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