"Love of man for woman - love of woman for man.
That's the nature, the meaning, the best of life."
I would guess that every writer has writers who have influenced their goals for writing. Some who end up wanting to write the great American novel might have John Steinbeck; a mystery writer could look to Dashiell Hammett; for science fiction -- H.G. Wells; and fantasy -- J.R.R. Tolkien. Well for me, it was the western author, Zane Grey, who got very little credit from critics during his successful career of writing books about the American west, action, nature and love.
When Grey wrote about his heroes riding or walking across trails, you felt he'd been there and knew that land and not just the physical features but the emotional impact. He loved the romance of the West and it showed in his characters and the philosophy he espoused. Yes, for today he's not politically correct-- maybe wasn't for his own time; but he wrote about a world he did know and a lot of his novels, some of his best were set in the rim country of Arizona.
Luckily, in 1974, I decided I simply had to see the cabin he had built in Arizona under the Mogollon Rim. He used a lot of Arizona as the backdrop for his stories and was there often until 1929 when he got mad at the state for not bending bear hunting rules and said he'd not be back. He wasn't.
That year, we camped in a campground on the road below and found out the road up to the cabin was closed due to washouts from floods which meant we'd have to walk about two miles. This was a time of small children but we opted to do it anyway.
Part way up a couple of young rangers came along with a pickup and asked where we were headed. They offered us a lift to the cabin which meant we rode in the back of their pickup.
Luckily the caretakers were there, and we got to go inside. I even bought several copies of his books, which I already owned, but it was because they had come from there. We were there again in 1978 but that time no caretakers to let us inside but we did walk around the house and porch.
In 1990, the Dude fire swept over that part of Arizona and destroyed the original cabin. They rebuilt a replica in Payson (photo below). I was in Payson in 2011 but didn't want to go into the replica although maybe someday I will. The photos of what it looks like inside weren't what I remember from when it was under the Tonto Rim.
In 2011, we were aiming to drive through Paradise Valley where historically there was a family feud that killed all by one of them before it was over. It's not an easy drive as the area is still fairly remote especially to drive in from the north and out to the south. Grey had been fascinated by the story, based one of his books loosely on it after talking to many in the valley who were old enough to remember when it happened (and many were still evidently hesitant to talk about it).
That trip, we stayed at Kohls Ranch Lodge where we'd been before and drove up to where the cabin had been. A big gate and no trespassing sign put up by the Zane Grey Foundation blocked us from walking around the old site. We did take photos of the area.
Kohls. on the banks of Tonto Creek, is a nice place to stay. The main lodge has the portrait below of Grey above its fireplace.
He was such an early inspiration to me and still I enjoy his books on several levels. He wrote about nature, about the ideal of western values. He had strong heroes, action, a fight for good against evil. Sometimes nature was a healer. His heroines were worthy of the men they would eventually choose as their mates. The books had a big influence on my life and I think still influence my writing-- although he never wrote of more than a few chaste kisses. If those kisses took the heroine's breath away as they did in the book below, you can just imagine what the marriage would be like ;).
This cover was one I photographed from my daughter's collection. Her husband's uncle left her his collection of hardback Zane Grey's with the dust covers in place. What a treasure for someone who valued his work. She has said she took a quote from this book for her life motto. It's a darned good one for mine also.
"I hope I have found myself, my work, my happiness --
under the light of the western skies."