Category Archives: True Facts, Legends & Lies

Goodies that may or may not be true facts, somewhat exaggerated, or even wild-eyed stories. You be the judge.

The Last Days of Al Williams

by Phillip I. Earl –   Apple Tree correspondent

Death Valley is perhaps the West’s  most aptly named topographical feature and over years it has taken the lives  of countless thousands of travelers, prospectors,  treasure hunters and others who ventured into its tortured arid wilderness.

The circumstances of these deaths  are roughly similar:  horses died,  they ran out of water, got lost, became delirious with the heat etc.,   but at least one of the valley’s victims left behind a more accurate account of his last hours on earth.

Bill Williams’ body  was found the morning of August 3, 1911 at Sharpe’s Camp,  a sometime [ng]  a few miles southeast of Darwin, California. A Nevada prospector who had traversed Death Valley many times in the [l,]  Williams apparently lost his horse then lost himself on this trip.  He had set out from [o]  Springs on May 18 and nothing more was heard of him until his body was found,  though his friends had searched for him earlier in the summer, sick and unable to leave his camp, Williams apparently waited day by day for someone to come and rescue him. As he waited, he recorded his condition and his thoughts in the following diary which was found on his body:

Thursday, May 18
Left Coso Springs.

Wednesday, May 24
Nothing to eat since Thursday.

Friday, May 26 —
week in sick, cannot walk 50 feet. Tried to get dove; no go.

Saturday, May 27
Hungry, hungry and so weak.  Headache, sick. Will probably die soon.

Sunday, May 28
Very weak today. Nearly froze last night. Very hungry.

Monday, May 29
Cold:  almost froze. Am much weaker; do not think I have will last two days more. Pain in my side.

Tuesday, May 30
Colder than ever last night. Did not sleep a minute. Very weak. Hello the headache. Very dizzy.

Wednesday, May 31
Am nearly all in;  can scarcely breathe. Water getting low.

Thursday, June 1
Worse today,  Sick; no sleep; too cold. Water is playing out fast it will not be long til the end.

Friday, June 2
Am about the same.  No sleep; cold nights. This is a living hell. Very weak.

Saturday, June 3
No sleep;  cold night. Am worse than ever.  will hold out as long as I can.

Sunday, June 4
Vomit yellow, bitter stuff when I drink water. Second time now. Cold; no sleep; very weak.

Monday, June 5
Vomit when I drink. Very weak; legs sore; cold all night; no sleep. Cannot last much longer.

Tuesday, June 6
Vomited again. Getting weaker.

Wednesday, June 7
Don’t  see how I can live much longer. I stagger like a madman. Feel drunk and dizzy.

Thursday, June 8
Worse;  am nearly blind;  very sick and dizzy. No sleep; gnats are eating me up.

Friday, June 9
Don’t  believe I can get another canteen of water.  Sick and dizzy: cannot see much. Think it will be all off soon.

In the back of the diary under the date of June 9, 1911, Williams wrote the following: “Have stood it 23 days without anything to eat. If I can get one more canteen of water I am satisfied it will be the last one. This is surely hell on earth.  And so sick and dizzy I can scarcely see this in the gnats are eating me up.”  Too weak to write and almost blind for the last three days of his life,  Williams merely made his cross in the diary to show that he was still alive.

The men who found the body at first considered bringing it out to a nearby ranch and notifying the Inyo County coroner, but its condition was such that they decided against such a course. A shallow grave was dug on a high bench about 50 feet from the dry spring and Williams was laid away.

One of the men wrote a short account of his death from the diary and placed it in a tobacco can which was then stuffed into a crude monument built over the grave.

Williams diary itself was brought back to Darwin and given to the editor of the Inyo County Independent  who subsequently might venture out  unprepared or who might go out on a rescue mission and give up too soon, thus condemning another of their fellows to the awful sacrifice which the desert seems to periodically demand.

Charles Vincent Dougherty

– A.K.A. Charles Tom Vincent –

This story was derived from Chapter 5 of Pearl Comfort  Fisher’s “The Mountaineers,” written by Dorothy Evans Noble and edited by George F. Tillitson

Dorothy Evans Noble, former postmistress at Valyermo and wife of geologist Dr. Lee Noble, wrote this memoir of the Serrano Old Man Vincent whose name was given to Vincent Gap and Vincent Saddle. Mrs. Noble wrote that the memory of the man might not be lost. She gave it to the United States Forestry Service (USFS) who graciously accorded Pearl Fisher to include it in her book, “The Mountaineers.”

