33rd ZANE GREY ROUNDUP – Part Two

BLOG #30, SERIES 6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
33RD ZANE GREY ROUNDUP
Part Two
July 29, 2015

We here pick up on Tuesday, June 23, the first full day of our 33rd convention.

After the morning’s presentations, we were more than ready for our annual Members Memorial lunch. We take this time each year to celebrate the lives and contributions of members we no longer have with us. And always, for 33 years now, I first read out loud and then we all recite together famed poet Edwin Markham’s brief poem, “Outwitted.”

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Before we founded the Society in 1983, the Rev. G. M. Farley (the other co-founder) and I decided that by making this poem of inclusiveness our mantra, we’d have no lonely people in our Society. And so it has turned out.

After our lunch, it was time for our annual auction of Zane Grey material, a great opportunity for members—especially new members—to build up a Zane Grey collection at very economical prices. The auction monies help keep the Society alive as our magazine costs alone more than uses up our annual dues. All our officers serve pro-bono. That’s why we’ve only raised dues once in 33 years!

In the evening, it was time for our annual ice cream social. Never have we been feted with better ice cream than this year.

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesdays, we recover from our rigorous Tuesdays. This year, we bussed and caravanned our way through Flagstaff and spectacular Oak Creek Canyon (celebrated by Zane Grey in his Call of the Canyon), en route to Sedona, a Southwest magnet for tourists.

Wednesday evening we were treated to the movie, The Rainbow Trail (2015 is the 100th anniversary of the famed novel). Dr. James D’Arc, the world’s foremost authority on Zane Grey films, not only brought us the film from BYU’s film vaults, but he also regaled us with the fascinating behind-the-scenes story of the actors, directors, and producers who made the film possible. Popcorn was provided by FOREVER Resorts.

THURSDAY

Thursdays—being the last day of our annual conventions— are always bittersweet. Mornings are taken up by the annual business meeting in which we elect (or re-elect) officers, discuss issues of interest to the members, and vote on further convention sites.

Our 2016 convention is going to be held the third week of June on the Florida Keys, for Grey fished from Long Key almost every year over about a twenty-year period. We will have a pre-convention get together in Fort Everglades (Grey also fished here) and have the convention on Islamarada in the Keys. The following year, we voted to meet in Kanab, Utah, situated between Zion and North Rim Grand Canyon National Parks. Already a number of people have told me they’ll join the Society just to be able to attend the 2016 convention in the Keys. Another special thing about our conventions is that we secure excellent rates at lodge facilities and charge members only our at-cost prices.

In the afternoon, we gathered in a very large circle and got into a rousing book discussion of Rainbow Trail (2015 is its 100th anniversary). Each year our members read a given Zane Grey book ahead of tine so all members can get fully involved.

Then it was time for the annual banquet, when Purple Sage awards and gift books are presented. Purple Sage awards represent the highest award the Society can give its members. Gift-books, on the other hand, are given to those who did the most to make the previous convention such a success.

Finally, the most moving moment in every convention: holding hands in a large circle and singing “Auld Lang Syne,” usually led by David Leeson, a Society member from England. Then, it’s time to bid everyone adieu and perhaps shed a tear or two.

Next day, the after-convention attendees headed to Lake Powell and a trip to the iconic Rainbow Bridge (on so many people’s bucket list).

Once more, I do hope you’ll join our Society. Again, tell Sheryle Hodapp I invited you to do so. Here is her address:

15 Deer Oaks Drive, Pleasanton, CA 94588
Phone: 925-699-0698
Email: Sheryle@ZGWS.org

 

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33rd ZANE GREY ROUNDUP – Part One

BLOG #29, SERIES 6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
33RD ZANE GREY ROUNDUP
Part One
July 22, 2015

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For the eighth time in 33 years, faithful Zanies headed to Arizona. Our second convention had been held in Payson, in 1984; in 1986, we met in Flagstaff; in 1988, Page; we returned to Payson in 1995; it was Prescott, in 2008; we returned to Payson for the third time in 2007; two years later, we met at Mormon Lake; and now, in 2015, faithful Zanies returned to Mormon Lake for the second time.

Prior to the convention, Connie and I and Lucy and Bob Earp joined a large group of others for a visit to Kohl’s Ranch at Christopher Creek. Sunday afternoon, we caravanned up the slope of the Mogollon Rim to the site where Grey’s cabin once stood before the Dude Fire of 1990 erased it from the map. For me, it was so poignant to revisit a spot I have loved for so long. I first came here in the early 1970s, and returned again and again. Once I spent most of a week here; like Zane Grey himself, at night I’d spread out my bedding and sleep out under the stars, listening to the soughing of the pines. In those days, pilgrims came here from all over the world. I’d see them sitting on the veranda, a far-off look in their eyes as they gazed at range after range of mountains. And how could I forget college coeds, leaning against trees, lost in reading Grey’s timeless Mogollon Rim romances, Under the Tonto Rim and Code of the West. And there in the Cabin, holding court, the inimitable curator, Margaret Sell, to whom the place represented life itself.

