TIME OUT FOR ZANE GREY

BLOG #20, SERIES 6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
TIME OUT FOR ZANE GREY
May 20, 2015

Forty years ago, when I completed my Vanderbilt doctorate, I mistakenly assumed that I could now put the frontier writer, Zane Grey (the subject of my dissertation), behind and resume my private life. In a way, I could; in another way, I could not. As I explained to one Associated Press reporter, when you are the foremost authority on something, or someone, you become prisoner of that knowledge and expertise. It’s sort of like the old Russian proverb, “He that dances with a bear doesn’t quit just because he gets tired.”

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I ought to know: In around a month from now, I’ll be giving my 33rd consecutive keynote address to the members of the Zane Grey’s West Society, this one in Arizona.

Several times during the forty years, I felt the time had finally come to write a biography having to do with the life and times of Zane and Dolly Grey. Each time, for one reason or another, the project failed to jell. But now, my long-time agent, Greg Johnson, has urged me to make one last try.

So I’m structuring a new proposal, in harmony with current biographical trends. In order to do this, I’ve had to sideline several other deadlines. But I’m serious about it, for I strongly feel that if I don’t do it this time, in all likelihood, I never will.

Well, back to work.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if a contract results from all this.

Starting Over Again

BLOG #53, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
STARTING OVER AGAIN
December 31, 2014

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, time to start over again, time to take down the old calendar and replace it with the new, time to box up 365 days of tax-records and make room for new ledgers. Time too for the New Year’s Resolutions that are so quickly discarded and forgotten.

And there’s a good reason why they rarely work: It’s because we leave God out of the equation. As if one could revolutionize a life by the human will alone!

It is rare in this brief journey we call life that I have stumbled on a genuine life-changer. Let me tell you about one of them.

A number of years ago, Helen Mallicoat, a delightful woman from Wickenburg, Arizona, came into my life through my magazine, Zane Grey’s West. She, like me, reveled in the Old West and in the writings of Zane Grey. It was some time later that I discovered she was a poet. And furthermore that the Lord had gifted her with a dream one night: so vivid that, on awakening, she got up and wrote it down word for word. It has since that time circled the globe in numbers past quantifying. Hallmark alone has sold millions of copies. She told me, “I’ve never copyrighted it, reason being that it is a sacred thing: God gave it to me in the middle of the night; thus it is His, not mine.”

I have used it in my classes, in talks, in stories, in books, many times. Most recently, in my 2013 Christmas story, “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” If you are a person who finds it impossible to distance yourself from the mistakes in your past or cease worrying about the problems in the future that appear insurmountable, I invite you to internalize Helen Mallicoat’s poem. By internalize, I mean: post it on your wall where you’ll see it every day; memorize it; and repeat it over and over all day, for 30 consecutive days. Then you can forget it because it will then be permanently part of your psyche: you couldn’t forget it if you tried.

If you prayerfully invite God to help you internalize the poem, as you day by day repeat it, I can guarantee that your life will never again be the same as it was before. I invite you to take me up on it. Let me know the results. Here is the only New Year’s Resolution you will need. I call it “The I AM Poem”:

I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:

“My name is I Am.” he paused.
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Was.

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Will Be.”

“When you live in this moment,
It is not hard. I am here.
My name is I Am.”

–Helen Mallicoat

THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN MARRIAGE AND HOME

BLOG #13, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE SLIPPERIEST OF SLIPPERY SLOPES:
THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN MARRIAGE AND HOME
March 27, 2013

The evidence has become overwhelming. Just as the Titanic—once considered unsinkable—plunged to its icy doom, just so marriage and family as institutions, are collapsing before our very eyes. Let’s note a few of the indications:

The traditional nuclear family (man, woman, and children) is no longer the norm in America. It is being dislodged by the new norm: the single-parent household.

It is now estimated that, in effect, one-third of all American children are being raised by their grandparents.

As unthinkable as such a thing once appeared, we are very close to another tipping point: live-in relationships outnumbering married relationships.

Another tipping point: out-of-wedlock births threatening to become another new normal—indeed I have begun to shudder every time I hear the term used, for almost invariably it has to do with another aspect of the continuing collapse of the American family.

Even in the ever more ubiquitous Home and Garden house-hunting shows, more and more unmarried singles are replacing married couples.

As for the juggernaut issue of gay marriage, while I’m certainly not against equal rights for gays, as a historian of ideas, I’m sensing another looming tipping point: the moment whenever the words “marriage” and “family” are referred to, they have to be qualified as to whether the term refers to the traditional meaning or “the new normal” meaning.

Today, pornography is so omnipresent, even in mainstream television, that it is no longer safe for children to have access to TV sets without parental guidance. Same for the worldwide web. And let’s face it, pornography going mainstream represents a huge threat to marriage and family.

Matthew L. Lifflander’s “The Economic Truth About Lying” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal has to do with perjury becoming another new normal. By extension, when God—however one perceives the deity—is removed from societal relevance, then lying under oath about telling the truth, “so help me, God,” or marriage vows invoking God, and life-long commitment between bride and groom . . . none of these will remain either meaningful or binding. The logical result of all this is an absolute breakdown of our entire legal system, when perjury ceases to be a crime by being reduced to mere misdemeanor status; and marriage is merely a temporary way-station rather than a divine institution sanctioned and blessed by God.

CONCLUSION

In the Old West, faced with such overwhelming odds against the survival of people traveling in wagon trains, the last resort was to circle the wagons and prepare to fight it out to the very death.

For the Christian community in America, is it possible we’ve reached such a last-resort moment?