Restored cabin

Old Man Vincent’s daily newspaper came to our small post office at Valyermo, California, but he never did.   Our nearest neighbor,  Bob Pallett, who had a  cattle ranch adjoining our fruit orchards took his mail to Vincent once a month when he took supplies by horseback to the cabin twelve miles up Big Rock Creek on the slope of North Baldy Mountain (now Mount Baden-Powell).  It was a steep trail from our thirty seven hundred fifty foot altitude to Vincent’s sixty six hundred foot. Bob said he was a sort of hermit who hated all women and most men, chasing visitors off his land with a  rifle and spending all his time mining gold and shooting game. He liked Bob and depended on him, and Bob enjoyed sessions with the old man. We heard stories about Vincent for three years before we ever saw him.

Original cabin – 1999

The first week of April 1914,  brought such frightful news of war in Europe that ranch work seemed futile and we decided on a sudden walking  trip into the mountains to think things over. A geologist, Greg, was visiting us and we three set out on foot to climb Mount Baldy. We took Vincent’s mail with us. It was a long climb up to Vincent  Saddle at the head of Big Rock Creek where we followed a trail high on the slope of the mountain for a mile and looked down on a neat clearing with a small gray cabin shaded by two tremendous spruce trees. We skidded down the hill, slippery with pine needles, and zoomed right to the cabin door which opened with a bang, and Old Man Vincent faced us rifle in hand.

“Who in hell are you?” was his greeting.

He was a sight to remember, a thin old man in blue jeans and a faded blue shirt that barely covered his barrel chest, with piercing blue eyes  that glared from under tufted white eyebrows and a little white beard under an aggressive chin.

Before we could explain he spotted the bundle of mail my husband held out, made a grab for them, yelling “Papers? Good.”

He dashed back into the cabin, slammed the door and slid the bolt inside. We sat down for a while on his woodpile, glad for time to take in the good lines of the cabin with its steep roof and chimney, all in the shade of its sides weathered to a soft gray that blended into the bushes and pine needles around it.  There was water in a moat,  a small ditch that circled the cabin, fed out of a pipe at the back where icy cold water dripped into a barrel. Two small tents nearby and a big meat safe hanging  from a limb of the largest spruce aroused our hope of a friendlier reception later.

Suddenly the door burst open and Vincent charged out, waving  a newspaper and screaming with excitement.

“Say, is it really true, is it war?”

And when we confirmed the awful truth he was wild with joy, not distressed at all.

“Fine, fine, I ain’t died too soon. War’s the stuff I like. Maybe we still got some real men in the world after all. Let ’em fly at it, rip things up, git a little action to stir things up. Shoot, kill, that’s the life.”

Nothing was too good for us from then on. He took us into the cabin  cross-questioning  us as to the number of men killed so far and insisting  on our spending the night with him after we climbed the mountain.  He even went with us part way.

Tired by the long climb we were delighted to find Vincent busy with a pot of savory stew made of jerky (dried venison), onions, potatoes; and one of beans.  He had fixed beds of boughs in the tents for us and set places in the rickety little homemade table by the stove. He let me make the green tea and wash the dishes later while the men talked war. Vincent stretched out on the bunk, Lee and Greg perched on the other and by bedtime  we were  all old buddies,  beginning  a friendship  that lasted as long as the old man lived.

A  loud bellowing of song woke us  the next morning.

Vincent was fixing breakfast to the tune of “If you get there before I do, Tell Old Jack I’m comin’, too,” followed by “Fifteen  men on a dead man’s chest, Yo-ho-ho  and a bottle of rum.” He described the battle of Gettysburg while we ate, claiming that no losses  in Germany  could equal those bloody days.  He was wounded  there and sent back to Conneut,  Ohio, his birthplace.  He was a  member   of Company F, 8th Ohio Infantry and proud of it.  As we left him that day he barked at me,

“Don’t you ever come back here again.” And when I gasped, he added, laughing. “Unless you stay a week here.”

I had heard of his remark to a silly Los Angeles woman who had come to thank him for letting  her use water from his ditch when she camped nearby.  She had minced in and grabbed his hand, saying,

“I do hope I’ll see you in the city sometime.”

