By Monique Sidy, with Richard Sidy – Fall 2022
Did you ever have to turn back to your Pine Valley home just after you left because the wash on Jack’s Canyon road was running? Did you hear Pete and Judy of the Pine Valley Water Company leave before 6 in the morning in their fleet of blue and white trucks with all their gear? Did you have to close the windows of your home because of the dust coming in from the unpaved roads? Did cows trample your plants or eat the tops of your just-planted trees? Did you listen to KAZM to find out if you need chains on your tires to drive into Sedona? Did you buy SSS (Skin So Soft) at the local hardware store to protect from the super aggressive springtime no-see-ums? Did you see kids playing in the perk test holes? Did you get a knock on the door, little girls (“Helpful Hearts Club”) offering to pull your weeds for 1 penny each root, and wrap your Christmas gifts for 15 cents? Did you see Jack rabbits with their large ears hopping around?
If you did – you have lived a few decennia in Pine Valley. If you didn’t, you may like to read below some Pine Valley history, through our experiences.
Moving from LA
In 1982, our family moves from Los Angeles: Richard, our 7-year-old son Victor, Rosa, almost 4, and I. Our family and friends think we are crazy: “You can’t eat the red rocks!” But we have enough of the polluted, busy, and earthquake-prone city. Some friends live in Sedona, and we love this wild Red Rock country. (Click photos to enlarge.)
On July 4th, 1982, our daughter keeps us from moving our stuff into the house. Jokingly, we tell her to go find some arrowheads, intending to send her on a long goose chase so she’d be out of our hair. Within ten minutes she comes back… with several. We later find out from the builder of our house that our area used to be a Sinagua Indian campground, where they left some of their litter.
Walking by our house on Raintree Road these days, you may notice how many large trees we have around our lot: just after we move, we buy about 80 small Arizona cypress trees and a variety of native shrubs from the Forest Service for 50 cents each. Along the Verde River, Richard digs up a tiny mulberry tree, on which our kids and their friends and our grandkids have climbed throughout the years. Now it is maybe 14 feet tall. Watch my Dad help Richard put in some of the trees:
Several years for Christmas, some parents of Richard’s students would give us a small living pine tree. Now these are large and in their late thirties. Slowly we are learning (and still are!) about high-desert gardening, quite different from the mediterranean and Dutch climates I came from.
Our Work in the 1980s
In the fall, Richard starts “Rising Star Enrichment School,” an elementary school in Cottonwood, then later relocates the school to Cornville. “You cannot eat the red rocks!” It is rough indeed. (He later works at the Valley Verde School for a year, then at Flagstaff Highschool for twenty). My background is old-fashioned printmaking, and The Masters’ Gallery sells my work. For a year I teach at Richard’s school.
Little Pine Valley Friends
In the beginning of our life in Pine Valley, there are a few small families with kids: the Pummills, Busches, Brownes, Larsons, and Jenks. They play in the wild valley, hike the canyon with Sam, Dolly or later Koa – neighbors’ dogs. They spin tales about climbing trees when the javelinas chase them, and about rich neighbors smoking one-hundred dollar bills. With the red dirt, they fashion little hideouts in perk holes. They learn about enormous centipedes, black widows, snakes, scorpions, coyotes, cactus thorns and Indian artifacts.
During summers, before the hour of the monsoon, the kids often meet their friends on Oak Creek. We drive down Verde Valley School road, and cross over. The kids learn swimming at The Ridge, the Olympic-size swimming pool that is now the Athletic Club at the Hilton Resort in the Village of Oakcreek. Kay Busche, who lived with her family next to the Pine Valley Water company later coaches the girls and takes them to swim competitions. A few years later, another family moves in: the Jenks. David is a painter, and Anne a teacher. Their kids, Matthew and Meredith, become friends with ours.
Pine Valley Bike Races
In March 1990 we make it to the front page of the Red Rock News with the first Pine Valley Bike Race (Click link to read). The second race the year after. They are fun: parents got to participate after the kids – but on kids’ bikes.
New Kinds of Hazards
That first monsoon I learn about the danger of flash floods the hard way. Every July/August, the mornings are blue and cloudless, until suddenly cumulus clouds appear, and at 4pm a thunderstorm starts with violent lightning and heavy rain for like an hour – to miraculously disappear into clear evening skies with beautiful thunderheads and lightning flashes on the far horizons. But those first weeks I have no clue about these monsoon dangers, and drive our little white Datsun straight through the powerful rushing Jack’s Canyon wash, believing that “the faster you drive, the easier you get through rushing water.” Revving the little car, I dash it into the water – stopped by a huge bolder. My friend, whom I had picked up from the airport, and I climb out through the windows, and I hike to the closest house to make a phone call to our (neighbors-shared) party telephone line. Richard picks us up in his truck after we find a way to get through, and the next day a neighbor helps get the Datsun back up on the road.
