ROBERT WILLIAM OWENS
HIS STORY OF LIFE IN SOUTHERN NEVADA
INTERVIEWD BY HARRY FORD
EDITED BY COLLEEN M. BACK AND DON HENDRICKS
ROBERT WILLIAM OWENS
April 12, 1995
This oral history would not have been possible without the foresight and effort of Mr. Harry "Button" Ford, long time resident of Pahrump, Nevada. He is a lifelong friend of Mr. Owens and the Owens family and persuaded Mr. Owens to share his life history through this interview. As Director of the Pahrump Museum, Mr. Ford recognized the importance of capturing as much as possible of the early life and history of southern Nevada and its pioneers.
Thanks to Evelyn Faulkner for transcribing the audiotapes, Crystal Chang for her work on the final manuscript, Harold Drollinger and Barbara Holz for reviewing the final manuscript, and to the Desert Research Institute for its assistance with the preparation of this oral history.
Harry Ford is interviewing Robert William Owens on April 12, 1995, in Pahrump, Nevada.
HF: Bob, would you state your full name as it is on your birth certificate.
BO: Robert William Owens.
HF: When and where were you born?
BO: Searchlight, Nevada on October 20, 1910.
HF: What was your father's full name?
BO: Charlie Arthur Owens.
HF: When and where was he born?
BO: He was born in Virginia. I don't know when right now.
HF: What was your mother's full name?
BO: Her name was Bessie Amelia Wees.
HF: When and where was she born?
BO: She was born in Canada. I don't remember exactly when.
HF: Where were they married?
BO: They were married in California but I don't know exactly where.
HF: So they met and were married in California?
HF: What was your father's occupation?
BO: He was a miner and after we moved to Las Vegas he worked for the railroad.
HF: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
BO: I had three sisters and two brothers.
HF: How long did you live in Searchlight?
BO: Until I was seven years old.
HF: did you go to school in Searchlight?
BO: No, I didn't.
HF: What was Searchlight like as you remember at seven years old?
BO: Searchlight had a railroad coming into it and we lived right at the end of the track. I can remember when I was little the bums would get off the train and come to our house and beg for something to eat.
HF: And your father worked in a mine in Searchlight?
BO: He worked in the Cortez Mine. He was foreman of the Cortez Mine for several years there and it produced a lot of gold.
HF: Then where did you move to when you left Searchlight?
BO: We moved to Las Vegas. 1917. Mother had bought 40 acres as school land for $1.25 an acre when she was 18 years old and working in California. We started building up that 40 acres. My dad built a house on it and we hand dug a well and planted some crops and put a pump and engine on the well. And we planted some crops right away, the first year.
HF: How far would this property have been from Main and Fremont? Which direction and how far out?
BO: In the northwest three miles.
HF: What would have been the name of a street at that time or when a street was first named? What would have been the closest intersection to this house?
BO: That's been a lot of years but when Vegas Heights Township started, they named the street coming into Vegas Heights Highland. My brother decided to name the streets on each side of us, on the west and north; he named the streets Cow Trail Boulevard on the west and Cuey Skuie on the......I mean on the west was Cuey Skuie and on the north was Cow Trail Boulevard.
HF: Did Cuey Skuie have any special meaning or anything?
BO: No, I don't know why he decided on that name. He made some signs and put them up with those names on them. It is still Cow Trail Boulevard, I understand, but I don't think that Cuey Skuie is still there.
HF: Did you go to school in Las Vegas and where was the school located?
BO: Yes, on 5th Street between Lewis and Bridger.
HF: Okay, is that the old 5th Street School? Was the building that I knew in the 40s there at that time or was it a smaller building?
BO: It was a smaller building. They had built another school on down Lewis I think, about 8th Street.
HF: So you went to school in the old 5th Street School for how many years?
BO: I finished the 8th grade in the grammar school, and the high school at that time was right along side of it and I went through the 9th grade.
