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As It Was: Zane Grey Models Book’s Main Character after Agness Tough

The Western writer Zane Grey saw something in Claude Bardon worthy of a main character in a book.

Bardon and is wife, Belle, had arrived in Agness, Ore., around 1920, where neighbors described him as slight of build, headstrong and stubborn, and prone to drunken fistfights.  A silver plate covered a World War I head wound, maybe accounting for some of his erratic actions.

His wife was large and powerful, so strong that they cultivated their garden by hitching her to a plow that Bardon guided from behind.

A pack of hounds lived inside the Bardon house, with access through a hole in the bottom of a door, barely large enough to wiggle through.  When the dogs came out in a hurry, they resembled link sausages popping out of a machine.

Bardon defied the U.S. Forest Service and its timber management practices, and was suspected, but never formally charged, of setting several fires on public lands.

Bardon built several boats for Zane Grey, who took notice of Bardon’s antagonistic tendencies and later used them to shape the main character in the novel “Rogue River Feud.”


Sources: Schroeder, Walt. Characters, Legends and Mysteries of Curry County, Oregon. Gold Beach, Ore., Curry County Historical Society, 2007, pp. 1-3; Arman, Florence, and Glen Wooldridge. The Rogue-A River to Run. Grants Pass, Ore., Bulletin Publishing Co., Inc., 1982; Grey, Zane. Rogue River Feud. New York, NY, Hodder & Stoughton, 1951.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.