Originally published Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 05:59a.m.
In 1961, a history teacher at Skull Valley School, by the name of Mina Munderloh, with the help of a second teacher, instructed six elementary grades in one classroom.
In one particular student, she lit the light of excitement for learning history. Mike Pulley says it was the lesson on Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders that ignited his life-long passion for the past. Mrs. Munderloh went far beyond the text book history pages in explaining the background of the Rough Riders.
Fourth-grade student Mike was already into shoot-em-up western movies, but once he rode with Teddy up San Juan Hill, he was hooked.
Within a few years, Mike began to focus on the Civil War because, he says, it was the earliest he was able to document the military participation of his own family. His two great, great grandfathers fought for the South and a great, great grandfather fought for the North. It isn’t a mystery, then, that he also found the Civil War intriguing since it pitted brother against brother.
Although Mike has worked for the Town of Chino Valley since 1990, his “other life” finds him reenacting Civil War battles as a past member of the AZ Civil War Council. He’s also been a member of the AZ Rough Riders, the Valley Plainsmen, the Old West AZ Rangers, and is a member of the Chino Valley Historical Society and, for the last nine years has served as chaplain of Camp 2316, the Prescott Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He also organized the AZ Peacekeepers and Pioneers.
Although he maintains an historical wardrobe that ranges from the Victorian period (1830s to 1901) to the Edwardian period (1901 to 1910), his favorite uniform is that of a Confederate “Beetle Cruncher” or infantry man. True to the period, he carries an original 1861 muzzle-loading musket that was fashioned after the Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket.
Mike has traced the history of his musket, which was intended to be used by southern forces, but was mysteriously waylaid by an unknown shipping agent. The authenticity of this weapon reflects Mike’s dedication to the past. His uniforms and his historical weapons are exhaustively researched to ensure that they are the real items from the 1800s. Even his Beetle Cruncher shoes are authentic, even if they are really, really uncomfortable.
Mike doesn’t have a favorite Old West character, but he does admire Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen and Heck Thomas. This trio arrested some 300 outlaws and killed a number of others. They became known as The Three Guardsmen and men of legend during the 1890s in Indian Territory.
Would Mike have preferred to live in the 1800s? He surprised me by responding without hesitation, yes! He says he would have fit right in since he was raised on a ranch and spent plenty of time in a ranch camp house lit by kerosene lamps that used a primitive stove for cooking and heating.
But since he was born in 1957 and not 1857, he’s accepted his 20th century fate. When he retires, he wants to resume his small business of recreating 19th century cowboy gun leather and accessories. He does all sewing by hand using the five-strand, waxed thread that was used by craftsmen of the time. And he wants to finish rebuilding his 1955 Chevy pick-up truck.
For some reason, after interviewing Mike for this column, I had an irresistible urge to brush off the dust and head to the cook house for a big plate of beans and bacon.
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