HF: What were the roads around Las Vegas at that time? What roads were paved at that time around Las Vegas?
BO: I can't remember of any roads being paved at that time.
HF: Not even the road from Los Angeles? And on to Salt Lake?
BO: No, that was gravel.
HF: What was down at Cashman's Field where the old Mormon Fort was at that time?
BO: Just the old ranch they called it and that was a Mormon ranch, settled there in the early days and people by the name of Stewart.
HF: How many people would you guess lived in Las Vegas when you went to grade school there?
BO: I don't know for sure. I'd say somewhere between 500/600, somewhere in that neighborhood.
HF: Was there any type of gambling casino there at the time?
HF: Was there a couple of bars?
BO: Oh yes, there was a couple of bars, and grocery stores on Fremont Street, Boggs Brother's Grocery and Ward Grocery. Fremont Street was just a dirt street and they had hitching rails for horses in front of the stores so that you could park there. There was also a clothing store, named Beckley, across the street from Ward Grocery. On down Fremont Street a little ways, there was a drug store named Ferron's Drug Store and a sweet shoppe where you could go in and get soft drinks, ice cream, that belonged to [Dick Roshel]. I can't think of it right now.
HF: The railroad was here at that time and there was a depot.
BO: The depot was at the west end of Fremont Street and there was a park in front of the depot on both sides of the street named Railroad Park. There was lawn and trees there and every 4th of July we would load a wagon full of watermelons and cantaloupe and drive up to the park and park there and they would have horse races and Model T Ford races down Fremont Street. People would buy the melons, sit on the lawns, watch the races and eat melon.
HF: Now what about water. Was there a stream of water that ran through there? Was there wells? What was the water supply in Las Vegas at that time?
BO: Big Springs west of Las Vegas and that ran into a creek down through town to the old ranch where it wound up. And they irrigated the ranch with that water.
HF: Did those springs have a name?
BO: Big Springs is all I can remember. There were also artesian wells.
HF: What were the names of some other people that were the prominent people of Las Vegas at that time?
BO: Well, of course there was Gene Ward who run the Mesquite Grocery and Clint Boggs who ran the Boggs Brother's Grocery; Beckley, Will Beckley who run the clothing store; Ferron, I can't think of his first name right now, he run the drug store; and Dick Roshel run the sweet shoppe where folks went in to get ice cream and drinks and stuff.
HF: What did your father do in Las Vegas?
BO: He worked at the Union Pacific Railroad.
HF: What did he do at the railroad?
BO: He was in the machine shop. I don't remember what exactly he was doing there though.
HF: When and what was your first job?
BO: My first job was a janitor for the school from the 5th grade on. My next job was at the railroad. I was 17 years old and went to work at the roundhouse. I was a hostler helper, which turned the turntable around to spot the engines on different tracks that would take them into the roundhouse to be worked on.
HF: How many trains, do you think, went through Las Vegas during a day or week at that time?
BO: Oh, I don't know for sure. I can't remember for sure. There was only two or three trains that went though in the daytime in Las Vegas and, of course, later it grew. As the town grew, the more trains put on, and as other towns in each direction grew, they would put on more trains.
HF: Was that the county seat at that time? Did they have a county government there, a courthouse?
BO: Yes, the courthouse was there and it was between 2nd and 3rd and between Bridger and Carson.
HF: Bob, tell us about, for instance, when Jim Cashman came to town and what his business was. What did he do?
BO: Jim Cashman was there, I forgot to mention him. He had a garage on Fremont and Main, Just off Fremont. He sold Buicks and later sold Caterpillar tractors. There was also Troy laundry and Vegas Cleaners, which were owned by Al Cardetti and, at the moment, I can't think of the name of the man that owned the laundry. There was a couple of more businesses along Main Street. The Overland Hotel at the corner of Main and Fremont and the Nevada Hotel they called it at the time was across the street. Later they renamed the Nevada Hotel, the Sal Sagev. Then there was Ford garage and it was down South Main to start with and later it was down at 4th and Fremont, just off of Fremont on 4th.
