspiration lies right under the floor of his home. At one time, Zane Grey owned the land. Now, that same property houses three secluded subdivisions: Collins Ranch, Mead Ranch and Zane Grey Meadows.

Ehrhardt's current book, "Zane Grey's Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead," chronicles the history of that property, homesteaded by Sampson Elam Boles.

The book isn't just about Zane Grey. Ehrhardt uses oral history, archived periodicals, deeds, maps and other legal documentation to trace the evolvement of the land. Zane Grey purchased 120 acres from Sampson Elam Boles between the 1920s to 1930s. Over time, the land has been slowly subdivided and developed.

"You can literally eat apples off the same trees as Zane Grey," he said. For more information, visit Ehrhardt's Web site at www.ZaneGreyCountry.com.

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