Sometimes when an item stares you in the face day after day, it can become so common place it gets missed.
The Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin at Green Valley Park are so much in the background, many of us forget what special places they are and so are not on everyone’s list of places to visit.
The museum details the history of Payson from its early mining days and the rodeo to the timber industry and much more.
A new exhibit on the Dude Fire will debut June 2. A replica of Zane Grey’s cabin, which burned to the ground in the Dude Fire, stands as a tribute to the great storyteller and offers an insight into what it was like to live and work in the Rim Country.
During the next few weeks, the Northern Gila County Historical Society is packing its calendar with special events.
The society’s fund-raising banquet is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, May 22 at the Chaparral Pines Golf Club. The evening will include dinner, a program from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. featuring a documentary and speaker Dan Eckstein, with the Tonto National Forest, on the Dude Fire. Commemorative booklets, Dude Fire + 20 will be offered as well.
Among the auction items are a round of golf for four at Chaparral Pines and dinner for two at Chaparral Pines.
Tickets are $35 per person and seating will be limited to 125 people. Tickets can be purchased at the museum in Green Valley Park.
Commemorating the devastating fire, which started June 25, 1990, is the focus of the society’s special events, which will pay tribute to the men and women who fought the Dude Fire.
The new exhibit will be open for visitation during the museum’s regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday.
It contains information on the fire, forest health, rebuilding efforts following the fire and a special section just for children.
During the month of June, all firefighters, both active and retired, along with their spouses and children, will be admitted free of charge with firefighting identification.
A special 20th Anniversary Dude Fire Memorial is planned from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 26 to show appreciation for firefighters and will include recognition of the six who died in the 1990 fire.
Jim Paxon, who was the information officer with the U.S. Forest Service during the Dude Fire, and subsequent blazes, will be the guest speaker.
Following his program, Paxon will be signing copies of his books, The Monster Reared its Ugly Head: the Story of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire and Fire as a Tool of Nature. Stan Brown, who authored the museum’s booklet on the Dude Fire, will also be available for autographs.
Every summer since the Dude Fire of 1990, visitors to the Rim Country have noticed the void left by the destruction of the Zane Grey cabin. A cherished landmark near Kohl’s Ranch, the famous western writer used the cabin as a hunting lodge and retreat. When the original property was sold as a private subdivision after the fire, many wondered if a replicated cabin would return to the Rim Country.
Like the heroes of Grey’s novels, a group of local western aficionados banded together to benefit their community. They formed the nonprofit Zane Grey Cabin Foundation (ZGCF) to build a historic replica of the cabin in Payson. If there are any doubts about the determination of these folks, take a look at what has materialized in Green Valley Park.
And don’t hold back any whoops and hollers — the Zane Grey cabin was completed in 2006.
No doubt, Zane Grey (1872-1939) would be proud of this location because the environment played a prominent role in his novels. Against the backdrop of the western landscape, his valiant cowboys, honorable ranchers, chaste women, noble horses and unscrupulous outlaws caught the imaginations of his readers.
This “father of the western novel” penned 57 westerns, more than 200 short stories, 10 nonfiction westerns and numerous hunting and fishing articles and books. His books spawned more than 130 movies and, at one time, only the Bible and McGuffey’s Reader could outsell Zane Grey. His books have been published in more than 20 languages and have sold tens of millions of copies. His The Riders of the Purple Sage is considered the quintessential western classic.
As a mountain town with a rich western heritage, Payson brags about its affiliation with this American icon. Exhibits in the cabin focus on life in the 1920s, when Grey was at home in his cabin.
School children, adult learners and history buffs will discover the adventures of the pioneers, which inspired Grey to write Under the Tonto Rim, To the Last Man and Code of the West.
The cabin each year draws groups from historical and western societies, schools and colleges, Elderhostels and tour excursions. With this endeavor, Payson has eagerly retrieved the Zane Grey Country mantle.