HF: Did the town grow pretty fast in your younger years? By the time you were 21 years old had it grown quite a bit?
BO: It had grown quite a bit, yes. There were several thousand people there then. Then, when they started Boulder Dam, that is when Henderson and Boulder City started up.
HF: So you remember the railroad that went to Tonopah?
BO: Yes, I remember the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad. It went from Las Vegas to Tonopah and it was torn up and discontinued. I had to be about 13 years old when it was torn up.
HF: What about a road? Was there a road that you could drive on if you wanted to go north?
BO: Yes, just a dirt road that went north and wagon teams and Model T trucks were the only ones that went on that road.
HF: What was your next job after you worked for the railroad? How old were you when you went to work somewhere else and what did you do?
BO: After I worked at the railroad ... I had several different jobs on the railroad. I worked in the roundhouse and also later a job opened up at St. Thomas for engine watchman.
HF: Tell us where St. Thomas is then.
BO: St. Thomas was in the Moapa Valley. Overton, Logandale, St. Thomas, Kaolin, were all little towns over there. They raised a lot of melons over there. The railroad would go up to Moapa once a day and haul the produce and things out of those valleys to Moapa and then it was transferred to regular trains that went each direction.
HF: Was that the little spur line that went into St. Thomas?
BO: Yes, it was a spur line.
HF: And it was a regular size train?
BO: A regular size train, yes. The engine watchman's job was to keep that train alive, that engine alive and if it died, they would have to get a hold of Las Vegas to send a new engine up.
HF: You're talking about died, you mean the fire got down so low that it wouldn't run?
BO: Yes, it wouldn't work. I had to not let it not get below 100 pounds of steam. Then I would fire it up to 200 pounds and shut it off. After it sat there, like on a weekend, when it didn't run. Then we had to watch. When it got down to 100 pounds, then fire it back up to 200.
HF: Now this was just a matter of shoveling coal into the firebox.
BO: No, it was an oil burner by that time.
HF: You would just have to turn the spigot and let the oil go in or what was the procedure?
BO: You had to just turn the oil on and let it go into the fire and...
HF: Like you say if it goes down, they would have to send an engine out from Vegas. You couldn't fire it back up again?
BO: Well, you could if you would gather a lot of wood or something and build a fire and get it up to where it would work.
HF: Modern technology, I guess. When you worked for the railroad, how long did you work for the railroad? Up until you were how old?
BO: I can't remember for sure I think about four years for the railroad and then I started a dairy of my own.
HF: Why did you quit working for the railroad?
BO: I always wanted to be around livestock. Have my own livestock. We had that ranch out there and my mother and dad had been divorced then for several years, so I started a dairy.
HF: Did you have enough water there to farm most of the 40 acres?
BO: No, we planted only about 10. Then later, we had two artesian wells west of us up next to the Tonopah Highway that belong to Buols. nobody was using that water, so we got permission from the Buols to ditch that water down to our place and use it to irrigate with. Then also a man by the name of Williams, who lived east and south of us, (so it was right on the road to Las Vegas) had a hay ranch and he had it ditched to hop place and used it there to raise the hay.
HF: How much water do you think these wells had? You had to be able to ditch them. how many miles were you ditching down to your place?
BO: We ditched it, I would say, about three miles.
HF: So these wells had to flow pretty good.
BO: They did flow a good well . . . I don't know exactly how much. The first well that was ever drilled in Las Vegas was a 1/4 mile north of us and we had pictures of that well taken in 1910. My dad and mother drove a team of horses from Searchlight to Vegas to look at this property, to find where the property was that she had bought. it was 1/4 mile from this well that had been drilled for a test well. And that well, I forgot exactly, it was only 100 and some feet deep, but it shot to about three feet above the casing. It had that much pressure behind it.
HF: Were the many artesian wells around Las Vegas?
BO: There gradually got to be quite a few artesian wells, yes.