His retort was, “I hope I never see you again, Madam.”

So we realized that the ice was broken for us. From then on until his death in l926 Vincent was our close friend and real companion.  We often spent a week or two with him and when we found his birthday was on Christmas Day we formed the habit of having him with us for the day. The first time he came he told us that it was the first Christmas dinner he had not eaten alone in fifty years.

The last Christmas dinner he ate with us when he was feeble, but he polished off two big slabs of his favorite dessert, mince pie liberally  laced with strong, homemade applejack. Bob Pallett asked  him the next day how the pie “set.” Vince’s reply was,

“Swell, you bet. Course all night I thought sixteen jack rabbits was loose in my stomach but it was worth it.”

I had pulled  a boner that day by saying I wished he had brought his glasses along  so he could write in our guest book. He was outraged, said he never needed glasses, that no one ever would who lived outdoors and followed deer tracks instead  of ruining his sight poring over books. Vincent’s  sight was really remarkable for he could  spot a moving object miles away, and also read close up even in his eighties. Stretched out on his bunk of an evening he put a lighted candle on his barrel chest, between the “Los Angeles Times” and his eyes pored over every item. He kept his books under his bed, a few old favorites that he read over and over. A copy of “Life of Napoleon”  and one of “Treasure Island” were read most. A bottle of whiskey flanked them but he drank from it seldom.

Vincent loved to talk and he had a gift of understatement and a pungent way of expressing himself that was masterly. He wasted no words and omitted unnecessary details. His pet subject was the Civil War, particularly the Battle of Gettysburg where he was wounded in July of l863. He and a pal named Lockwood had enlisted as lads and after the war they went home, planning  to set up in business together with their families’ help. This was refused so they set off for good on horseback, heading west. They left in a fury and never communicated with their kin.

The story of that trek was fascinating. They decided to prospect for gold and in Arizona they found rich claims, filed on them, built a shack and set to work. Vincent never would explain why they moved on, just said they had trouble and shoved on for California on horseback. He told of crossing  a river and stopping  to swim in it, leaving their clothes on a bank. They spied an Injun sneak up and make off with their clothes. He waited for us to ask how they got them back, then just said,

“That Injun never stole nothin’ more. I took off after him. I got the clothes.”

They finally reached Los Angeles, a nice little town in l868 but too citified for Vincent. Lockwood settled there, but Vince prospected the mountains for months all over the region, even going to Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada country.  Nothing suited him until he happened on Big Rock Creek on our edge of the Mojave  Desert and rode up its source on the slope of North Baldy Peak, camping on what is now known  as Vincent  Saddle, the divide between Big Rock Creek and the beginning of the San Gabriel  River. His first claim was located away from the slope beyond steep, rocky Mine Gulch,  and he named it Big Horn because he killed a mountain sheep there.  This claim he later sold and it was developed by a mining company into a rich, high grade mine which ultimately  produced many thousands of dollars.

Bighorn Mine

The location at Big Horn did not suit Vincent so  he continued prospecting until he found one that did, a flat wooded place with fine big timber and a spring near enough to provide water after he had dug half a mile of ditches. He had adapted a kitten by that time, a Maltese gray, and he named the new claim he had found Blue Cat. It was near Mine Gulch, about half a mile from the flat place which meant more ditches and trails. Then he tackled building his cabin which stands intact to this day. (By the thirties it had collapsed into ruins but not until after Nancy Templeton did an oil painting of it.  Maxine Taylor did an oil painting of Vincent’s Cabin in the mid l980s. Her painting is reproduced herein.)

He hand-hewed shakes (shingles)  from the trees, built a stone fireplace  in one end, put up the one-room, steep- roofed cabin with just one small window  and a door. He made two bunks, one on each side of the fireplace, two arm chairs and a small table. He said he worked too hard to be lonely for when the cabin was finished he had the mine to timber and later made  a small stamp-mill with a Pelton wheel run by water from his spring.

He had help after a few years when he sold Big Horn and that company built a good trail on the slope above the cabin so a heavy stove was moved up and cement to mix with the rocks for a cabin floor.  Another prospector built a shack away from Vincent’s but “The Nigger” as Vince called him, although his name was Delancey and he wasn’t colored, and Vince fought like cat and dog. But Vincent lived on solitude by choice for forty years, working on his tunnels and ditches, hauling ore back by wheelbarrow to the stamp mill, to refine by running crushed ore over a mercury chute, then sacking the gold to take to the city once a year.

