Zane Grey, Western Cowboy Author: The Arizona Years and Novels 1904-1929
The Early Years
Pearl Zane Grey was born in Zanesville Ohio in 1872. He didn't describe much of his childhood, even in a long article written about his life. He felt his father, a fundamentalist preacher and dentist, was too strict and made him do too many chores. Zane preferred being outdoors and fishing. He didn't do well in school and considered himself antisocial. He wrote that he discovered girls at age 14 and was arrested during a brothel raid when he was 16. Shortly after his arrest, his family moved to Columbus Ohio. The move may have been related to Zane's arrest or it may have been because his father was known to have problems with women and gambling.
By age 15, Zane was assisting his father in his dentistry practice, but his real ambition was to become a professional baseball player. He gained a reputation for his baseball skills on local teams and hoped he might be eligible for a baseball scholarship to attend Penn State and receive his education in dentistry. Things seemed to be moving forward when Zane was charged with a paternity suit. His father provided the funds to satisfy the woman's claims and Zane managed to graduate from the Penn State School of Dentistry in 1896. He set up his office in New York City and practiced, but he still continued to play baseball with the hope of playing in the major league.
He continued to date many women. One of these women, Lina Eliise Roth "Dolly," was smart and was interested in helping Zane to improve his writing skills. She urged him to quit dentistry and commit himself to his writing. When Dolly received a small inheritance, they married in 1905 and in spite of the many years she knew of his other women, she continued to be his wife and business manager, until his death in 1939.
Zane Visited Arizona in 1906
Zane had some articles published before he wrote his first novel, Betty Grey which was based upon diaries from his family. The book was self-published and not well received. After Zane visited the Grand Canyon in 1906 and then traveled on to California and experienced his first deep sea fishing trip, he gained a wealth of experiences. He returned to Arizona in 1907, stayed in Flagstaff, crossed the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry on a trip led by Buffalo Jones, where Zane shot mountain lions and other game on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. His experiences at the Grand Canyon would be written about in a non-fiction book The Last of the Plainsmen, and in several articles in Field and Stream. By 1910, Zane reported his income at $3,500.
On his next Arizona trip, which was led by a Navajo guide and John Wetherill an Indian trader, they showed Zane the natural stone arch called Rainbow Bridge which is located in Southern Utah. The Bridge is 308 ft. with a span of 275 ft. and while Zane often claimed that he was the second white man to view the Bridge, several other parties had been there before him. Zane found it to be such a place of power and beauty that he would visit Rainbow Bridge 3 more times. After a visit to the Painted Desert on their way home from the second trip to Rainbow Bridge, Zane claimed that something inexplicable on that trip had changed him. He visited Monument Valley and believed it would be perfect for Western films before John Ford. He continued writing non-fiction nature articles for Field and Stream, but he began focusing on writing Riders of the Purple Sage and other novels set in the West.
The Rim Country Cabin
In 1921, during a hunt northeast of Payson Arizona on the Mogollon Rim led by "Babe"Haught and his two sons, the party hunted turkeys, deer, lynx, mountain lions and bears. Zane bought three acres in the area and commissioned a hunting lodge to be built for his fall hunts. (While elaborate for a hunting camp, the "lodge" would be known as a cabin.) He enjoyed hunting every fall, and he explored and wrote about other areas of Arizona too. He stayed at the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, where it is said that he wrote portions of Call of the Canyon in Front of their fireplace. During this period, Zane's books were beginning to be made into movies and in 1929, Zane invited a film crew to film a bear hunt in Arizona. Unfortunately, the hunting season was over and the game commissioner refused to give Zane a special permit for the hunt. Deeply embarrassed, Zane vowed never to set foot in Arizona again, and he didn't. His cabin sat vacant until it was purchased by a private citizen in 1963 and restored for a museum. It was destroyed in a devastating forest fire in 1990. In 2005, the Northern Gila County Historical Society. Inc. built a replica of Zane's original cabin. In addition to building the replica cabin, they gathered many of Zane's first edition books, family photos, movie posters and other Zane Grey memorabilia. The Rim Country and Zane Grey Museum is located in Payson, Arizona.
Have You Ever Read a Book by Zane Grey?
Have You Ever Read a Book by Zane Grey?
Zane Grey's Legacy
Zane's novels set in Arizona include: Arizona Ames, Arizona Clan, Call of the Canyon, Code of the West, The Drift Fence, The Hash Knife Outfit, The Man of the Forest, Nevada, Shadow of the Trail, Tales of Lonely Trails, Tappan's Burro, 30,000 on the Hoof, Sunset Pass, To the Last Man, and Under the Tonto Rim. Zane wrote 64 novels, 10 non-fiction books, and numerous articles on hunting, fishing and baseball. Over 130 movies were based on his Western novels, and Riders of the Purple Sage, considered to be his finest novel, continues to sell between 500,000 and one million copies yearly. While panned by the critics, Zane was a popular author who spun stories of the romance and thrills of the American West.
To learn more about Zane's life and writing, in addition to the museum in Payson, Arizona, there is the Zane Grey Museum in Norwich, Ohio. Also, Zane Grey, His Life, His Adventures, His Women by Thomas H. Pauly provides a wealth of information on Zane Grey.