In 1977, I was in sixth grade; my Mom sat me down and told me the story of my great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother (that’s six greats) Betty Zane.
During the colonial war, the fortress she was in with her father was about to run out of ammunition, her father and everyone else was either injured or engaged in battle, so Zane ran out of the fort a few miles to retrieve ammo that was hidden under the floorboards of a home of one of the soldiers.
Along the way Zane was shot with arrows from the Indians, they were battling, but still ran and brought back the ammo, and they won that battle.
The book was written by my great-uncle, on my mom’s side, Zane Grey. The copy of the book that my mom was showing me was signed by Grey, and had an old news clipping, with a picture of him, talking about his former career as a dentist. It was interesting to me.
I took the book to school as a show and tell project; the teacher was in awe, she started rambling about all his great western novels, asking me if I had read Riders of The Purple Sage or several others. I answered, “Not yet.” I hadn’t read any of his books. When I showed her the autograph, her eyes bugged out and she said I should take the book home, as it was probably worth hundreds of dollars.
I recently found out that Zane Grey gave a fictionalized version of Betty Zane’s life; for years fables and rumors swirled around what happened at the fortress, one account was Betty Zane walked out of the fortress, and the Indians saw that it was a woman and let her go by, but the version we always heard was that she was shot with arrows and still went on. I guess Zane took bits and pieces of these wives’ tales and made his own story. Like anything else, unless you were there, who knows what happened?
It wasn’t until I got older that it sunk in how difficult it is to write something worth reading and even harder to make a living at it. I guess you have to fake it sometimes.
– Last One To Die, 2011