Recently I had the opportunity to go to Pleasant Valley with my friends Jinx and Jayne Pyle to research Pleasant Valley history. As much as anything, it was a fact-finding trip designed to set up future research on that area. We came away happy with what we found. What follows is my take on the trip.
Young and Pleasant Valley are definitely different. When you first get down there, you immediately notice that things are different. Cell phone service is limited in Young, which does a couple of things:
1) Cuts you off more from the rest of the world, and
2) Forces you to go back to the old way of tracking people down: riding around looking for them and talking to others to see if they've seen them.
The next thing that you notice is the comparative lack of places to eat. From what I could tell, Young has just a couple little stores, a couple restaurants and a bar. We were there on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Food-wise, Sunday was great. We ate at Antlers twice and that was good -- if you've never eaten there, it's worth a trip down just to check out the place. It's one of those classic spots that just has a great feel. Monday though, wasn't so great food-wise as Antlers is closed Monday and Tuesday.
The next thing that I noticed was water pressure. Throughout Young, the water pressure wasn't great. It's kinda cool at first: going back in time that way, but I love a good, hot shower in the morning and, without as much pressure, it's just not the same.
Okay, now to the people. One of the things that we pursued was the Pleasant Valley War. Jinx and Jayne are working on books about it and you can't work on Pleasant Valley War's history without going into the war. Most folks down there have an opinion about it and many side with one party or the other. As a researcher, you simply try to walk the line and get information.
One interesting thing was that Leland Hanchett, author of numerous books about the war, didn't seem to be well received there. Granted, he took the Grahams' side, which is contrary to the side that many down there are on (remember, the Tewksburys mostly survived and the Grahams didn't). But I think the viewpoint of one person I talked to tells it better. "I asked him how he knew something and he just told me, ‘I just know.'"
A lot of city folk don't understand that a statement like that to many rural folk is like cussin' them.
"I just know," in their eyes is "I don't know what in the heck I'm talking about." It just doesn't sit well. Remember, down there you've got some really down-home folks. They don't care that Hanchett's written three books, they care about what's in them and the statements he makes.
Two of the people that we met with were the largest landholders down there: Frank Chapman and John Augustine. Both of these gentlemen are characters, but in different ways. Chapman's a real interesting guy. He has a tremendous collection of Tewksbury items and better yet, tremendous knowledge of the war and the area. He also has some interesting stories to tell from his own life and a good, down-home sense of humor. He and Jinx really seemed to hit it off. Augustine has some interesting Payson ties. His parents were really good friends with the parents of the late Diane McDaniel. He has the old Graham place, which is quite a nice spread. It was clear that he too was a history man and that he had read much of Jinx's and Jayne's stuff. He told us that his parents almost bought that place in 1971, but decided to pass on it. Fittingly, he acquired it within the past few years.
Others that we met with included Ola Beth Beedle, Pat Meredith, Barbara Zachariae and Joe Haught. All of them were interesting in their own way.
One of the things that I got a feel for down there as the trip went on was the lay of the land. You forget just how big a valley that Pleasant Valley is. It's easy to understand why cattlemen flocked there. I also got a better feel for the valley's landmarks, which was very helpful. Knowing things like that are really important when you're working on an area's history.
The other thing that I noticed was just how close you are to the Rim yet. With today's roads, Pleasant Valley is a ways off from Payson. It is 52 miles of road from Payson to Young. But as the crow flies, it's just 26 miles from Payson to Young.
I went down to the scenic vista just south of town and was able to pick out three familiar landmarks to me: Burnt Point, Myrtle Point and Promontory Butte. I was also able to see Highway 260 as it went up to the top of the Rim. I took a trip south of town and that impressed me as well. I'd forgotten that you have some wonderful wilderness and tall trees down there. It's an area I hope to explore more in the future.
Pleasant Valley and Young are an experience. Jinx, Jayne and I will be doing more stuff down there undoubtedly. We were only there a couple of days this time, which was nowhere near long enough. We'll probably be down there again in the near future, as well as during Pleasant Valley Days July 19 and 20.