What History Has Taught Me: Terry Bolinger President of the Zane Grey’s West Society

WHHTM_Terry-Bolinger_President-of-the-Zane-Greys-West-Society

Terry Bolinger, President of the Zane Grey’s West Society

The president and long-time member of the Zane Grey’s West Society, Terry Bolinger owns and runs a design and manufacturing company in the home automation industry when he’s not hiking the locations that Zane Grey wrote about (Bolinger is shown at Grey’s fishing camp on the North Umpqua River in Oregon). He and his wife, who have two sons and one granddaughter, live in Erie, Colorado. Visit ZGWS.org to join Zane Grey’s West Society and help preserve the Western writer’s legacy.

The first Zane Grey book I read was The Heritage of the Desert, a wonderful novel with most of the action taking place at or around Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River downstream from the current Lake Powell. It set the stage for the tremendous success of Riders of the Purple Sage, which came two years later.

Zane Grey’s writing takes me to places I want to see, and his descriptions of the landscape and locales are beyond compare. If you wonder if the places in Grey’s novels are real, mostly they are. The same places make for great adventures, as some aren’t easy to reach, such as the Glass Mountains or his cabin along the Rogue River in Oregon, which got added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Most people don’t know that Grey was not only a best selling author, but also a world-class fisherman. Grey held 14 world fishing records.  Most, if not all of these, have been eclipsed since then, but Grey is as well known in big game fishing circles as he is by Western fiction fans.

I got interested in Grey as a young boy growing up in Texas, when my mother brought home his books from the library. I lost interest in him during high school and college. When I got married after college, my wife, Bobbie, and I went to an antique show in Colorado and came across a dealer with several Grey books. I’ve been hooked ever since.

My favorite Grey book is The Rainbow Trail, the sequel to Riders of the Purple Sage; it picks up where Riders ends. Grey didn’t go to Rainbow Bridge until 1913, a year after Riders was published, and The Rainbow Trail draws on his experiences for the locations in the novel. While Riders gets all the rave reviews, I feel the sequel is better than the original. I have seen two copies of The Rainbow Trail, inscribed by Grey: “This is my favorite book.”

The last good Western I saw was Open Range.  I’m a big Kevin Costner fan. Loved Dances With Wolves and Silverado. He also made a couple of very good baseball movies!

My favorite place in the West, well two places, are: Trappers Lake and the Rainbow Trail. I hate to mention Trappers Lake, as it doesn’t have a lot of visitors, and I’d rather not share it with too many people, but it’s a beautiful high country lake in northwest Colorado in the Flat Tops Wilderness area. The Rainbow Trail area in Arizona is bordered by the Colorado River and Lake Powell on the west, the San Juan River on the north and Navajo Mountain on the southeast. This area is on the Navajo reservation and is extremely wild and difficult to reach, but exceptionally beautiful high country desert.

The most influential historian I ever met was Charles Pfeiffer. He was a founding member of the Zane Grey’s West Society and a professor at Columbia College in South Carolina. He had traveled all over the West, researching the Santa Fe Trail and Zane Grey, and could tell you where even obscure events took place.

Wildfire and Wild Horse Mesa fans may want to join me and the Zane Grey’s West Society at our annual convention this June, in Kanab, Utah. We’ll visit sites where films based on Grey’s novels were shot and room at the Parry Lodge where the stars stayed.

The Riders opera will be a fantastic experience. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know composer Craig Bohmler and documentary maker Kristin Atwell Ford. And, to be a bit selfish, I’m extremely excited to get this exposure for my favorite author.

What do you think?