Tuesday, January 12, 2016



It seems odd now, having lived in and around Zane Grey’s old stomping grounds most of my life, that I have never read one of his books until now. I went to high school in Payson, Arizona. I’d visited the Zane Grey cabin a half a dozen times before it fell to ashes in the 1990 Dude fire. It was in the mid-to-late 1960’s, as a waitress at Kohl’s Ranch I’d hear the tourists say “Zane Grey” this, and “Zane Grey” that. His books were for sale in the gift shop there. Trite pulp fiction trash I thought.
Recently, a friend handed me a copy of RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. I am so happy I read it.

The first couple of chapters were rough going until I was able to catch on to the what I’m going to call vintage verbiage, like on page 21 “lighted a fire on the morrow”, and especially the use of the word descried, used throughout all the pages. I had to look it up.

descry |dəˈskrī|
verb (descries, descrying, descried) [ with obj. ] literary
catch sight of: she descried two figures.
Middle English: perhaps confused with obsolete descry‘describe,’ variant of obsolete descrive (via Old French from Latin describere ‘write down’), which also had the meaning ‘perceive.’

His description of the lay of the land is very detailed and impressive, and accurate to my recollections of that geographical area; the old stomping grounds of my youth.

The story is about Jane Whithersteen who inherited a substantial size ranch and wealth from her father, a Mormon and founder of the small community on the Utah border, a small settlement called Cottonwoods, set in the year 1871. Besides being wealthy Jane was young and beautiful. Her problem is that she loves both the Mormon’s and Gentiles. She tries to be faithful to her upbringing, to the state and legacy bestowed on her by her father. In the end her inner moral compass just couldn’t succumb to the conquer and acquiesce by any means possible, the ends justify the means type of attitude her Mormon clan adopted and subjected her to. Lucky for her, and most appropriate back in the wild west, a “stranger” rode in off the range, named Lassiter, a gunslinger by reputation. He stands by Jane, and when the Mormon’s had stripped her of all she loved and owned, he helped her escape with her life. The ending is a figurative and literal cliffhanger. Now I have to read the sequel, RAINBOW TRAIL, because this is really two love stories wrapped into one. The plot took many twists and developed in multiple threads of stories. Before Lassiter showed up another cowboy gunslinger type had been standing by Jane, a Bern Venters, who rode the range to care for Jane’s livestock. To track and fight rustlers, too. Venters shot the mysterious masked rider that rode with the rustlers only to find out it was a woman. Venters kept her, Bess in a hidden valley paradise wilderness valley and nursed her back to health, ultimately falling in love with her. Jane and Lassiter arrive at the hidden valley paradise on the only two remaining magnificently strong and fast horses Jane had, safe in their escape, Jane gives Venters and Bess these horses for their escape out of the hidden valley that they might survive the horrifying last ride across the purple sage, out run the evil rustlers and reach his home in Illinois where they can get married.
Will Venters and Bess live happily ever after? How long can Jane and Lassiter remain hidden and safe in Surprise Valley, the hidden valley paradise? All I have to say is kudos to Zane Grey! I discounted him all these years. At least this time a friend handed me one of his books I read it, and am so happy I did. Can’t wait to get my copy of RAINBOW TRAIL in the mail.

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