GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – SOUTH RIM

BLOG #7, SERIES 3

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

SOUTHWEST NATIONAL PARKS #9

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – SOUTH RIM

 

February 15, 2012

Early in the morning, snow began to slash at our North Rim cabin windows; as the wind picked up, the snow increased proportionally.  After packing, Bob and I hauled our luggage out to the snow-covered Town Car.  Then, we regretfully bade our adieus to our already beloved cabins on the rim, the rockers on the porch already filling with May snow.  Inside the lodge, once again we breakfasted near one of the great windows, and watched the snow descend into the abyss.  All too soon, it was time to leave, but none of us wanted to.  The atmosphere in the lodge was totally different from the day before for the unexpected snow had generated a sense of adventure among hotel guests that had not been there before.  In this sense of family-closed-off-from-the-rest-of-the-world, there were no strangers: everyone talked with each other as though they were old friends.

But feeling a sense of urgency, we headed out.  We were apprehensive because the Lincoln was anything but a snow car.  Our hearts were in our throats when the snow deepened as the road climbed over 9,000 feet (one of the key reasons the North rim has such a short tourist season).  The Lincoln began to slip, and there were no snowplows.  But finally we crested and headed down, and eventually out of the snow.

This was Zane Grey country.  In 1907 and 1908 Grey had faced storms much worse than this as he and legendary plainsman Buffalo Jones and Mormon pioneer Jim Emmet lassoed mountain lions in the Buckskin Forest of this Kaibab Plateau we were traveling through.  At Jacob Lake, we turned east on Highway 89a.  When we’d descended to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River, we walked along the river.  For here was Emmet’s home a few miles down river.  Though we didn’t revisit it this time, we couldn’t help but think of that tenderfoot Zane Grey eying the then undammed Colorado River thundering down this same gorge; it was maintained that if anyone fell in trying to get across by cable (no bridges then), no one would ever see them again—not in flood season!  Born here were Grey’s Last of the Plainsmen, Heritage of the Desert, and Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon.

We then turned south on Highway 89, and right after crossing the Painted Desert, at Cameron, we turned west on Highway 64.  As we began our ascent to the South Rim, would you believe it?—once again, the snow began to fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was late afternoon before we arrived at El Tovar Hotel, a favorite stopping place for our family down through the years.

* * * * *

We can thank Theodore Roosevelt for saving the Grand Canyon for posterity.  In 1903, after visiting the canyon himself, he declared it to be “a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world” (Barnes, 102).  He followed that up by establishing the Grand Canyon National Monument in 1906, by executive order, then enlarging the Forest Reserve into a National Forest.

Santa Fe Railroad officials, seeing the canyon as a golden opportunity to dramatically increase southwest tourism, determined to create a great lodge on the South Rim.  Their chosen architect: Charles Whittlesey, who was trained in the Chicago office of Louis Sullivan.  His goal was to “meld the elegance of a European villa with the infomality of a hunting lodge” (Barnes, 105).  This grand hotel officially opened on January 14, 1905.  According to Barnes, “Steam heat, electric lights and indoor plumbing all made it the most expensively constructed and appointed log house in America.  Huge Douglas-firs were shipped by rail from Oregon, pushing the cost to $250,000, a grand sum, especially when compared to Old Faithful Inn, built for $140,000.  One-hundred guest rooms accommodated visitors who found comfort in ‘a quiet dignity, an unassuming luxury, and an appreciation of outing needs at El Tovar’” (Barnes, 105).  Though western in style, it has also been considered Transylvanian, resembling a hunting lodge for the Romanian royal family.

Here the legendary Harvey Girls waited tables.  And here too, in January of 1906, only one year after it opened its doors, Zane Grey and his bride Dolly arrived here by train on their honeymoon.  But storm clouds obscured the canyon, so it wasn’t until evening that the clouds parted and they stared into such a sunset as they’d never even imagined.  The die was cast: This canyon would become the very heart of Grey’s 89 novels—where the Old West began.

OUR MEMORIES

As we walked into the Rendezvous Room, and passed the chairs flanking the crackling fire in the fireplace, we vowed to commandeer those chairs if the occupants ever surrendered them.  In the center of the building is the registration lobby, or Rotunda, where all paths intersect.  Here we checked in, as we had a number of times before, then moved into our rooms. We hoped to be able to show Bob and Lucy Earp “The Zane Grey Room,” where Dolly and Grey had stayed, but it was booked solid during our two-day stay, so weren’t able to.  Our Zane Grey’s West Society donated the Zane Grey memorabilia and books that make it such a special room.  XANTERRA owns and operates the hotel today.

