University of Nevada, Reno




Price of water in the desert

By LeRoy


LeRoyAnother summer, my brother moved to Desert, and Arnold and Leila moved to Cima. So I spent some time at Cima with Leila. Leila was friends with one of the ranch families, and we went to visit with them. ... Then I went to stay with Dean. He had bought a welder and was learning how to weld. Now back then, where I-15 is, was a two-lane road, Highway 91. And there was service stations all along it.


Well, there was a service station between the Nipton Road and Mountain Pass. I don’t remember the name of it. Anyway, the owner bought a well-drilling rig and was drilling his own well for water. And Dean would go up to the service station and weld hard surface metal on the drill bits so he could drill more in place of buying new bits. And I got to go with him. The owner had a big, oh, I guess it was a two-ton truck, but for me back then, it was a big truck with a tank on it. He would haul water from either Nipton or Mountain Pass for his family and the station. And if a car came in overheated, he would charge 50 cents a gallon for water to fill the radiator. After he got his well in, he used his truck to haul water to the homesteaders and still sold water for 50 cents a gallon to overheated cars, telling them that he had to haul water in. So he has to make a living. Although they were gas stations, the water was the biggest seller. And in the heat of the summer and going uphill, there was always someone with water problems. ...


A few years later, when I was 15, after I got out of school in August, Jim was out of school and working for the railroad as a brakeman. He told me that he had four days off and would like to go to Las Vegas and fish in Lake Mead and just the two of us could camp out if I wanted to go. I jumped on this, because I hadn’t been to Vegas since summer. So we backed up and loaded his old Ford and left for Vegas.


Now going to Vegas, his car didn’t have any problem. We went at night and the grades are steep but short, and going down was long and easy-going. We went to my sister Betty’s house for the first night. And then we got up early and went to the lake. We got four fish, which we fixed for dinner that night, and we camped out in the campground at Boulder Beach campground. The next day Jim said, “Let’s go to the mountains where it is cooler,” so we went to Mount Charleston. It was the middle of the week, so we had our choice of campsites. And it was a good, clear night. And there were some shooting stars. Not a lot, but more than Jim had seen before in his life. So this was fun for both of us. The next day, we stopped at Betty’s and told her we were headed home. And we took off to go back to Mira Loma.


Well, when we started up the grade of Mountain Pass, Jim’s old Ford started to get hot. And by the time we got to the station between Nipton Road and Mountain Pass, it was too hot to go any farther. So Jim pulled into the station. Now there were about four other cars the same way. Jim told the man all we needed was water. He said, “Well, it is 50 cents a gallon.” I said, “Why? It is only water.” He said, “Yes, and I have to haul it in, so I have to make a living.” I said, “Wait, you don’t haul water in here. You have a well over there in that shed. I know. My brother sharpened your drill bits to drill it.” He looked at me and said, “Who is your brother?” I said, “Dean. He lives over at Desert.” He told me, “You get your water and get out of here.” So we got the car cooled down and watered again and took off.


By the time we got to Mountain Pass, it was hot again. I knew the school teacher there, so we pulled into the school. Mr. Diggs was happy to see me. He and his wife used to be the teachers at Sloan. And he had gone fishing with Judd and me. Anyway, while the car cooled, we talked and he gave us some gallon bleach bottles full of water to go with us. When we left there, Jim said, “Well, it’s a good thing I wanted you to come with me.” It got hot again at Victorville, but we had water now, so we stopped, cooled it down, added water and was on our way.


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