The winters must have been grim at the altitude of sixty six hundred feet, but he had a huge woodpile  at hand, lots of dried venison stored up, beans and canned tomatoes, potatoes and onions laid away by late fall. Summers are lovely and cool there, and nine months of the year hunting  was fine sport; deer and mountain  sheep, quail, rabbits and doves all made good food and he could catch fish in Vincent Creek.

By the time we knew Vincent the cabin had every comfort heart could wish, and Bob Pallett to haul freight from Palmdale once a month he could relax and live the life of Reilly. The big screened meat safe that hung from a spruce tree, out of reach of bears, was full of venison for there was no closed season then and Vince  would  have disregarded if there had been. A picture of McKinley hung over the old man’s bunk and a goldpan  and rifle were fastened to the chimney. Every afternoon when he came in from work he stripped to the buff and threw a potfull of hot water over his strong, rugged body, regardless of company; so we learned to vamoose.  He was strong as an ox, the picture of health, thin and wiry with pink cheeks and snowy white hair. He could and did, walk for miles tracking  a deer and he never fired an unnecessary shot. He loathed the city fellers that banged away regardless, when after game. Once we asked him what sort of winter’s  hunting he had had, and he said,

“Only fair. I missed one shot clean. Took me six shots to get my five deer.”

When he killed he dressed the deer on the spot, packed as much on his back as he could carry home, then made trips back to get the rest. Hunting meant a food supply, not sport, to him.

He was a crank about coffee which must be strong and coal black. When I made the coffee one morning  and asked him if he wanted a second cup, his answer was,

“Well, yes I do, but God it’s weak I don’t see how it gets up the spout.”

His pet comment was “Strong coffee never hurt no one, but weak coffee is pizen.”

He called Postum “Potassium” and was scornful of it, and he always pronounced boulevard “bovelard”  and brooked no correction. He drank what little whiskey he imbibed straight, scorning fancy drinks. Once we took some rare old sherry up for his pleasure and sat  by the fire with cups of it, expecting a nice session of talk. Vincent took one sip out of his cupful, swore, spat it angrily into the flames and threw the whole cupful into the fire.

“God, what truck,” he said. “What’s wrong with whiskey that anyone bothers with this hogwash?”

Even with the Palletts the old man was secretive,  so we sensed some mystery  in his past. The way he kept his cabin window boarded up unless he was inside, his fury when anyone tried to take his picture, his refusal to let anyone else go to his Los Angeles post office for his pension checks, all added up to some secret. We never dared to refer to a penciled name we once found in one of his old books, for it said “Mrs. Charles Vincent” so we supposed it concerned a wife he’d had sometime.  Only once did any relative show up, a cousin from Conneaut brought to him by Lockwood, who insisted on Vincent’s  attending a dinner at her home in Glendale.

Later we wormed the story out of him to our lasting amusement.  He went, they had a swell meal, and then

“Durned if she didn’t get out a big book of postcards, pasted in, and she begun on ‘my trip to Europe’  page by page. I had come by trolley and I happened to see one startin’ down the street, so I said ‘Goodbye, Ma’am, here’s my car’ and I run out and hopped on it.  She won’t see any more of me.”

Socialist colony ruins, Llano, Ca.

He had great scorn  for the developments  in southern California. He referred to the Socialist colony (Llano) that settled on the desert below us as a “nest of vermin” and he fulminated against Pasadena and other fancy  towns.

“This country’s the next to git its lickin'” he once said. “I’ll bet I live to see the Japs amarchin’  up Broadway. I sure would like to see a troop bivouacked on them Pasadena lawns.”

Vincent was hipped on cleanliness and order, kept everything in its appointed place and did his washing regularly. He told me once about some campers who had stayed nearby, and his comment on the woman who cooked was

“Say, that there woman was a caution. You could plant a potato patch on the back of her neck. I often seen dough on her elbow from last week’s bakin’. Water didn’t bother her none.”

Before he dug a moat around the cabin and ran water in it he was bothered by ants, for he bought sugar by the sack, and he told us,

“Ants got all through the sack and I couldn’t sift them out. So I jes hauled it down to the M—– family, it was all right for them, they didn’t notice.”