Later, we ate dinner in the renowned eighty -nine-foot long dining room, furnished with Arts and Crafts style furniture, and anchored by two huge chimneys, each flanked by large picture windows.  The service and food were, as expected, impeccable, as befits one of the grandest hotels in the Great Circle.  Here, Connie and I shared an incident from our past with the Earps: Many years ago, when our daughter Michelle was just a tiny golden-haired angel, we’d eaten in this very same dining room.  Michelle, who’d never even envisioned such a grand place, was entranced.  The waiter assigned to our table treated Michelle as though she were a princess, hovering around her, filling her glass from high up each time she drank a sip from it, refilling the bread basket whenever she took a roll out of it, and grandly displaying the little broom that he’d use to whisk away every stray breadcrumb she dropped on the spotless white tablecloth.  To this day, that evening is etched in her memory as one of the most magical experiences in all her growing-up years.

Next day, the weather having cleared, we walked along the canyon rim, taking photos, along with visitors from all over the world.  We soon discovered that El Tovar, like Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, is so loved to death by hordes of tourists that hotel guests are hard-pressed to find unoccupied seats in the lobby or dining facilities.  So what else should one expect from the focal center of well over four-million tourists every year?  But we really experienced the invasion when we entered the Grand Canyon Village building that houses the IMAX theatre that shows the Grand Canyon film.  Men, women, and children from all walks of life and from countries around the world (many from Asia and Europe) flooded in, in such numbers that we could barely move!  Felt like we were each straitjacketed.  What a contrast from the North Rim.  We couldn’t even imagine what it would be like in the summer when school is out!

But even so, each person standing by the parapet, staring into the vast reaches of the great canyon, seems to be in a world of their own,  no matter how many eddy around them.  The first sight of the canyon is invariably the same: no advance hype can possibly fully prepare you for the real thing!  And late evening, when the crowds ebb inside El Tovar, leaving you with just the hotel guests, you can once again imagine seeing Zane and Dolly, sitting next to you by the fireplace, a pensive look in their eyes, a hundred and six years ago.

SOURCES

Barnes, Christine, Great Lodges of the National Parks I (Bend, OR:WWW West, Inc., 2002).

The Most Scenic Drives in America (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest, Inc., 1997).

ZANE GREY’S HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB

ZANE GREY’S HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

 

Dec. 28, 2011

CLUB NEWS

Since I’m stumbling into this Book of the Month Club thing, I must confess I have no idea how many of you are actually trying to secure copies of these books and are reading them.  Nor do I have any idea as to how many of you are actually reading the club-related blogs.    True, I have received a number of responses — all positive so far—, but that’s all I have to go on.  Naturally, I’d love to hear from you.

ZANE GREY

As some of you know, I wrote my Vanderbilt doctoral dissertation on the frontier writer Zane Grey.  Four years later, I began editing and publishing Zane Grey’s West (it ran from 1979 – ‘91); in 1983, I co-founded the Zane Grey’s West Society; I have continued as Executive Director ever since.

Since many of you may not be acquainted with Zane Grey, permit me to sketch out his significance:

            THE TITAN

ZANE GREY

(1872 – 1939)

Zane Grey towers over the first half of the twentieth century like no other.  During that period he was not only the highest-paid author in the world, he was also the top-selling author, his readership estimated to top 500,000,000.  Frank Gruber feels that Grey dominated the entire twentieth century, his popularity as great overseas as in America.

He also dominated the magazine world during the Golden Age of Print.  Never before (and never since) were so many great magazines all publishing at once.  And should Country Gentleman, Field and Stream, Munsey’s, Argosy, American, Cosmopolitan, McCall’s, McClure’s, Pictorial Review, Popular, Ladies’ Home Journal, or Colliers be serializing a Grey novel, newsstand sales would skyrocket, hence no author was paid as much for a serial as he.

No author, before or since, has even come close to his dominance of the Silver Screen.  Almost unbelievably, over 131 movies have been made from his books, and the leading actors and actresses of the age starred in them.  On movie marquees (in size and lights), Grey’s name far outranked those of the stars.

Two television series based on his books have been aired, one lasting six years.

He is considered to be the Father of the Western.  Before him, there was not even a perception that there ever was such a period as “The Old West.”  And later western bards such as Louis L’Amour had to admit that Grey was the last western writer to write while the frontier still existed.  Alice Payne Hackett, in her 70 Years of Best Sellers: 1895 – 1965 (Bowker, 1967), noted that, of the 25 top-selling westerns of all time, 15 of them were by Grey.

No western author is represented by so many comic book and Big Little Book titles as he.