Then it was back down the vast mesa to Kohl’s Ranch, loading up the Honda Pilot, and heading up on the mesa to Mormon Lake, there to be greeted by the gathering clan. Of all the places where we’ve met over the years, the Mormon Lake ranch is the most rustic, only the West Texas convention facilities at Fort Davis coming close. But it was its very rusticness [is there such a word?] that so many of us enjoyed so much.

A phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me is the sight of the returning faithful—many (usually a third to half the attendees) arrive days early, so eager are they to get together again. And so it proved to be once more.

In the evening, it was time for our opening banquet in the ranch’s so-called “Steakhouse.” Not formal like most banquets, but western attire the norm. In no time at all, the decibel level, caused by old friends finding each other and catching up on each other’s lives, got louder and louder—not to recede until Friday morning.

The highlight of the evening was the introduction of new attendees (seventeen, to be exact). Each was made to feel welcome—more than welcome: made to feel “at home.”

The food, provided by Scott Gold’s FOREVER Resorts team, was splendid.

Then it was time to head for the cabins and RVs. Tomorrow would be the biggest day of the convention.

TUESDAY

Not until Tuesday morning is over do I ever get to relax at our conventions. Reason being that I put more work and thought into the annual Keynote Address than I do any other speaking engagement. And, naturally, I don’t dare ever resort to anything that is stale or a re-run. Beginning in June of 1983, until now, in a very real way, I have measured my life by Keynotes. Now, here I was with my 33rd consecutive Keynote Address. I titled it, “Light of Western Stars — Why It Stands the Test of Time.” I chose this book for my Keynote because 2014 was the 100th anniversary of this, one of Grey’s greatest books. Also, it has always been one of my personal favorite reads. Those of you belonging to the Zane Grey’s West Society will be getting the full text of the Keynote in your next issue of our magazine, The Zane Grey Review.

I was followed by three fascinating presentations: Harvey Leake’s “From Kayente to Rainbow Bridge: The Rugged Route that Inspired Zane Grey’s Geography of The Rainbow Trail.” Leake is a direct descendant of John and Louisa Wetherill, famed Traders to the Navajos in Monument Valley and who had much to do with the discovery of Mesa Verde and Rainbow Bridge. We always look forward to his behind-the-scenes personalized history of the region.

Next came Dr. James D’Arc’s “BYU Happenings.” D’Arc is head curator of Brigham Young University’s film archives and has had a big role to play in the acquisition of major Zane Grey collections (including my own) and films in recent years. BYU is now the largest repository of Zane Grey archival holdings in the world. Reason being that Zane Grey’s books did more to bring fame to the American Southwest (especially Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) than any other writer who ever lived.

D’Arc was followed by Dr. Alan Pratt’s “Appalling Beauty, Dangerous Crossing: Zane Grey at Lee’s Ferry.” Pratt, like Mr. Leake, has become a regular in terms of his visual explorations of Zane Grey book and travel settings. Pratt pointed out that back before the Colorado was dammed, during spring flood periods, the silt-laden river ran so fast that if you fell in while trying to cross it, inevitably you’d be swept away to your death.

Mr. Ryan Taylor then told our audience about a new Arizona opera: “Riders of the Purple Sage.”

* * *

I will complete the story of the 33rd convention in next week’s blog. If you haven’t yet joined the Zane Grey’s West Society, I urge you to do so! You will learn so much about—not just Zane Grey (the Father of the Romantic West)—but also this incredibly fascinating West tourists come from all around the world to see.

Our dues are only $35 a year (which includes four issues of our magazine, a veritable treasure of Western Americana). Just drop a line to our Secretary-Treasurer, Sheryle Hodapp, at 15 Deer Oaks Drive, Pleasanton, CA 94588
Phone: 925-699-0698
Email: Sheryle@ZGWS.org

and tell her I invited you to join our extended family. Also you can check out our Society’s website at: http://www.zgws.org.

 

Independence Day — What Does It Mean Today?

BLOG #28, SERIES 6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
INDEPENDENCE DAY – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TODAY?
July 15, 2015

July 4 has come and gone, and I’ve been wondering just what it means to Americans today. It’s more than obvious, for starters, that it doesn’t mean what it used to.