He stayed at the cabin winters until, when he was eighty three, he carried  a quarter of deer back to the cabin from away up the slope of Mount Baldy and collapsed from the effort, so we had to take him to Los Angeles to our doctor, a heart specialist. He was taken to the hospital and kept there for several months as he had a torn ligament  of one of the arteries to his heart.  We feared he was done for, but he came back in good style and lived for years after that, though he could no longer spend winters at the cabin and moved into a tent house by Big Rock Creek on the Pallett Ranch.

I remember his first Christmas holiday there when he came to the post office to cross question me about a geologist who had spent the holidays working  on our geology.

“Say, Noble,”  said he, “What kind of a dam fool was that feller anyway? I was settin’ by my tent, watching the creek in big flood with the bridge washed out and all, and I heard a big splashin’  and seen this guy wadin’ across in water up to his waist.  Up he came and durn if he didn’t tip his hat and say,

“‘Excuse me, sir, but could I trouble you for a drink of water?'”

At intervals Bob Pallett would call us up to say Vincent had collapsed and we would hurry him to the city to install him in the hospital, expecting each trip to be the last. Not so, he came to time after time, and he would chortle over his fooling the doctors.

“They hung around my bed like crows around a dead horse,” he would say, “Waiting to see me die.”

The nurses took a great shine to the game old man and he was a favorite  there.

“I like that place,” he said. “Best coffee in Los Angeles there.”

Once I visited him there and he introduced me to his pet nurse.  I asked him her name and he said it was “Scenery.” When I looked puzzled, he explained.

“Seems as though  the head nurse complained  because so many  nurses came in to talk, so one day they heard her comin’ down the hall and this nurse, she got excited and run. She tripped over the rug on her way out and, say, some scenery I seen.  That’s  been her name ever since.”

Vincent was a baseball  fan and made yearly  trips to Los Angeles to see the games. He would take with him the small sack of gold he had refined from the “Blue Cat” and “Little Nell”, another mine he had developed and named for his pal Lockwood’s daughter Nell;  would  cash it in and put in a safe deposit box. He had a post office box in the city where his Civil War pension checks came, and he would  cash them, too, and put them in the box. When Bob Pallett fell on hard times and was about to lose his ranch he was astonished to have Vincent produce five thousand dollars in cold cash and present it to him.

On September  8, l926,  our doctor phoned  to say that Vincent  was dead and was to be buried on the thirteenth at Sawtelle, the Veterans Home. He had died in the hospital and had told the doctor his life secret in order to assure his burial in the soldiers’ graveyard.  So the Palletts joined us in the drive to Sawtelle where we went to the chapel, asking for the Vincent funeral.

The Veteran’s Chapel for funerals is divided by a crosswall so that two services can be conducted at the same time, one for Catholics  and one for Protestants; so we made for the Protestant part only to learn that no Vincent funeral was slated for that day but a Dougherty funeral was. We were baffled. A Catholic soldier was slated for the other side.

Then a car raced up and our doctor’s secretary rushed up to tell us  that Vincent’s real name was Dougherty,  so the service went through as scheduled, and we all followed the body which was placed on a double gun carriage with that of the Catholic  soldier and taken to Section 9, Row G, Grave 22, in the lovely green cemetery where hundreds of veterans’ graves lie in neat rows.

Bob Pallett whispered, “You’d sure have to hold Vince down if  he knew he was  on that gun carriage  with a Catholic!”

Then our doctor told us the amazing story Vincent had told him a few days before.  He had used his real name, Charles Vincent Dougherty, until a stay in Arizona in 1866 where he and his partner had found gold and staked out prospects. they planned to stay there as the claims were rich and had built a shack and worked away happily in that wild, deserted country. One evening they found three strange men in the shack.

One said he was the sheriff and was checking up on claims. Vincent and Lockwood didn’t like the looks of these men and decided to spy on them. They left the men talking in the shack and went out pretending to work outdoors, crept up at dusk to overhear them talk.  The three men were laying plans to jump the claims, do away with the partners and take over. Vincent and Lockwood  beat them to it, shot all three in a surprise attack and buried them there and then.