So why has his popularity lasted for over a century now, when most of his contemporaries have long since been forgotten?  Why is it that even today as many women read him as men?  Perhaps because his female protagonists are even more fully realized than their male counterparts.  Perhaps because to him, the settings were more important than the characters (he was the first author to insist that his books be filmed on location).  Perhaps because Grey painted with descriptive words and passages in the same way that Moran or Bierstadt painted with a brush.  It is these marvelous descriptive passages that elevate Grey into the pantheon of great artists.  Perhaps because values worth living by were central to Grey.  His tales play out on epic stages such as did the Norse heroes of the Nibelungen Lied, the Arthurian tales, Beowulf, or Shakespearean dramas such as Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear.  Perhaps because he knew the people first-hand that he chronicled.  Perhaps because Grey was at heart a naturalist, and chronicled, in his fiction and nonfiction, the wildlife he encountered.  George Reiger (the dean of contemporary sports writing) maintains that Grey may someday be remembered more for his True Life outdoor adventure stories and books than for his fiction.  Perhaps because the animals in his books were developed as fully as his humans (featured in masterpieces such as Don, The Wolf Tracker, Tappan’s Burro, and The Thundering Herd).  Perhaps because he may very well be the greatest fisherman of all time (he and his entourage capturing all but two of the deep-sea fishing records of the world).  Perhaps because of his leading role in conservation, in his concern for an environment that was already vanishing.  Perhaps because he was a semi-pro baseball player who could easily have walked into Cooperstown had he stayed in baseball.  And last—but anything but least—perhaps because he had the wisdom to marry Lina [Dolly] Roth Grey (one of the most remarkable women of her time), and an equal player in the unparalleled success story that is Zane Grey.

By

                                                                                     Joe L. Wheeler, Ph.D.

©2005

THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

I have chosen this book as our January 2012 book of the month for a number of reasons.  Before he wrote Heritage, he’d first written Betty Zane (1903), The Spirit of the Border (1906), The Last of the Plainsmen (1908), The Last Trail (1909), and The Short Stop (1909), but of them, three were eastern Ohio Valley frontier novels, one a baseball novel, and one a hybrid biography/True Life Adventure.  Heritage was the first western he ever set in what we today consider to be the mythical Old West: the Southwest.

In January of 1906, Zane Grey and his bride Dolly disembarked from the train at the then new El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  This was their first stop on their honeymoon.  When the clouds lifted that evening and the sunset transformed the abyss into an inferno, Zane and Dolly were speechless: the spectacle was too overwhelming for mere words.  Grey would spend the rest of his life vainly trying to capture that scene and the West in words.

Grey returned in 1907 and 1908 to lasso mountain lions on the Grand Canyon’s Kaibab Plateau with Buffalo Jones (“The Last of the Plainsmen”), but not until November of 1909 did Grey finally sit down, pencil in hand, to write his first great western, a book he hoped would have the epic scale of Wallace’s Ben Hur.  As Mescal (his first title) took form, he became more and more excited—the outside world, for him, all but ceased to exist.  On January 22, 1910, meals were all. but forgotten as his pencil raced across the page.

Heritage was Grey’s first great book.  It sold well from the first and has consistently held its own through the years.  August Naab was, in real life, Jim Emett, a Mormon pioneer who lived at Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River.  Grey lassoed mountain lions with Emett and Buffalo Jones in 1907 and 1908.  I think you will agree with me that August Naab is one of the most magnificent characters in all western literature.  In the novel, Naab is portrayed as an apostle of non-violence who is gradually forced by circumstances to alter his code.  The book also features a theme Grey dealt with often: Regeneration.  Grey felt that the West either transforms weaklings into strong men or it destroys them.  In the pages of this novel, you will experience with Grey a West that is so new to him you feel its vibrancy in every page.  In fact, some critics claim the book is one-of-a-kind because never again was the West to be this fresh to him.

I don’t want to deprive you of your own conclusions so I’ll let you take it from here.  Some questions yu may ask yourself are these: What kind of a heroine is Mescal?  Is she fully developed as a character?  Multidimensional?  What about the element of Good Samaritanism in the novel?  When Grey wrote the novel, magazines ruled supreme, and those who could write spell-binding serializations were paid extremely well.  In those pre-TV days, family life centered around the fireplace, kitchen stove, or front porch.  Since pictures were few, readers gravitated to writers like Grey who could paint pictures with words rather than with a brush.  That way, each of them could paint pictures unique to them in their minds.  I will be most interested in your reactions to this novel.

The book ought to be relatively easy to find on the web.  Two sources you might check are Don Gallagher (1425 Broadway, Denver, CO 80210) and Eric Mayer’s Bluebird Books (8201 S. Santa Fe Dr., #245, Littleton, CO 80120).  Harpers published the First Edition; Grosset & Dunlap followed with hardback reprints which normally included four illustrations.  Most other hardbacks do not feature illustrations.  The same is true for the many trade paper editions.  Just make certain your book is unabridged.