Human Interest

History is full of lessons, even when that history isn’t quite accurate.

Local cowboy poet and performer Michael Peach proved just that as he performed several of his stories as the featured guest of the Sedona Welcomers Wednesday, Feb. 24, at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock.

Peach has studied much of Arizona’s past, with a particular eye for local history. He recommended reading “Those Early Days,” which is conveniently available at the Sedona Heritage Museum, where he often performs.

After a brief introduction it was time for storytelling. With drawl and a gusto born of experience, he recalled the tale of a man who was covered in dust from a BMW racing up his ranch. After winning a wager for a calf, the city man accepts a bet for the rancher to get his animal back. Showing that the rancher knew more of the driver than the driver of the rancher, the rancher wins the second bet and asks that his dog, which had been mistaken for a calf, be returned. The lesson being that showing off can mean showing off ignorance as well.

Peach’s stories gave a flavor for what it might have been like in the past. Not only were they exaggerated — even tall — tales, they engaged the audience by making use of small details that longtime residents surely appreciated.

Even in the high desert, fishing stories abound, and Peach’s second story used the classic fish tale to illustrate a lesson in humility. After much toil, two men drag up two large trout, but eager to keep fishing, allow a passerby to bring the fish back before they spoil. The traveler does, but takes credit for catching them. The fishermen let it go, as everyone believes the man with the proof. Though the traveler was an obvious example of what not to do, living with what is accepted rather than fight forever was another lesson.

Through each story’s lesson, Peach brought forth a certain code of honor commonly associated with those cowboys of the silver screen and portrayed in novels. The lessons were rough, and often didn’t break the protagonist’s way, and might have even come off more as a Grimm fairy tale if not for the heavy dose of humor brought in.

Peach continued with his third story, derived from a one-time Arizona sheriff and legislator in the days when trains had gained dominance.

Two men were arguing since the train departed and as the argument escalated one finally stood up and asked the other riders for assistance in solving it.

The two questions he had were on religion, and the self-serving and obvious answers to many riders were the ones people were asked to raise their hands for. Thus with all passengers having both hands raised, the two men robbed the train car.

The tales came full circle then with two other ranching stories. A group of men are forced to live with guilt after playing a prank on a city boy-turned-reporter and another two ranchers’ friendship is tested as they independently debate claiming an unbranded calf.

Peach earned both applause and laughs with his tales and is often around the city, check the Sedona Red Rock News for releases on his upcoming events.

The next Sedona Welcomers meeting will be Wednesday, March 23, at the Hilton Sedona, featuring Cynthia Richmond, who will talk about dreams and writing an autobiography. Guests are allowed one visit before being asked to join the club.


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