Then they lit out as fast as they could on their horses and fled to the wilder west.  They expected to be followed, not realizing that no law force existed then, so they changed their names and hid out the rest of their lives though no one came after them. Vince chose his middle name, Vincent. Of course they had to abandon their rich claims, but Vince knew he could find others as he did later. That is why he never allowed anyone to take his picture, why he barred the one window in his cabin at night, why he suspected strangers, why he had a mail box in Los Angeles to have Dougherty pension checks come to.

The doctor said he would never forget that talk, the fiery old man blurting out the old, old secret, not one bit repentant; proud of his past.

Mt. Baden-Powell

He was  a  fighter, from his boyhood  days on through Gettysburg and his trip west, and his one desire was to be buried with other fighters  as he is. He was taught to kill in the Civil War; he considered the Arizona killings a matter of self-defense; he loved to show his skill in shooting but never killed an animal except for food. His unending labor made him a veritable  Robinson Crusoe on a mountainside, slaving away day after day to make a comfortable  life for himself. He loved the life he led. His magnificent physique kept him from illness, he was full of high spirits and was entertaining  a companion  as we have ever known. Always kind and generous to the few he liked, all his friends agree Charles Vincent  was a Man.

Courtesy Wrightwood Historical Society
-.-

Bathing Daily

Why the Daily Bath?
Because of Advertising!

From the Los Angeles Examiner of June 1, 1921

Why people take a daily bath was explained today. Charles H. Mackintosh, advertising
expert, said the newspapers were responsible and the soap manufacturers.

“Daily bathing is merely the result of newspaper advertising,” Mr. Mackintosh told the Association of Commerce of Advertisers in session here. “Only a short time ago we bathed once a week and that on Saturday—we even skipped that once in a while. Now the flood of
advertising loosed by soap manufacturers has persuaded us that we aren’t Christians unless we bathe daily.”
-,-

courtesy: Mojave River Valley Museum

A Bottle Full of Teeth

John Searles

John Searles

John W Searles‘  bottle full of his own teeth was a reminder of one of the most remarkable encounters with the grizzly bear ever related in San Bernardino County.

While hunting deer in March, 1870, Searles, a miner  and hunter,  came to the brink of  a precipice, and saw in the valley that spread out before him two fully grown  bears  and a cub. Although he had only for good cartridges, he had contrived to make a few extra makeshift loads for his gun from a misfit box of ammunition which had  been sent  to him by mistake.

Searles  entered the valley and road for hours over rough, snow-covered country, looking for the bears, before he finally came upon one sleeping under a clump of brush.  He fired a shot  and the bear rolled over from the impact of the bullet.  two more shots finished them. Then, nearby, Searles heard the sound of another bear.

Wet with snow, Searles worked his way cautiously through the brush,  only to be surprised when a second massive bear reared up before him, its nose scarcely 10 feet away.  the thick brush made it impossible to step back   and aim. Searles  jammed another bullet in his rifle and pulled the trigger, but there was no report. It was one of the off size cartridges.
grizzly bear
Before he could try a third time, the grizzly charged, mouth agape. Searles  tried to jam his rifle down the bear’s  throat. The animal flung the weapon aside and threw Searles to the ground.  With one foot on the hunter’s breast, the grizzly bit off a large section of Searles’ lower jaw, then gashed his throat and laid bare his shoulder bone. Searles managed to roll over, his coat doubled up on his back in a  hump. The bear bit the coat once and left.

Despite his mangled condition, Searles recovered his horse and, with the freezing cold sealing his ruptured veins, road 4 miles to a camp, where he received first aid before proceeding on a three-day trip to a Los Angeles hospital.   Doctors  gave him no chance to live, but three weeks after they had patched, sewed and pieced him together, the hunter was up and able to get around.