ROUNDUP IN THE BLACK HILLS

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

ROUNDUP IN THE BLACK HILLS

June 18-21, 2012

 

June 6, 2012

Consider this to be a personal invitation to join us in the 30th annual Circling of the Wagons of the Zane Grey’s West Society.  Site: Holiday Inn Hotel and Convention Center, Spearfish, South Dakota.  (Phone: 800-999-3541).

* * * * *

            They say that when each of us comes to the end of our life journey, one thing we won’t regret will be the money we spent to make memories with.  I’ve met lots of people whose major regret late in life was that they never really lived.  Never really enjoyed life, explored life, traveled, ventured outside the box.  Always they were going to do these things someday, someday when they had lots of spare time and spare money—but they never did.  Then when one life-partner or the other was crippled physically or mentally, that was the end of their travel dreams.

If you love the West—especially the Old West; appreciate, love, or would like to learn more about the works of frontier writer Zane Grey (the #1 writer in the world during the first half of the 20th century), we urge you to drop everything and join our extended family get-together in Spearfish, SD, beginning this June 18.

We are not a formal organization, but rather just a group of people who love the West, the books Zane Grey wrote, and who genuinely revel in getting together with cherished friends in places worth traveling to: places like Glacier National Park; Catalina Island; Zanesville, Ohio; Payson, Arizona; North Rim of the Grand Canyon; Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, Virginia; Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania; Flagstaff, Arizona, Grants Pass and Gold Beach, Oregon, and so on. This will be our first convention set in South Dakota.

We are a frugal organization; so much so that we’ve only raised dues once in 30 years!  We have no paid-anybody; we all serve pro-bono.  The only thing that enables us to keep our beautiful and professional magazines coming is our auctions of Zane Grey books and memorabilia during our annual convention.

Let me walk you through a typical convention.  Knowing that many of our members are on fixed-incomes, we tend to stay in lodging that is attractive yet not priced out of range for our members.

We usually meet during the third week of June (sometimes the second), Monday eve through Thursday eve.  Having said that, so anxious is everyone to see their friends again that about a third get there early.  The Monday evening barbeque is our first event.  Tuesday is our heaviest day: annual keynote address, other special events or presentations, annual breakfast or lunch when we remember those we no longer have with us, the annual auction (a great place and time to build your library), etc.  This year, my keynote address will be telling the story of what is almost universally considered to be the greatest western novel ever written, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. 2012 is its 100th anniversary!  Later, several of the top executives of the Crazy Horse Memorial Park will tell us about what is happening at what will one day be the largest carved statuary in the world (many times larger than Mount Rushmore).  On Wednesday, we will visit Mount Rushmore in the morning and Crazy Horse in the afternoon—they’ll let us get up close!  Thursday is part business (electing officers, special speakers or presentations, and voting on future convention sites).  Afternoon provides welcome free time, and evening the annual banquet (no specified dress code).  At the end, we all cry, knowing that never in this life will we all be together again.

Once you experience it, you’ll want to meet with us every year. Our normal attendance averages a hundred or more.

We’d love to have you with us on June 18.

For specifics, make reservations at special society convention rate at the Spearfish Holiday Inn.  And be sure and contact our genial Secretary/Treasurer for further details:

ZANE GREY’S WEST SOCIETY

c/o Sheryle Hodapp, Secretary/Treasurer

15 Deer Oaks Drive

Pleasanton, CA 94588

(925-485-1325)

E-mail:

Sheryle@zgws.org

See you there!

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).

“OUTWITTED” AND THE ZANE GREY’S WEST SOCIETY

Twenty-eight years ago it was when the Rev. G. M. Farley (a Pentecostal minister and administrator) and I had a far-reaching discussion having to do with the issue of organizing (or NOT organizing) a society dedicated to celebrating the life and works of the frontier writer, Zane Grey.

At one point in our discussion, G. M. sighed and said, “Unless our conventions turn out to be different from all the other conventions I attend, I’d rather we’d not even start this one.”

“Explain yourself,” I broke in.

“It’s this way, in every convention I attend, it’s always the same: People aimlessly milling around—almost all of them lonely.”

“True, G. M. I’ve noticed the same thing. I’ve often thought, as I walked through the crowd of attendees, and looked enviously at those few who seemed to belong, in occasional clusters of attendees who appeared to know each other, Wouldn’t it be great to belong to at least one of them? To have someone’s eyes light up at sight of me and welcome me in? “But I just don’t know how we could do any better than they.”

“Neither do I,” rejoined G.M., but let’s at least seek out a solution before we give up on our dream.”

At one point in our brainstorming, I happened to mention a poem by Edwin Markham, late in the nineteenth century, Poet Laureate of America. Turns out G.M. was already familiar with it: “The very thing! If that doesn’t work, nothing will! Let’s try it!

Joe Wheeler delivering keynote address

And so we did. At each one of our now 28 consecutive conventions, for the benefit of first-time attendees, I first recite the poem out loud, then I lead out in having us all recite it together (after first explaining the history of its origins and use in our Society, and urging all attendees to each implement Markham’s words in each interaction with others).

Paul and Jeannie Morton

It works. Indeed it works so well that one of the last things G.M. said to me before he died was this: “Thank God for that poem! There are no lonely people in our Society. If anyone sits at a table alone, others walk over and invite them to join them at their table. When they travel, they make a point of visiting each other. They consistently arrive early at the conventions in order to fellowship with each other. In fact, they’re closer to each other than even my own church members are to each other!”

ZGW Society members enjoying an all-day ride on the Rogue River.

I shall conclude with the poem that single-handedly defines the love each member of the Zane Grey’s West Society has for each other:

“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.”

“Outwitted,” by Edwin Markham

SPECIAL NOTE

Because of a special blog series on our Northwest national parks beginning the first week in August, we are scheduling our next blog (on Plagiarism) for tomorrow, July 29.