Cowboy Ethics and the Mythical West
A cabin once stood near the heart of Arizona, with the father of the Western novel as its caretaker. Although he only spent several weeks a year in the place he termed “my beloved Arizona,” some of the work Zane Grey composed here helped shape the mythic mentality of the Old West.
His books and movie scripts helped form the idea of the western United States, creating an ideology of the great American cowboy. His stories involved great adventures in an expansive land touched only by the hand of Mother Nature.
But like the changing landscape of the West, the cabin no longer exists in its original form. It was destroyed in 1990 by the Dude Fire.
A near-replica now exists in nearby Payson, Ariz., on the Mogollon Rim. The replica attracts 20,000 visitors a year to the area.
Although Grey spent several weeks each year in the original cabin from 1923 until 1930, he eventually became disillusioned with the area, saying Arizona “was beginning to be overrun by tourists and speculators.”
But despite his eventual withdrawal from what is considered the heart of Arizona, his writing about the West has endured.
Near the end of his life, Grey wrote about the fact that although people and civilizations can change, the land will, for the most part, stay true to its grandeur.
“The so-called civilization of man and his works shall perish from the earth," Grey said, "while the shifting sands, the red looming walls, the purple sage, and the towering monuments, the cast brooking range show no perceptible change."
Image courtesy of Jerry Wilkinson