As the alpenglow of the setting sun shed a rosy hue over Young, porches filled up with residents flush with the warm good feelings from the events of the 25th Annual Pleasant Valley Days.
This tiny hamlet tucked between the Sierra Anchas and the Mogollon Rim has lusciously verdant grass that harkens to what Arizona looked like when cattle outfits first used the place to fatten up their cows for market in the late 1870s.
The three-day event introduces visitors to the most violent range war in American history.
As many as 50 people died during the 10 years of the war.
That included many hapless travelers crossing the valley between 1882 and 1892 who simply vanished, never to be seen again. The complicated struggle pitted the Grahams and their allies against the Tewksbury clan and their allies. The weekend event drew descendants of the Tewksburys, since the feud pretty much wiped out the Grahams. The complex series of shoot-outs, bushwhackings, beheadings, double-crosses and lynchings produced one of the most confusing, violent and lawless conflicts in the dark but romanticized history of the Wild West. In the process, Pleasant Valley became a refuge for rustlers. The conflict may have single-handedly delayed Arizona statehood for a decade.
The weekend proved considerably more peaceful.
Saturday started with a parade marshaled by the Pyles, Jinx and Jane. The two have each finished books on the Pleasant Valley War after years of exhaustive research.
After the parade, about 40 people trooped over to the Young Cemetery and Museum to hear a rendition of the war from local history teacher Pat Murdock. Others retired to the Young Community Center to watch the start of the roping contest.
Unlike today’s modern organized rodeos, the Young roping contest involved anyone who could throw a rope and ride a horse, from pre-teens to retirees. Contestants milled about in the ring waiting to partner up with someone and go after their target, while their families sat under the shade of awnings next to horse trailers cheering on their favorites.
Others decided food and drink was most important so they continued through the valley to grab lunch at the Antlers or play a game of corn hole at the Valley Bar.
Murdock had another tour at 2:30 that included the gravesites of the first four killed in the war in 1887. Then a caravan of cars followed Murdock out to the Tewksbury cabin off of Cherry Creek to see where one of the two feuding families set down roots.
After the roping and tours finished, folks ended up at the Community Center to chow on a classic ranch dinner of beef brisket, cowboy beans and coleslaw.
The Pyles ended the day with Jinx filling in some of the gaps of the story given to him by cowboys that had ridden on the Pleasant Valley range during the war.