Zane Grey's Books Defined The West



This Saturday, Oct. 15, will be a day that will bring back memories to a few and commemorate for all the renowned Western author whose legacy is so closely associated with that of our own.

Zane Grey (1872-1939) wrote more than 85 books which have sold well over 100 million copies worldwide. Most of these books drew upon the Old West, and many had their origins right here in the Mogollon Rim Country of Arizona -- which Grey referred to as the Tonto Rim.

Grey's original cabin was located next to the Anderson Lee-Babe Haught Cabin near Tonto Creek under the Rim. While at this cabin between the years of 1918 and 1929, he was inspired to write several books, including Under the Tonto Rim, Code of the West, and To the Last Man.

When Grey's famous cabin burned in the Dude Fire in 1990, people could no longer visit the cabin and see the beautiful country as Zane Grey saw it. The Zane Grey Cabin Foundation, headed by local artist and former town councilor Dick Wolfe, decided that the cabin must be rebuilt, even if it could not be rebuilt where it stood originally.

And so the cabin was rebuilt in Green Valley Park and now we have the opportunity to attend the dedication on Saturday and witness history in the making.

The cabin was rebuilt as authentically as possible within the guidelines of town codes. Great care has been taken to make the inside of the cabin appear as it did when Zane Grey was there.

It will be a great experience to visit his cabin and appreciate the sentiment of an earlier time.

Zane Grey's legacy

Zane Grey penned some of the best Western adventure novels ever written.

Although Grey died in 1939, his legacy remains with us today. He has inspired countless imitators and his work has been adapted to all modern media. A record 111 of his stories have been made into movies. Other media such as radio and television ("Zane Grey Western Theatre"), magazines (Zane Grey Magazine), comics (King of the Royal Mounted and others), paperbacks, talking books, Internet Web sites and electronic texts have all used Grey's stories to bring entertainment to an eager audience.

Grey celebrated the natural beauty of the West with descriptions that caused his readers to visualize the scenes his words described, creating written paintings of some of the world's most spectacular country.

His characters seem real, because they were largely patterned after people he met in the West, and in some cases -- like Buffalo Jones and the Haught families -- he wrote of actual Western characters.

Grey's central characters, although they often took the law into their own hands, most always upheld frontier values. His books despised a cheat or a liar, and rejoiced in the spirit of honor and bravery.

It is interesting to note that Grey couldn't find a publisher for his first book. Even after he was an established writer, many of his peers harshly criticized his writing, some even claiming that he couldn't write. This, while Grey's books were attracting millions of readers and their own books were gathering dust.

Charles G. Pheiffer, director of Zane Grey's West Society, wrote an article titled, "So You Want to Read Zane Grey and Don't Know Where to Start." In it he said:

"Remember that these books were written between 1903 and 1939, and literary fashions have changed drastically. Remember, also, that Grey was concerned with more than spinning a good yarn. He was interested in geography, nature, and history; he visited the areas about which he wrote, took careful notes, and engaged in extensive research.

"Further, Grey believed that every worthwhile author was obligated to have a viable philosophy of life, which should be convincingly presented in his writings -- read for these values as well as for the story.

"Finally, Grey specifically claimed to be writing historical romances -- not historical novels. The novel fulfills its function when it is true to the facts of history; the romance strives to be true to the spirit of history.

"Do not judge Grey on his use of facts, but on how well he caught the spirit of the West."

Our Zane Grey favorites

If you have never read Zane Grey and live here in the Rim Country, you might enjoy:

The Arizona Clan (Tonto Basin): The book is concerned with "White Mule" (bootleg whiskey), its production and distribution, and its evil effects upon people.

Arizona Ames: A horseman uses his trusty revolver to defend honor, right wrong, and protect the weak.

30,000 on the Hoof (Mogollon Rim in Arizona): Originally titled The Frontier Wife, this is a tribute to the unsung heroines of the West.

To the Last Man: A graphic account of Arizona's bloodiest feud. The foreword alone is worth the price of the book. This book encompasses the spirit of the Pleasant Valley War, but strays widely from the facts. Grey came to Arizona to gather information on this war, but it was too recent for much knowledge-gathering. Feelings still ran high and it was dangerous to know too much about this feud.

Under the Tonto Rim: The story of the Babe Haught family which lived under the Mogollon Rim in the Tonto Basin. A social worker seeks to improve the living conditions of settlers in a remote area -- including some who don't want to be improved.

The Code of the West (Tonto Basin): This story involves the Thurman family (based on the Pappy and Mammy Haught family) who lived under the Tonto Rim.

The Hash Knife Outfit (the Mogollon Plateau): An outlaw befriends two damsels in deep distress, teaches them what it means to be frontier women, and goes straight.

The Man of the Forest: A lone woodsman living in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona is forced into struggling with the meaning of life and the society he has rejected. This book is crucial in understanding Grey's philosophy of life.

Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral (1104 S. Beeline Highway) carries the largest selection of Zane Grey books in the Payson area.

New book on Grey

Git A Rope Publishing will release Jayne Peace Pyle's newest book, Cooking For Zane Grey Under the Tonto Rim, right after the cabin dedication.

The book is a history of the families who lived under the Tonto Rim when Zane Grey was there. It tells about their crops and their ways of cooking.

The Haught families who knew Zane Grey are included, as well as the Pyles, the Boles, the Bowmans, the Andertons and others.

"The idea for this book was born with the knowledge that a replica of Zane Grey's Cabin would be built in Payson and dedicated in October of 2005," Peace said. "As a town of Payson historian, I wanted to donate something to history for this special time.

"Many have written about Zane Grey, but I wanted to compile some history and genealogy on the settlers who knew Zane Grey and hunted and worked with him under the Tonto Rim. In the books I have read about Mr. Grey, little is mentioned about his visits to the Rim Country of Arizona between the years of 1918 and 1929. I decided it needed to be written.

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