Rim Country Life With Zane Grey

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My parents instilled in me a love of reading at a very early age. This was not a major chore, as we had no "boob tube." My Christmas and birthday presents were often Zane Grey books and by the time I was 11 years old, I was reading them for the second or third time.

I remember reading in class during the third grade. Mrs. Fuel told me to "put that book up and get out your arithmetic!" I was in the middle of an exciting chapter, so I soon had a coughing fit which I knew would cause her to send me to the school nurse, Anna Mann, who in turn sent me to the home of my maternal grandparents, Belle and Walter Lovelady. I lived with my parents out at the R Bar C Scout Ranch during those years, so they couldn't send me home. I walked into my Grandmother Belle's living room -- which was also the "Payson Telephone Office" -- with my Zane Grey book under one arm and told Grandmother, "Dr. Gilbert said to give me a hot toddy with tea, lemon juice, and just a little whiskey, and put me to bed."

Grandmother did just that, but later got to thinking, now he wouldn't tell Jinx that. She called Dr. Gilbert and asked him about his medicine. You would think the good doctor might cover for a little kid with a rapidly developing interest in reading, but nooo ...

My interest in Zane Grey's writing was no accident since my paternal grandparents, Floyd and Verda Pyle, owned and lived at the Myrtle Ranch all during the time that Zane Grey was in the Rim country. The Myrtle Ranch was a scant five miles around the High Line Trail from the old Babe Haught place where Zane Grey's cabin used to be, and less than two miles from the Boles' place where Zane Grey spent considerable time before his cabin was built.

Grey often had 20 or more people in his hunting parties, so Babe Haught hired Floyd Pyle and Edd Haught as extra guides for some of Grey's hunting parties beginning in 1918. Floyd later worked directly for the author when Grey needed both fully-grown lion and bear taken alive for use in his movies. The animals were used during the filming of "Bear Hunt on the Apache Trail" as well as the other films he produced in Arizona. When the author sold his film company to The Alaskans -- later Paramount Pictures -- Floyd continued to work for the movie company during the filming of "To the Last Man."

Floyd Pyle also caught two bear cubs that were given to Zane Grey and raised as pets. Floyd first took the cubs to Bonita Gardens -- the home of his parents, Sarah and Elwood Pyle where they were kept until Grey made his yearly visit to the Rim country. Floyd's sisters, Myrth and Myrl -- known in the Rim country as the Pyle twins -- were away from Bonita Creek visiting relatives in Kansas and missed seeing the cubs at Bonita Creek. Floyd had delivered the little bears to Zane Grey by the time the girls returned home, so Elwood made arrangements to take them over to the Babe Haught Ranch where Zane Grey was staying so that they could see and play with the bear cubs.

Myrth and Myrl recalled in an interview with Jayne Peace that they not only got to see and play with the bears, but that a dance was held in their honor and that they each danced with Zane Grey. During the 1920s, any Tonto Basin/Rim country "get-together" was likely to include a dance, particularly if those get-togethers involved the Haught and Pyle families.

Floyd also told of a trail drive, taking 400 head of sale cattle from below the Rim to Winslow. Zane Grey and some of his hunting party made the drive along with several of the local ranchers who had thrown their cattle in together. Zane Grey's party, along with the ranchers and cowboys, made about 20 drovers who arrived in Winslow "a little ripe" after six days on the trail. They corralled the cattle and rode down to the Harvey House in time for supper. The proprietors were none too pleased with the odors coming from so many unwashed cowboys, but consented to feed them "in the back room."

Floyd related that Zane Grey didn't say a thing, but walked to the back with the rest of the crew. Someone in the party asked a waiter, "Do you know who you are resigning to the back room here?" As soon as they found out Zane Grey was with the crew, they immediately escorted the cowboys into the main dining area and made a big fuss over them.

Floyd also helped with the "packing in" and did a lot of the cooking when Babe Haught took the Grey party to a hunting camp. My dad, Gene, was about 12 when he went with his dad, Floyd, to the Beaver Canyon Camp on the Rim. Gene said that most of the people in Zane Grey's party were a pretty good sort, but there was one fellow connected with the film making who was a real scissor bill. This was a hunting party, but the fellow didn't care to hunt, so he spent a good deal of time in camp just making a general nuisance of himself. Others in the party tried to ignore or stay away from him. A few words from Zane Grey had settled him down for a while, but as we would say today, he was not "a happy camper."

Gene said that Floyd and Edd Haught often alternated with the cooking and guiding. This day Floyd had stayed in camp and was doing the cooking with Gene doing roust-about work. The scissor bill had just made a remark about the coffee and tossed a cup-full into the coals, sending ashes floating into some of the food, pans and pots. There were only a few people in camp. Zane Grey and most of the party had gone hunting. Scissor Bill then turned his back to the fire, walked off about 40 feet -- still in the cooking area -- and dropped his pants to do his business.

"Dad had had enough of that guy," Gene related. "He kicked his butt so hard that the guy landed on his head. Then every time the scissor bill would try to pull his pants up, Dad would kick him again. He would fall and try to scramble away, with dad kicking his butt every time he stopped moving. Dad kicked him clear out of camp like that and he didn't bother us anymore."

I was privileged to grow up hearing stories, not just by Zane Grey, but about him and many other related incidents concerning the making of the movies in the Rim country. Along with the stories, I was handed a legacy of pictures including one of Zane Grey's entire film company when they were camped near Flagstaff making the "Wild Horse Mesa" film.

There are other pictures of Zane Grey, one with Edd Haught (son of Babe Haught) on the porch at the old Boles' Place. These pictures, along with more than a 100 other related pictures and many hunting stories are included in my new book, "Mountain Cowboys, A Contribution to the History of the Rim Country." The book is available locally at Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral, Jackalope Books, and East Verde Trading Company.

Much has been made of the dispute between Zane Grey and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and as my family had a slightly different slant on the issue, I will mention it here.

Floyd Pyle was contacted by Grey to help guide the hunt. He said that Zane Grey only wanted to film the hunt and didn't care if the bear was killed or not, so he wasn't asking to kill a bear out of season, as people have been led to believe.

This was confirmed by my maternal grandfather, Walter Lovelady. Walter was the constable and was handed papers to serve on Zane Grey by the court. He did this at the old Mercantile Store (now Deming Pioneer Park.)

My mother, Dorothy Pyle, was with her father, Walter, at the time and recalls the incident. "Daddy didn't want to serve the papers on Mr. Grey. He thought that if he wanted to film a bear hunt, the state should let him, chiefly because he didn't care about killing the bear anyway. If Daddy or any of those old-timers had wanted to kill a bear back then, they would have done it. Daddy said that the game department's position only kept a lot of people from making a little extra money, as Grey would have put them to work on the film and it didn't do a grain of good as far as he could see."

Floyd Pyle added that the dispute was not the reason that Zane Grey never returned to Arizona. The reason was the overhauling of the game regulations by the game and fish department. During the years that Grey came to the Tonto country, Arizona had one hunting season. People simply bought a tag for whatever animal they wanted to hunt. Later, they had different hunting seasons for each animal. Grey wanted to vacation someplace where he could stay for a month and hunt whatever he wanted ... and he did.

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