Jayne Peace Pyle’s strong historical imagination is likely linked to her own family’s five-generation tenure in Rim Country.
Pyle, 59, and her husband, Jinx, walk seemingly parallel missions in life — Jinx’s family has been here six generations — and both work intensely at telling the stories of Rim Country that might otherwise be forgotten.
For instance, Annie See, who was shot by her husband in 1892, and whose case Pyle says the Gila County Sheriff’s office refuses to close, effectively keeping applicable storytelling documents hidden away.
“This woman is not going to be killed and shoved aside and her story not be told,” Pyle said. She called every See in the country, researched old newspapers and gradually pieced together a story that she will eventually write. Further details she declined to divulge because she hasn’t yet written the story.
It will be included in one of the three books Pyle is now writing — “Crying From Their Graves,” which will feature stories of women murdered in Gila County.
She’s also working on a book called “Women of the Pleasant Valley War,” which Pyle says complements a book her husband wrote that outlines the men of the Pleasant Valley War, in which 40 people died during the 1880s.
“One woman lost her husband and four sons in six weeks,” Pyle said. “I want their stories told.”
Pyle is careful to emphasize that she has no animosity toward men, it’s just that the women are often forgotten in history’s various written drafts.
“They always talk about the men and someone needs to talk about the women.”
The vigorous work ethic, and even methods of entertainment, that Pyle picked up while growing up on a cattle ranch has shaped her entire life.
She began waitressing at 13 because she enjoys working. “I wanted to work. I liked to work,” Pyle said. “As long as the good Lord let’s me, I have to feel productive.”
Pyle has also worked as an operating room technician, a teacher and now, as a writer with a publishing company operated with her husband.
At one point, Pyle also worked at the Roundup, first as a society writer cataloguing weddings and births, and eventually as editor.
“You only have one life,” she says. “I want to do different things.”
Pyle fondly remembers wreaking havoc in a good, clean fun kind of way as opposed to today’s city kids, who Pyle says watch a lot of television and play video games. Those entertainment options simply didn’t exist in Pyle’s teenage world.
“If it came down to survival, they’d be in a world of hurt,” Pyle said of modern youth.
Pyle spent much of her girlhood on the family’s Gisela ranch, however, she also lived partly in Payson beginning at age 5.
If her parents rode around on horseback, Pyle followed. If they worked in the garden, Pyle did too.
“You have to keep your children with you, and on a ranch, you spend a lot of time outside,” Pyle said. “Kids raised in the city,” she added, “they’re all staring at a TV. They’re not learning how to garden, they aren’t learning how to take care of animals.”
With no television and generations of family living nearby, Pyle spent loads of time with her elders, learning their stories and what it meant to talk about ideas.
Growing up, she and her friends discussed books they read, their opinions on certain issues, and the rights granted them by the Constitution.
“I know where I stand on things,” Pyle said. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Her fascination with government later led to political science studies at Arizona State University, where Pyle enrolled at 41 years of age. She was unable to afford college previously.
Her son, Shawn, who is now 41 years old and a lawyer in the Valley, enrolled at the same time.
In school, Pyle double majored in political science and history. Desert Storm was raging and Pyle said she was partially attracted to political science because she wanted to learn more about the Middle East.
“I would have stayed at ASU another 10 years and taken every class they had,” Pyle said. She drove to the Valley three times each week for classes and finished in five years.
She also earned a teaching certificate, and eventually started teaching world history to sophomores at Payson High School.
But Pyle’s local legacy is perhaps her greatest gift to Rim Country. In 1986, she founded the Daughters of Gila County Pioneers, of which she now sits as president.
The group is committed to preserving Gila County’s history, a mission by which Pyle lives her life. Her first book, published in 1981, was “History of Gisela, Arizona.”
“That was so important,” Pyle said. She thought, “Well, if I die tomorrow, at least I got that done.”
In 2002, Pyle sent a book to a New York publisher, and they told her “that’s not how it was.” She thought to herself, “You don’t know the West,” and Git A Rope Publishing was born. Pyle runs the company with her husband.
The couple wants to eventually travel and sell books and talk history.
“Everyone is so interesting,” Pyle said. “If you talk to them, there is a story in every person.”
Pyle finds motivation in recording all that she can, so future generations are able to learn from the steeply storied past. The world changes so rapidly, Pyle says, a generation can barely keep up with itself.
A great-aunt, Dolly, traveled to Arizona by covered wagon, and in her lifetime she flew in a jet airplane.
Life goes by fast. “There are certain things we want to get done and we have to hurry.”