Darlene Alvarez, a fourth-grade teacher at Frontier Elementary School, gets together with Charles Brown, Dick Wolf and Donn Morris as they present her class with a Zane Grey novel.
Photo by Andy Towle.
Zane Grey immortalized Rim Country before the name existed, writing adventurous tales of wrangling mountain lions and foraging in the forest.
The famous writer, however, isn’t normally included in the curriculum of local schools.
And so Donn Morris of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation wrote curriculum involving ranching, and the group secured funding from Zane Grey’s West Society for 150 copies of “The Young Lion Hunter” to distribute among Payson schools.
Several members of the foundation recently gathered in Darlene Alvarez’s fourth-grade classroom at Frontier Elementary School to introduce the youngsters to the adventures of Zane Grey.
Fourth-graders ordinarily learn about Arizona history, and so Grey curriculum meshes well, Morris said.
“A lot of people have moved in; they don’t even know who Zane Grey is,” said foundation member Charles Brown.
Grey, a prolific storyteller, was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1872. As a young man, Grey was a semi-professional baseball player and dentist — he attended the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, according to Zane Grey’s West Society.
But the inextinguishable yearning to write led him to the starving artist’s life until a publisher finally agreed to print Grey’s novels. Grey would become the best-selling Western author of all time.
Grey eventually married a woman named Dolly, who believed so fervently in her husband’s passion that she tended to the house and three children while Grey roamed the still-wild nation seeking inspiration for his adventure novels.
He would spend several months a year wandering — to Colorado or Tahiti — then return to write magazine articles and novels.
“It is fair to say that Dolly’s belief in Zane’s calling was the single factor most responsible for the success of his lengthy
lengthy career,” according to the society.
Grey had homes across the country, including a hunting lodge on the Mogollon Rim near Payson.
Heart failure killed Grey in 1939. All told, he wrote nearly 90 books, 60 of them Westerns.
According to members of the local cabin foundation, 13 of Grey’s novels took place in the Rim Country.
“I think you’re really going to enjoy this,” foundation president Dick Wolfe told the fourth-grade recipients of “The Young Lion Hunter.”
“What would you do if you ran across a mountain lion?” district curriculum coordinator Kathy Kay asked the students. “Zane Grey, he chose to go out and find them — and he lassoed them.”