|Mary Montague Sikes|
by Mary Montague Sikes
As a child growing up in Virginia, stories of the Old West enchanted me. I especially enjoyed seeing the double feature movies on Saturday afternoons at our small town theatre. That's where I met Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, the Durango Kid, and many others.
I loved the horses, the excitement, and, most of all, the scenery. For the very first time, I saw the Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona—not so spectacular as in real life because the movies were mostly black and white at that time.
Then, I discovered the stories of Zane Grey, and I loved them. The art work on the covers of his books was especially appealing to the artist I always wanted to be.
How exciting it was to visit Arizona last November and find that the Sedona Arts Center had an exhibition featuring Lillian Wilhelm Smith, the artist who illustrated the books of her cousin, Zane Grey. Smith who lived from 1882 to 1971 must have been enchanted by the Red Rocks that she painted. She and her husband lived in Sedona for 10 years (1937-47). Their property was located on the banks of scenic Oak Creek. Strangely, the Smiths, who believed they had purchased the land and were paying a mortgage, were evicted from the property after George Black, the man they "bought" it from died. His wife claimed they were only renters, and the couple wound up homeless and camping at the end of Dry Creek Road.
While in Sedona, Lillian designed dinnerware for Leigh Ware Potters of Ohio. She also allowed Max Ernst and other artists to use her studio. Some pieces of her dinnerware were included in the exhibition. The couple eventually moved to nearby Cottonwood and died in Prescott.
Arizona did not become a state until 1912 and is celebrating its Centennial this year. As a Virginian used to historic buildings that date back to the 1600s, I was surprised to stumble upon an historic house built in 1930.
Arizona inspires me to write. My novel, Eagle Rising, is set there. Sedona and the Grand Canyon are part of my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember.
Whenever I get a chance, I revisit those old black and white western movies. It's quite a nostalgic experience.
A Rainbow for Christmas
by Mary Montague Sikes
Amazon, BN.com, Oak Tree Books