Part One
July 22, 2015


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.


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.


Living to Be 100 Years Old!

April 8, 2015


The cover story in the April 5, 2015 Parade was titled “Living to 100.” The author, Ginny Graves, notes that there are 53,364 centenarians in the U.S. today; however, experts predict that number will skyrocket to 600,000 by 2050.

There has been much publicity recently about the so-called Blue Zones (areas with the highest concentration of centenarians). Most prominent are Sardinia; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and, in the U.S., Loma Linda, California.

Graves notes that journalist Dan Buettner has become a longevity guru, thanks to books such as his new one, The Blue Zone Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People (National Geographic Books).

Here are some of Buettner’s conclusions about Blue Zones:

●   They tend to hang out with individuals who share their healthy living philosophies. A Brigham Young University study confirms this: those with strong connections were twice as likely to outlive those who do not.
●   They exercise regularly, often choose to walk with friends three, four miles a day at least four times a week. Their lifestyles encourage physical activities rather than sedentary ones.
●   The world’s most robust centenarians stick with diets that are 95% plant-based; eating some fish but little meat. In a major study, British researchers found that those who ate seven or more portions of vegetables and fruits every day, lowered their risk of dying from cancer by 25%, and from cardiovascular disease by 31%. Many drink a glass of wine each day. They eat smaller portions.
●   They generally belong to a faith-based community. Buettner notes that attending services four times a month can extend life span by 14 years.
●   Marital commitment alone can add up to three years to one’s life.
●   Extended family interaction significantly extends life.
●   Crucial to longevity is having a purpose, reasons for facing and living each day.

* * * * *

My own research confirms all this:

1.   Studies confirm that there is an extremely strong relationship between mind and body. If the mind tells the body, I’m retired now; so I can just loaf and veg out each day, the brain sends out a mandate to the body’s defense armies (the white blood cells): Dismantle the defense system for there are no longer any dreams or goals to protect. And you die. Often in a short time-period. Only those retirees who establish new goals, create new passions, find new hobbies, and dream new dreams, are likely to live long.

2.   There are no plateaus where health is concerned. One is either getting stronger (the body essentially rebuilds itself every 100 days) each 100 days, or one is getting weaker. Consistent daily exercise is absolutely essential.

3.   Vibrant Blue Zoners work hard each day to remain relevant intellectually. By continued study and voracious reading, they stay current with the Zeitgeist; thus their writing and speaking can have a profound effect on society. This is why aging luminaries such as Warren Buffett remain so iconic, and their wisdom is sought after.

4.   Blue Zoners never feel old. For them “old” remains a long way off. When my great aunt, Lois Wheeler Berry was 105 years old, she continued to maintain that “Old is fifteen years older than you are.” She was right: age is a state of mind; some are old at 10 and others remain young at 110!

So each of us has the potential (short of unforeseen calamaties or diseases) to live long vibrant lives, on past 100 years. But no one can slide or veg into it. It demands daily VIBRANT LIVING and perpetual joie du vivre.


29th Zane Grey Convention Concludes

Part 5

This blog for August 17

(Insert #419 – Group of Zanies at Jamestown)

Wednesday evening, we held a discussion on the last Zane Grey novel to be published, George Washington, Frontiersman. This book, Grey left unfinished. University of Kentucky historian, Carlton Jackson, edited the final manuscript many years later. Grey fans had long been looking forward to seeing it since it represented the final fourth of Grey’s Ohio Valley quartet. Furthermore, it featured George Washington, a friend of the Zane family (Zane Grey’s maternal ancestors). Such a spirited book discussion developed that it was decided to schedule another next year, on two Grey books: Wyoming and Maverick Queen, both set in the Wyoming Territory region.