For years afterward, Searles kept in his desk a 2 ounce bottle containing 21 pieces of broken bone and teeth, torn from his lower jaw  by the grizzly. And, in the corner of his office,  his old Spencer rifle stood, its lock  showing clearly the  dents of the grizzly’s vicious teeth.

from :
Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940

More about John Searles

Hesperia, years ago …

This is the desert I remember growing up in. Imagine this scene except with newly open purple Lupin growing in many of the open spaces;

“I” Ave. & Lemon – Hesperia, CA. 2015

In the shade under that center bush there is a napping coyote, not easily seen. A 3rd grade girl, brand new to the desert is walking home from Brownies to an old house on Hesperia Rd. She’s ventured off the road to pick Lupin for her mom. She startles the coyote, and he her, but neither of them run away. They each stay still and cock their heads, the coyote on his haunches about fifteen feet from the child with her arms full of Lupin. She stares, awestruck. It is her first coyote, but somehow she knows who he is, and that he will always be in her life, watching her, protecting her. Finally, he lays down and curls back up in the shade under the bush. She backs away then turns to see how to get back to the road. At home she presents her mom with the flowers, and gets both a “thank you” and a gently warning not to pick wild flowers again, but to leave them for others to enjoy and for the seeds from one plant to fall and be carried in the wind for another bloom at another time.

Throughout my life, coyote has appeared to me several times, in unexpected places, always with a message and always to assure me of his presence in my life.

~ Sue Strohman Bronson – 2017

Death Valley Scotty Special

Death Valley Scotty Special

In 1905, in an attempt to break the speed record from Los Angeles to Chicago, Walter “Death Valley Scotty” Scott paid the Santa Fe Railroad a purported $5500 to rent a three car train pulled by 19 different steam locomotives. The trip began in Los Angeles on 9 July and arrived in Chicago 44 hours 54 minutes later, a record that stood until 1936  when it was broken by the Super Chief.  The  Barstow to Needles segment of the run took just three hours and 15 minutes. Also known as the Coyote Special.

from:
Mojave Desert Dictionary – Patricia A. Schoffstall
Mojave River Valley Museum
 Barstow, California

The Origin of People

One day, Coyote went out to hunt rabbits. While he was hunting, he saw a large naked woman in the distance. This excited him. He said to himself, “Whew, I have never seen a woman like that. I will follow her.” He followed her for a long time, but could not quite overtake her. He followed her over many mountains. When he came to White Mountain [Fish Lake Valley], he was very thirsty. He saw that the woman was carrying a tiny basketry water jug, and he asked her for a drink. She gave him the little jug, and he drank and drank, but still there was water left in it. Then she walked on, and he followed her.

photo of coyote
Finally, they came to a large lake of water. The woman said, “My home is over there.” She crossed the lake on top of the water. Coyote said, “I cannot do that. I will walk around.” The woman turned and gave Coyote the legs of a water bug [skate?] that runs on the top of the water. Coyote followed her over to her house.

The woman lived in a house with her mother, who was called tsutsipü, “ocean,” maa’puts, “old woman.” She was like Eva, the first Woman. Eva had never seen a man before. In the morning, Eva got up very early and began to weave a fine, big water jug. Coyote stayed with the women for several days.

One day Coyote went hunting for deer. He wondered what was the matter [with the women] . . . He asked his stomach, his ears, his nose, and his foot what was the matter. None of them could tell him. Then a white hair on the end of his tail said, “You are just like a little boy. Take a neck bone . . . and use that.”

Coyote did this . . .

Coyote went out to hunt. The old woman had nearly finished her big water jug. The two women told each other that they were pregnant. When the jug was finished, they gave birth to many tiny babies, all like little dolls, and put them in the jug.

When Coyote returned, they said to him, “Maybe your brother, Wolf, is lonesome for you. We want you to go back home.” Coyote said, “All right, I will go.” Eva then said to the children, “You have no home here. You must go with Coyote.” She put the basket of children on Coyote’s back, and told him to carry it with him. It was very heavy, but Coyote said that he had carried deer down from the mountains on his back, so that he was strong and did not object.

The women instructed Coyote about the jug. They said, “When you come to Saline Valley, open the stopper just a little way, then replace it quickly. When you come to Death Valley, open it a little more. At Tin Mountain (Charleston Peak) open it half way. When you are in Moapa, take the stopper out all the way.” Coyote said he would do this.

Coyote carried the jug along, but soon became very tired and could scarcely hold it. When he arrived in Saline Valley, he opened the stopper a little way. Tall, dark, handsome men and girls jumped out and ran away. These were the best looking people in the jug. This frightened Coyote, but he put the stopper back, and picked up the jug. In Death Valley, he opened it again. Here, more handsome people jumped out and ran away. The girls all had long, beautiful hair. When he came to Ash Meadows, he opened it. The Paiute and Shoshoni came out. These people were fine looking, too. At Tin Mountain, Coyote let some fairly good people out of the jug. When he opened it in Moapa, very poor, short, ugly people came out. The girls here had short hair with lice in it. All the people had sore eyes. That is the way they are now.

