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Zane Grey

Zane Grey was the first human to land a fish weighing over a thousand pounds on a rod and reel, wrote books that outsold the Bible, and started a club to popularize the sport of hunting dolphins and porpoises. 

Oddly enough, he’s only remembered for two of these things.

Born Pearl Zane Gray on January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, Ohio to a family that changed the spelling of their name to “Grey” after his birth, Zane grew up with a deep love for fishing, reading, baseball, the outdoors, writing, history, and fighting. The latter got him in a lot of trouble at home where his father literally beat into him that beating others is bad. These frequent beatings from the old man pushed Zane to look for male understanding and approval elsewhere and he found such in an older man by the name of Muddy Miser.

Muddy encouraged Zane’s interest in fishing and writing and pursuing his passions. 

Zane’s father hated the advice Muddy gave his son and told him to quit seeing the man.

Zane continued seeing the man for five very formative years. 

Zane wrote his first story, Jim of the Cave, at age 15. He proudly showed it to his father who quickly tore it to shreds then beat him.

Remind me again why Zane sought male guidance outside of his home.

Zane attended the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. Although he wanted to become a writer or professional baseball player, he studied dentistry as his father was one and he had often helped his father’s practice by making house calls to illegally yank teeth for his father. 

Yes, even then there were laws against practicing dentistry while still a minor and without a license. 

Zane did poorly in school academically but managed to graduate in 1896. 

After graduation, Zane played some Minor League ball then opened a dental practice in overly-crowded-with-dental-practices New York City. Zane did this so he could be near the major publishing houses as he still carried dreams of being a full-time writer. One of the first pieces he ever sold was in 1902 when Recreation magazine published his piece on bass fishing in Delaware. Zane self-published the novel Betty Zane soon after and although sales were lackluster, they did cement the idea that he could eke out a living writing full-time.

It was also during this time that Zane met and fell in love with 17-year-old Linda “Dolly” Roth. The couple dated for five years then married despite Zane’s warning to Dolly that he suffered from depression and mood spells. He described these periods as, “A hyena lying in ambush—that is my black spell! I conquered one mood only to fall prey to the next … I wandered about like a lost soul or a man who was conscious of imminent death.” Despite his warning, Dolly married Zane in 1905 and the couple moved toLackawaxen, Pennsylvania where Zane could concentrate on writing full-time. The couple had three children and Dolly took on the role of manager. She performed this job for love – despite Zane’s having many, many affairs – and half the monies earned from sales. 

Zane followed up Betty Zane with several other frontier-based novels that did poorly, then with Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912. Published by Harper, Sage was a huge success selling more than two million copies in 15 years and ushering in a fanbase that bought almost everything Zane wrote. His sales were so astronomical that the monies he earned allowed him to fish all over the world. Also in 1912, Zane founded the Porpoise Club which promoted the sport of harpooning then reeling in dolphins and porpoises. 

Go figure.

The club is no longer in existence.

Zane spent over 300 days a year fishing in his adult life and during that time set nine world records one of which was for a 1,040- pound blue marlin he landed off Tahiti in 1930. Zane established new fishing territories and introduced his readers to fishing in Australia, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, and more. He was the author of more than 90 books that to date have sold more than 40 million copies. Zane’s works were translated into over 100 films and countless TV programs. 

Despite his love of fishing, Zane died on October 23, 1939, at home while not fishing.

Let that be a lesson to you.

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