(Insert #454 – Reconstructed Jamestown church – being excavated inside)

Thursday morning, what members label “the fastest [and shortest] four days of the year,” began with what has become one of the high points of the convention. Prof. Charles [“Chuck”] Pfeiffer attended the very first Zane Grey convention in Keene, Texas; indeed, he parked his faithful VW van on our lawn, back in 1983. Since that time, Pfeiffer has become the world’s foremost authority on the settings of Zane Grey books, traveling hundreds of thousands of miles, criss-crossing the nation, (often with college students taking classes for credit, traveling with him). Pfeiffer has reduced Grey’s settings to a science. Prior to Pfeiffer’s studies, we were often confused about some of Grey’s settings for they don’t always fit exactly on maps today. Given that Grey always maintained that the settings of his novels were more important than the characters themselves (since people are so much a product of their environment), Pfeiffer has been performing a huge service for today’s readers of Grey. Nor did he disappoint us this year, with his slide show (digitized), “The Locations of the Novel George Washington, Frontiersman. Pfeiffer is also author of the stupendous tour de force, Zane Grey, a Study in Values: Above and Beyond the West (Aurora, Colorado: Zane Grey’s west Society, 2005).

Following a break, we proceeded to the annual election of officers (some have two-year terms, others one). Years ago we discovered (during a period when we almost lost the Society) that so close is the bond between members that they adamantly refuse to run against each other. Consequently, today there is little suspense in our elections. The election process is handled by the Executive Director of the Society.

Afterwards, a visual presentation was made to dream up additional interest in the June (third week), 2012 convention to be held in Spearfish, South Dakota (our first convention in the Black Hills). Our members will also be visiting Mount Rushmore, Chief Crazy Horse site, and the Badlands National Park.

Following that, a presentation was made by Dr. James D’Arc, inviting us all to bring the 2013 convention to Provo, Utah. There we will be feted with a Zane Grey film series at Brigham Young University, as well as being part of a celebration centering on all the Zane Grey collections BYU has been acquiring over the years [they also purchased my collection several years ago]. BYU is well on its way to becoming the greatest repository of Zane Grey manuscripts, films, memorabilia, books, etc., in the world. It is being set up as a research center for western scholars around the world. For instance, the 10,000 note cards I hand-wrote for my doctoral dissertation on Grey at Vanderbilt University have already been digitized so people anywhere may access it, not just students and scholars.

We often have mini-convention weekends following a given convention. 2013’s will feature one at Bryce Canyon National Park. Such weekends offer attendees the opportunity to experience places they’ve always wanted to see, in the company of cherished friends.

After a business meeting, we adjourned. Most members took this opportunity to revisit Williamsburg, Jamestown, or Yorktown. Except for the officers: we had to remain behind for the annual board meeting. Connie got to visit the Jamestown dig.

At 7:00 p.m., the most poignant meeting of all, the annual banquet. Poignant because so many Zanies are getting along in years that everyone realizes that for some, it may be their last convention. Dress-wise, attendees can be as casual or as formal as they like. Highlights of the banquet are: the President presents special awards, usually the coveted Purple Sage Award, for outstanding contributions to Zane Grey awareness; I present inscribed books to those members who made the previous convention such a success. To this year’s participants I presented them with a book depicting American ghost towns they may wish to visit. Another thing we always do is have a roll call of our alumni. This being our 29th convention, there were a lot of convention destinations represented. As each past convention is announced (with place and date), all those who first joined us on that occasion stand, and we all applaud. Then, that saddest moment of all: For the last few years, we’ve called upon David Leeson (who comes all the way from England to the convention each year) to lead out in the closing act of the convention. We all link hands and sing “Auld Lang Syne” – “May old acquaintance be ne’er forgot . . .” During that beloved old Scottish song, tears come to many of us.

And another convention is history.

* * * * *

If you’d be interested in learning more about the Society, drop me a line (to P.O.. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433), with your mailing address, and I’ll send you a complimentary copy of our beautiful Society magazine, The Zane Grey Review. We’d love to have you become a member of our extended family.

George Washington, Frontiersman
Jackson, Carlton
Washington, George
Maverick Queen
Pfeiffer, Chuck
Zane Grey’s West Society
Spearfish, S.D.
Provo, UT
Brigham Young University
D’Arc, James
Zane Grey
Bryce Canyon National Park
Purple Sage Award