This is the way Eva had her first children. Coyote was the father.

from:
Western Shoshoni Myths
By Julian H. Steward

Ghost Train: Tall Tale

Bill Sanger was known to have ridden the rods all over the map. In his time he had seen all there was to see. One day he was talking with Jim Craig about  mirages. Mirages are common sites. You see a lot of them, millions of them, in the dry lake bed out there at Amboy.

Bristol Lake - Amboy, CA.

Bristol Lake – Amboy, CA.

“Bill,”  said Jim, “did you ever see the city that  gleams out there on  the lake in hot weather?”
“Yeah,”  Bill replied.
“What you make of it?”  said Jim.
Nothing,”  Bill answered.  “I do not hold with those dude scientists, that try to explain goes by saying the light rays pick up the picture hundreds of miles away and then bend it back and drop that same picture out there on the lake.  It do not make sense. They’re ghosts, that is what they are. Just plain ghosts.
“One time,” Bill went on, “I nearly killed myself trying to hop a ghost train pulling out across Bristol Lake. I was walking out toward the salt works when  along came a freight, not going very fast. I forgot where I was, and made a run for it.  it started to pick up speed, so I gave a leap and grabbed on– nothing!
“I sprawled out flat on that dry lake bed. I looked up and saw the ghost train running in long as nice as you please– 42 cars and one caboose I counted.  they road right smack over me and never even must my shirt. They are ghosts I tell you. Ghosts!”

from :
Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940

A Running Battle: Death at Soda Lake Station

Death and disaster  stalked  the trade routes to the Mojave Desert during the 1860s. Roving bands of plunder-bent Indians lay in wait among rocky canyon walls and in undergrowth near waterholes, eager to kill, rob or drive away any who dared to invade the desert home of the red man.

During this turbulent period, The United States Army afforded the sole means of protection to the lives and property of early settlers. That this protection was far from adequate is apparent from the following account.

Sam button, driver from the Cluggage Line, drove the stage coach along the old road between Caves Canyon and Soda Lake. The Army escort, one man on a mule, wrote alongside the leisurely traveling stage.  Dr. M. E. Shaw, Army post surgeon, stuck his head out the coach window and carried on an idle conversation with the escort.

Hancock’s Redoubt – Soda Lake

This peaceful scene was disturbed without warning when the brush at the side of the road parted in a dozen spots and screaming, brandishing Pah-Utes  burst forth. Shots crashed out. The Army escorts mule quivered with the Bali and dropped to the sand, dead. Lead splattered against the walls of the stage as the Army man jumped inside.

Sam Button  poured shots into the savages as fast as he could reload his weapon. The horses, maddened by the excitement, broke into a run, Dr. Shaw and the soldier, guns leveled through this stage window, picked off as many Indians as the lurching vehicle would permit.

In full pursuit, the Indians, about 15 in number, concentrated on shooting the huddled driver out of his box. They aim high, anxious to spare the horses if possible. Dr. Shaw lifted his face from the hot barrel of his gun and a half-turned to his army companion.

“We are in luck, those Indians are damned poor shots,”  he said, and slumped forward, a bullet through his chest.

Bighorn sheep at Soda Lake in Mojave Preserve

Bighorn sheep at Soda Lake in Mojave Preserve

“Dr. Shaw’s been hit!”  The soldier shouted at Button.
“Dead?”
“No, but he needs attention in a hurry.”

The frightened horses began to tire. The Indians maintained their hot pursuit. Button leaned back across the baggage that shielded him from the Pah-Utes fire.   With one quick stroke of his knife, he cut free the luggage that burdened the stage. For an hour the running battle continued before the stage outran the Indians.

Dr. Shaw died at Soda Lake Station.

from :
Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940

$150,000 Summit Road Route Being Considered

Summit Valley Road

Summit Valley Road

State Highway Commissioner Darlington has under advisement the matter of which route to choose for the 15-mile state highway to be built from Summit to Victorville at a cost of $150,000.  A delegation headed by Louis Evans of Hesperia asked Darlington to choose the route that would include Hesperia on the highway.

Los Angeles Herald, Number 58, 8 January 1919