By Don McAlavy: Local columnist
I grew up to be 16 on a small farm, driving a tractor, pulling a
one-way and plowed all day and dreamed of being a cowboy. My hero was none other than Zane Grey and yet not a cowboy, but the best writer of the west.
Recently I’ve had time to look up old Zane Grey books, hadn’t read one in years until this week down here in Florida and found two old Zane Grey books in a library here.
Grey was a prolific and popular author of novels about the wild west of the U.S., best known for his 1912 novel “Riders of the Purple Sage.”
He was the father of the modern American western novel. He was beloved by two generations of readers. His strength as a writer was in his descriptions of the Old West as only he remembered it.
Zane Grey was born on Jan. 31, 1872 in Zanesville, Ohio. Grey’s father had definite ideas about what was a suitable career for his son and tore up his first story when he found it hidden in a cave.
He made Grey learn the dental business as his assistant on Saturdays.
Later, Grey won a baseball scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. His pitching ability got him through dental school, not his grades.
In 1900, Grey met a 17-year-old girl who would later become his wife. She was Lina Elise Roth.
He gave her the nickname “Dolly.” Grey’s first novel, “Betty Zane,” was in 1902-03.
When every publisher rejected it, Dolly paid to have it published. The book sold well in New York, but never made its publishing costs back.