Fortunately, for untold thousands of American parents and teachers, traditional patriotism is still taught in many homes, schools, and universities across this great land. But what deeply disturbs more and more thought-leaders is a totally different philosophy making serious inroads into American education these days. It is based on Naturalism, a movement that began in France over a hundred years ago with writers like Zola, the Goncourt Brothers, and Balzac. Dreiser was heavily influenced by them.

Today, Naturalism has evolved into Deconstructionism. Both Naturalistic and Deconstructionist authors, scholars, and teachers portray a world seriously deficient in heroism. Reason being that their protagonists are devoid of heroism, true patriotism, idealism, and integrity. Perhaps the most apt metaphor is this: none of them climbs out of the muck, thus they have no true heroes.

The natural result, when teaching American history, is to strip bravery, selflessness, patriotism, altruism, goodness, integrity, from our traditional heroes, leaving the students with the perception that we are a hopeless nation; since if we are devoid of leaders who did their utmost to do what they felt was best for their country, even if it meant giving up their very lives to save it, then why do we even bother to celebrate holidays such as Independence Day?

This is a gravely serious issue, for if America ceases to believe in itself, in its leaders, in the men and women that sacrificed so much to make us “the greatest nation on earth,”—then our future is bleak indeed.

Doesn’t it make one wonder when we hear about yet another so-called “American” who turns traitor to his own nation, and joins terrorist groups like ISIS and Taliban who seek to destroy us? Or traitors like Snowden, who would have been excoriated earlier in our history—wonder what kind of U. S. History or civics they were taught?

But each of us can take a stand on the issue, and then together perhaps we can reverse this insidious erosion of our erstwhile patriotic celebration of our nation and our roots.

Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer”

BLOG #27, SERIES 6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #42
MARK TWAIN’S TOM SAWYER
July 8, 2015

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It is fitting that we follow up last month’s selection, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the first great and timeless book ever written in America specifically for girls, with Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, the first great and timeless book ever written in America specifically for boys.

What intrigues me no little is now modern each book was: how both authors suck the reader into the book with that very first sentence. Both authors, scorning preambles, leap immediately into the heart of their book (most unusual for the time to start in the middle of a conversation).

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First: Little Women

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy with an injured sniff.
“We’ve got Father and Mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

Now re-read those four lines. This time note how completely Alcott captures the essence of each of the sisters in those four lines.

Now, let’s see what Twain does with his beginning lines:

“Tom!”
No answer.
“Tom!”
No answer.
“What’s wrong with that boy, I wonder. “You TOM!”
No answer.
The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy; they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for “style,” not service—she could have seen through a pair of stove lids just as well. She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud enough for the furniture to hear:
“Well, I lay if I get hold of you I’ll—”

* * *

Both are priceless beginnings.

Little Women was published in 1868 – 1869. Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, eight years later. So clearly Twain had eight years to ponder the one-of-a-kind phenomenon that was Little Women before he launched Tom Sawyer. In the Airmont edition of the book are these words:

But it was in 1876, with the publication of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that unforgettable excursion into the private province of the very young that Twain attained the stature of greatness. Lively, touching, penetrating—the whitewashing incident is one of literature’s wittiest dramatizations of applied psychology—Tom Sawyer is one of those rare novels that become more endearing with each reading. Its beloved sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884, is immortal.”

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens [Mark Twain was a pseudonym] (1835 – 1910), is one of the very few American writers who reached the very pinnacle of both popular and academic success—and who has stayed there for over a century, not just in novels, but in short stories as well. His books are still read by generation after generation of readers. Books such as—

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865-1867)
The Innocents Abroad (1869)
Roughing It (1872)
The Gilded Age, with Charles Dudley Warner (1873)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
A Tramp Abroad (1880)
The Stolen White Elephant (1882)
The Prince and the Pauper (1882)
Life on the Mississippi (1883)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896)
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
Following the Equator (1897)
The Mysterious Stranger (1916), etc.

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In his later books, due to many reasons, Twain became embittered and cynical about the human race. He had reasons. Late in life, he suffered through personal tragedy after tragedy. In 2010, sealed for a hundred years, Twain’s autobiography saw light at once, becoming an instant bestseller.

* * * * *

There are many editions of Tom Sawyer. Just make certain you get an unabridged copy. My personal favorite edition is the Heritage Press boxed edition, wonderfully illustrated in color by Norman Rockwell. Huckleberry Finn was also boxed and illustrated as a companion book. Another splendid edition is the 1931 John C. Winston hardback edition, illustrated by Peter Hurd.

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Even if you’ve read the book before—you owe it to yourself to read it again. It never grows old!