Unless you're a voracious Zane Grey fan, you'll most likely learn some very interesting new things about the famous western novelist's life at the exhibit opening Saturday at the Rim Country Museum.
The exhibit is tied to the beginning of the construction of the replica of Zane Grey's cabin adjacent to the museum. The original cabin, where Grey penned many of his more than 60 westerns during the 1920s, was destroyed in 1990 by the Dude Fire.
On a preview tour of the exhibit, Beth Counseller, one of the original cabin's caretakers, pointed out some highlights of Grey's life that are featured in photos and memorabilia.
"The exhibit starts with his baseball years," Counseller said. "He played semi-pro ball and went to the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. Paul Harvey did a ‘Rest of the Story' on this kid from Ohio who invented the curve ball, and we're going to put it in here before the exhibit opens."
A change instituted by the National Baseball League spelled the end of Grey's dreams of playing pro ball.
"While he was in school the National League moved the pitcher's mound back and he couldn't adjust," Counseller said. "It ruined his career, so he became a world-famous writer instead."
Grey's full name was Pearl Zane Grey.
"Pearl gray was a popular color when he was born," Counseller said. "He dropped ‘Pearl' because people thought he was a woman."
Grey's mother's maiden name was Zane, a famous name in the annals of American history.
"She was a descendant of the Zane from American Revolution times," Counseller said. "Ebeneezer Zane was Zane Grey's great-great-grandfather. He blazed Zane's Trace through the Ohio River Valley after the Revolutionary War and they named Zanesville, Ohio after him."
The exhibit also features a movie theater poster of "To the Last Man," one of several Grey novels that were converted to the big screen. The story is based on the Pleasant Valley War, the reason Grey came to the Rim country.
"He had heard from his guides up in Flagstaff about the Pleasant Valley War and he said, ‘Oh, I've got to learn about this,'" Counseller said.
Besides dozens of photographs, the exhibit also includes artifacts pulled from the original cabin site after the fire, including a gold-plated pistol, melted glass from the cabin's windows, foundation rocks and nails. It also has Zane Grey movies, comic books, magazines and first-edition books.
Dick Wolfe, former town councilor and president of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation, believes the exhibit will spark additional interest in the cabin project.
"If we can get the people down here, even the non-Zane Grey fans are going to become fans once they see the story," Wolfe said. "It shows the history of Zane Grey right up to the cabin stage and to the actual plans to re-create it."
Wolfe said construction should start in about two weeks, once a security fence donated by Amon Builders and Liberty Fence of Show Low is up.
The foundation is holding a fund-raising dinner, silent auction, raffle and Las Vegas entertainment night at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Mazatzal Casino. Tickets, which are $50, can be purchased from foundation members or at the Payson Public Library, Payson Roundup, and Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
To join the foundation or learn more about how to donate, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; write to P.O. Box 3188, Payson, AZ 85547; or call (928) 474-6115.
The museum, which is located at Green Valley Park, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission fees are $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors 55 and over, $2 for students 12-17, and free for children 11 and under.