A group of hardy history buffs is out looking for the places Zane Grey wrote about in his famous Western novels.
The dentist-turned-novelist penned 56 Westerns, setting 24 in Arizona and 12 in the Rim country. In them he either provides specific information about various settings or leaves enough clues for Don Wolfe and the rest of his group to try and follow.
"We're reviewing all the books he wrote, but our present objective is to locate all the sites in the book ‘To the Last Man,' and so far we've found four of them," Wolfe said. "The other ones are way in the back country so that will involve some hiking and maybe even some horseback riding. A place like Hell's Gate (near Little Green Valley) is a difficult place to get to, but we've flown over it."
Wolfe's group, made up of area retirees for the most part, has the time and determination to track down some pretty obscure references.
"We drive out, we hike in, we fly over -- whatever it takes to document those areas," Wolfe said.
So far, the group has a perfect record.
"A lot of people thought they were imaginary places, but on the maps we've found every single one of them," Wolfe said.
The project is an outgrowth of the reconstruction of the cabin where Zane Grey did much of his writing. The historic cabin, destroyed in 1990 by the Dude Fire, is being rebuilt on the grounds of the Rim Country Museum at Green Valley Park.
"Once the cabin is built, this information will be in the museum," Wolfe said. "(If) a visitor comes in and says, ‘Gee I'd sure like to see that place but can't figure out how to get there,' we'll take them out."
In the fall of each year during the 1920s, Grey came to the cabin to write, camp, hunt and fish. Enamored with the natural beauty of the Rim country, Grey also was certain that its rich history would provide plots for his novels, according to Beth Counseller, one of the cabin's original caretakers.
Dick Wolfe, Don's brother and former Payson town councilor, is president of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation, the group that plans to rebuild the cabin.
For more information on the foundation or to help with the project, contact the foundation by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 3188, Payson, AZ 85547; or by phone at (928) 474-6115.