The first few years, beside the spring’s outbursts of no-see-ums or cedar nats, we have no insects except some awesome scarab beetles, and locusts in July. As more people move in, more insects come with, as well as javelinas. We hear no more cougars, and see no more of these huge Jack rabbits or roadrunners – at least not in our “Central Pine Valley” area.
Early Days Artists
Several artists lived in Pine Valley during those early days, who are no longer with us. Being an artist myself, it felt inspiring to live around so many creative neighbors and friends.
- Adele Seronde: poet, painter, community organizer and activist, founder of Gardens for Humanity;
- Wanda GreyEyes: weaver, master quilter;
- Robb Woods, who painted some of the kids of Pine Valley. Robb just passed away last May.
- Zoologist and wildlife National Geographic Magazine photographer Phil Kahl lived across the space from us.
Many more artist neighbors have been around from the time when Jack’s Canyon road still had cattle guards:
- A painting by Gene Dieckhoner graces a photo on top of our website. He paints detailed wildlife and landscapes, as well as unique puzzles!
- Driving into Sedona, you pass several sculptures by Reagan Word.
- Mary Hancock has a marvelous jewelry enterprise with her late husband Doug, reaching way beyond our Valley.
- All around restaurants and farmers’ markets you can hear Pine Valley’s Bill Barnes play music, as well as
- musicians/artists Cathy and Paul Gazda.
- Karen and Bruce Licher. Bruce had a super cool place in the Village with several printing presses, and Karen made beautiful paintings in her studio on Raintree Road. Check out her website for her later works in Bishop, CA, for sculptures and photography.
To buy groceries in the early 1980’s, on Hwy 179 – one way each direction – you go to the Y at Bruce’s Sedona Market for health food, or to Jake Weber’s uptown store on 89A. Beverly Howland, who lived on Longwood, had a flower shop, and later a health food store where now is the Chocola Tree. There’s a Bayless, and a Yellow Front where I once shook hands with Senator John McCain; there is Flicker Shack for the movies. There are no stoplights on the way, and only a few cars pass in one hour – seldom a large truck.
In 1991, our roads get paved and the cattle guards are eliminated. As expected (real estate values up), dreaded by some (loss of privacy in the community), we see the prices of the lots increase like ten thousand dollars each month! (A half-acre lot costs around $15,000 in the 1980s). We watch a big boom of new constructions, and several years later we no longer know each of our neighbors. Some neighbors and friends move out, changing the feel of the Pine Valley community.
As our kids leave in the beginning of the 1990s, Richard and I begin our little ranch house’s remodel. We already had changed the house ourselves inside, with the help of our kids. We look all over to see if we would re-locate. However – Pine Valley keeps pulling. We “finish” the remodel with a builder – a creative project by both Richard and me. We love living inside and outside, taking care of the yard, with these glorious rock formations watching us.
June 1st, 2006 is engraved in my memory as a devastating and yet awesome day. It was devastating to watch the mountains burn and taking one house on our street with it. Yet to be able to witness that enormous power of Nature was, in certain ways, exhilaratingly Awe-some.
The day of the fire I happen to be at home when the fire starts, and I stay until 10pm when the mesas radiate an unbearable intensity of heat. The AC does not work since the electricity is off. No water to cool things down. I take my essentials plus my bike in our stationwagon, and drive up to Kachina Village (south of Flagstaff) to stay with our daughter. Richard went there when he could not pass the Sheriff’s barricade to get home after work. Earlier that afternoon, PV Water Company Lance Wischmeier and I climb up the water tank and I make videos.
We are grateful to the fire workers and the hotshots who, for several days, watch the embers and prevent new fires. Without them, all Pine Valley could have burned down…. Except for the photo of the Red Rock News and the one with Pat Lauman (# 9), all photos below were taken by Liza Vernet, from their back deck on Valley Vista Drive. Thanks, Liza!
Please watch the video “How to Clean Your Yard for Wildfire Preparedness” with the Sedona Fire Department, who help Pine Valley resident Rose Marie Licher to clean her yard and home to help prevent wildfires in her property. Following these tips, we may keep Pine Valley safer. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.)
Our House, Then and Now
Richard and I have “retired,” and lived the largest part of our lives in Pine Valley. Richard is active in the community with Gardens for Humanity, the Sustainability Alliance, as well as the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. After a successful business in creating websites for creative people, I am now exploring the hidden gifts of the plants in our yard, mainly focused on deriving plant dyes and making eco-prints on fabrics.
We are grateful to the beauty and quiet privacy of our little valley. We are grateful for the many unique Pine Valley experiences during these 40 years; grateful for friends we made here, many of whom left or moved away, many who are still close by. We are grateful to the Water Company, continuing to provide us with high quality water. We are grateful for the many neighbors, who care about others and for Nature (dogs, hummingbirds, forest trails), and the artists and writers who have moved in later. We are grateful to birds, plants, wildlife, beautiful skies, and to that awesome watching wall of mountains with their red rocks, agelessly hovering over us all.