My documentary about the Pleasant Valley War

I have been awful with my updates on this blog so I vow to get better. I have had quite a few of the people that were involved with my documentary Forgotten Gunfighters “The Pleasant Valley War” ask that I put it onto my website so their wish is my command.

It was the summer of 1999 and I was working with Gil Howe and Ron Beckstrom , two exceptional film and video creators. Gil is a producer and Ron is a producer/cinematographer. It was early in my professional career and they had been very kind and helpful with teaching me the ropes and helping me get projects.
I had just finished my first film, I use the term “film” loosely, “Funk Down”. A no-budget farce that delves into the meaty, anthropologic question of what would happen if our world’s happiness orbited around disco and what if that world was being attacked by a shadowy, motiveless group called the Fung Chaos. Yes, we’re talking deep stuff.
So with that film in the can I moved onto bigger and better. I had just begun casting for my next film “Crossovers”, when I get a call from my dear friend Carlos Luaces from Spain. He asks what I am up to these days and I tell him about my film projects. He has always been fond of the arts and his poetry has been published there in Spain. He becomes intrigued about what I’ve been working on and suggests that we work on something together. I think it is a wonderful idea and the next thing I know we have agreed to have him fly out to the states and fund my next project. Now I’ve got to figure out what that next project is going to be.
I am sitting in my office tapping a pen on a blank legal pad when I write down, Commodore Owens.
Other than that he had been a sheriff in northern Arizona, and had been involved in a shoot out in Holbrook I knew very little about him. I got home that night and started to research more about him and found quickly that he was only a piece in the vast Pleasant Valley War. I began to get excited and tracked down everything I could on the subject.
I pitched the idea of doing a documentary on the Pleasant Valley War to Carlos and he liked the idea. But how do you make a documentary? I leaned on GIl and Ron to help get the logistics together and commissioned Michael Burke to write the script. I then tracked down the premiere authorities on the subject, Lee Hanchett Don Dedera, Barbara Zacharie, Jo Baeza, and W.D. “Bill” Brown.
It took some doing to find everyone and I was hung up on twice by Don Dedera because he initially thought I was a tele-marketer. We scheduled interviews and Ron Beckstrom and I drove down from Utah and filmed them.They all did a fantastic job and helped us out immensely.
After the interviews were finished we moved on to the re-enactments. We filmed two days at a studio in west Phoenix that is now an apartment complex, then we filmed in Midway, Utah. It was an incredible experience and I have fond memories of the entire project.


  1. My Great Grandmother was Mary Ann Crigger Tewksbury Rhoades and I am very interested in obtaining a dvd copy of your Pleasent Valley Wars. I found it by accident last night and watched it on google.

    I have searched without success and cannot locate a source. I am hopeing that you can aim me in the right direction. I’d like to add this to my meager files on that side of my family.

    Sincerely, Bill Heyser

    • Sorry Bill, it currently isn’t available on DVD. As soon as we do another running I will email you. I am glad you liked it.


  2. Why didn’t you film it in Young instead of Utah?

  3. Thank you for producing this very informative documentary. I had never heard of the Pleasant Valley War/Tonto Basin Feud until I found it mentioned in Mark Baugher´s excellent book “The C-Bar Story” (Amazon/Kindle), set in and around Chino Valley in the same time frame. A search for background information brought me to your page. Now I want to take a trip through the area the next time I’m in Arizona. Well done, and thanks again.

  4. Very interesting! I had no idea of this range war . . . always thought the Hatfields & McCoys were as bad as it got. Very well done . . . I love the west but would not have wanted to live during that time period


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