The fairly new Arizona Highlands publication by the Payson Roundup might remind longtime residents of a couple different publications. First would be Arizona Highways, an understandable connection given that Pete Aleshire works on the magazine and was an editor of Arizona Highways. The second, more old-school magazine, one might say, would be Tonto Trails magazine. This week, that magazine and its publisher, Norman Mead, get a closer look.
Tonto Trails magazine was started in 1955. The Beeline Highway was not yet fully paved and it would be many years before today’s Highway 260 east of Payson was paved as well. Many of the subdivisions that sit on old homesteads today were not here yet. Over the next 50 years things would dramatically change in Rim Country and Tonto Trails magazine was there at the forefront to chronicle the change.
This publication was issued just once a year and initially cost just 25 cents. The magazine provided articles about Rim Country and its happenings – for example a “fish derby” on Tonto Creek and things like how to make beef jerky. It had a decidedly “east siders” lean, by that it is meant that the Tonto Village and Christopher Creek areas got more than its fair share of attention. Considering who the publisher was this should have surprised no one.
The Mead family came to Arizona in 1930s from Montana. They were among the many who came south seeking greener pastures during the Great Depression. There were a bunch of Meads, but the de facto leader of the group seemed to be Maynard Mead and in 1939 he had the opportunity to purchase 40 acres under the Mogollon Rim. He snatched it up and it would later become a development known today as Mead’s Ranch, located on the old Boles Homestead, being the only part of it that Zane Grey did not actually own.
Maynard was helped in building the subdivision and many of the cabins located in it by his brothers Clarence and Roy. Clarence would eventually have a family, as did Maynard, while Roy reveled in bachelorhood, spending nine months a year at the place.
Maynard and his wife Icy, who herself would become noted for her gardening, had three sons: Alan, Norman, and Marlin. All three were characters with Marlin and Norman particularly being known in the area. Marlin was said to have been pulled off the dead pile in World War II. Stories are still repeated about him today, including one that was passed along by Ron Randleman. In it, Marlin was sent to town to buy some roses for his mother to plant. He bought the roses, put them in the back of his truck, and then met a woman. Three weeks later he finally returned from California, by which time of course the roses were long dead. He did survive seeing his mother again and lived on for many years.
Norman would become arguably the most successful of the sons. He picked up an interest in photography and he who created Tonto Trails magazine, and later White Mountains magazine. His love of the outdoors is clearly seen through his publications, with brilliant photography. His maps anchored the magazine and Norman’s skills as an artist were so pronounced that one of his maps became a popular placemat, used in Rim Country throughout the years at places such as Aunt Alice’s (today’s Gerardo’s) and the Beeline Café. An outsider might wonder what this tiny place called “Mead’s Ranch” was doing on those mats, but knowing his background, it was only a wonder that it wasn’t bigger.
Norman was thrifty – as were many from his generation. While working on my book, Zane Grey’s Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead, he proudly told me how his house in Mesa was built and paid for by trading lots to folks in Mead Ranch. In talking to others I’ve found that I was far from the only one he told this to. He was proud of it and rightfully so. While he later summered in the Pinetop-Lakeside area, Mead in his later years clearly had fond remembrances of the place named for his family.
A few copies of old Tonto Trails magazines can be found at the Northern Gila County Genealogical Society and they are well worth a look. They introduced this area to many and continue to inspire writers and publishers alike to this day.
I can certainly tell you that there are elements in my book and the publications that I do that have been inspired by the way Norman did things.
And it’s worth mentioning a couple other pieces that came via Norman Mead. One is Myrtle Haught Branstetter’s “Pioneers Under the Rim,” something that I have on my shelf. Also, you’ll often see old photos throughout the state that are the work of Norman Mead or his son Russ, who still carries on the family tradition, publishing White Mountains magazine to this day.
Putting out a call
I was listening to some Arlo Guthrie for the first time the other day and it made me think of the hippie era (60s and 70s) and its impact on this area. If you have any stories about it specific to this region, good or bad, please e-mail me at timothy@zane grey.net. I’d also love to know when the old Boles cabin on that homestead burned; supposedly caused by some folks who were trespassing at the time. If you know the date or even the year, please e-mail me.