When the Zane Grey Cabin is dedicated Saturday at 10 a.m., it will be the culmination of a dream for local artist and former town councilor Dick Wolfe.
Fifteen years after being destroyed by the Dude Fire, the cabin will once again provide visitors a look at how "the father of the Western novel" lived during his frequent visits to the Rim Country.
Grey spent each October at the cabin as he hunted for game and collected material for stories. Of his 62 Western novels, 24 are set in Arizona and 13 in the Rim Country.
State historian Marshall Trimble recalled an experience that captured the significance of the setting for a writer.
"Just a year before the fire, we were camped in a little valley down below the cabin and I took a walk out there that night about sundown and looked out over the Rim, and I remember thinking, ‘No wonder this inspired that great writer,'" Trimble said.
Bill Furman, a Zane Grey fan and management consultant who coordinated the cabin project, spoke of the historical value of the author's writings.
"Whether his creations are fiction or not, they actually depict our early time -- our love stories, our ranching, our trials and tribulations," Furman said.
Beth Counseller, one of the original cabin's caretakers, elaborated on Furman's thoughts.
"When he came here, he was interviewing and visiting with people who actually settled the area," Counseller said. "The old-timers were here to spin stories for him and explain, because they knew firsthand what the old adage meant -- that ‘Arizona ain't for amateurs.' This was a wild and wooly place, and Zane Grey learned that right from the people who experienced it.
"So he took their -- I guess I can tactfully call them quasi-historical accounts of what happened -- and added a love story, and added character, and added a background, and came up with these wonderful, historical documentaries about this area where we live. Zane Grey opened Arizona, not only to the whole country but to the whole world, and Payson is the gateway to that world, and the Zane Grey Cabin is going to reopen that to future generations."
Grey abandoned the cabin in 1929 following a spat with Arizona Game and Fish and it fell into serious disrepair. In 1962, Valley air conditioning magnate William Goettl had the structure restored.
It became a major tourist attraction and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The cabin was destroyed when it burned to the ground in the Dude Fire.
The new cabin in Green Valley Park is a full-size, historically-accurate replica.
"We had a difficult time finding certain materials and furnishings we needed so the cabin would look as it did when built 83 years ago," Wolfe said.
"Being faithful to the original cabin, we are not using any modern materials such as particle board or laminated beams," he said. "All the beams are big, huge, heavy beams. I just love it because that's the way it was."
A closer look at old photographs of the original cabin was revealing.
"We were making a book of photographs of the old cabin for the contractor and we were poring over it the other day and we noticed what we thought were some design flaws," Wolfe said. "We had them blown up and, lo and behold, there were. I told the contractor I want him to duplicate those flaws."
It was easier said than done.
"One of the most difficult things we've had to do is convincing all of these craftsmen to not do a perfect job," he said, "I said, ‘It was not perfect back then. It was just some cowboys and ranchers working up there with one carpenter.'
All the wood used in the cabin, both interior and exterior, was rough sawn. The walls and ceiling of the interior were comprised of 1-by-6 boards.
"Of course it's going to move, warp, expand and all that," Wolfe said. "But we're convinced that's the way it was, so that's what we're going to use."
Eleven students from the Payson High School building trades class made replica furniture for the new cabin based on the old interior photograph and some photos from its days as a museum.
When the Zane Grey Cabin opens this weekend, one thing will be obvious: life has changed dramatically in the Rim Country since those rough-and-tumble days of cattle drives and mule trains.