HF: Was it all up on the side where you lived or down somewhere else?
BO: No, there were a lot of them out in what they called Paradise Valley. Paradise Valley was south of Las Vegas and it is now mostly city.
HF: At that time [Frank] Buol came to Pahrump, was he related to the [Peter?] Buol that owned the water you're talking about?
BO: Yes, there were two brothers.
HF: What did his brother do? What was his name and what did he do in Las Vegas?
BO: I can't think of what his name is right now.
HF: What did he do in Las Vegas?
BO: I think he was more a mining man than anything. They were both mining men. They had mining claims scattered all around. They even had mining claims over here in Pahrump.
HF: Do you have any idea what year the Buols, one brother or the other, came to Las Vegas?
BO: They were there when we came.
HF: And you came down in what year?
HF: You had a dairy in Las Vegas. How many cows do you think that you milked and where did you market your milk?
BO: We had 28 cows. We would load the cases of bottled milk on the wagon and take it to town and deliver it to houses and also to the stores. At that time there was another grocery store that started up and the people's name was Delkin. We delivered milk to them.
HF: Why did you stop the dairy? That should have been a lucrative, going business.
BO: I had bought the cows from the man (I can't think of his name right now). He gave me a list of when the cows were bred, when they would calve, and everything. Evidently he had just made this list up. Because I dried up cows that were not even bred and dried up cows that maybe would calve in two or three months or more. This list wasn't right. I decided to just sell the dairy cows to Oppedyke Dairy, which was one of the two dairies, Anderson Dairy and Oppedyke Dairy, which supplied milk to Las Vegas at that time. I went to work for Oppedyke Dairy; they bought my cows.
HF: Where were they located at in Las Vegas?
BO: They were located northwest of Las Vegas. They were only about half mile from our place. I just walked over there and got there by 2:00 in the morning to start milking. Got through milking about 10:00, cleaned the barn and everything. Then we worked on the ranch, fixing fence or whatever needed to be done, until noon. Then it was time we got called to come to dinner or lunch. It was always right close to 2:00 when we got through eating. So we said, "Let's get the vows in the barn again." We'd get the cows in the barn at 2:00 and get through about 10 at night. Then I would walk back to our place. Sleep until close to 2:00 in the morning, and get up and walk back over there and do the milking again. It was all hand milking.
HF: When did he Rancho Grande Creamery come about?
BO: Rancho Grande Creamery was about that same time that they [Anderson and Oppedyke?] started. It was located at the old ranch (the cows were). The creamery was on 2nd (I think it was). I can't remember now what the other street was. It was the street south of Fremont.
HF: After the dairy job then what did you start doing?
BO: After the dairy job I had got married, and we had just a few cattle and horses we took care of. Did odd jobs around wherever I could get a job. I worked on that hay ranch part of the time.
HF: When did you get married the first time?
BO: I got married on September 1, 1933.
HF: How many children did you and your wife have?
BO: Just two boys, James Robert Owens and David Farrell Owens. We later adopted Atha.
HF: And what was your wife's maiden name?
BO: Her name was Esther Balida Bradley.
HF: Where did you get married?
BO: We got married in St. George, Utah.
HF: How many children did you have? And their complete names.
BO: James Robert Owens, was the oldest boy. He was born in 1934, August 14. David Farrell Owens was born in Malad City, Idaho (we went up there to see one of her sisters) on September 28, 1936.
HF: Bob, we were talking about the jobs that you had. You worked at the dairy. Where were you employed after you stopped working for the dairy?
BO: I worked for the railroad after I left the dairy.
HF: You went back to work for the railroad after having worked for them when you were younger.
BO: I only worked for them one time. Let me think.
HF: How old were you when you went to work for law enforcement in Las Vegas?
BO: I was 23 or 24; it must have been 24.
HF: You had never left Las Vegas; you had never moved out of Las Vegas.
HF: Where did you first work in law enforcement?
BO: In Las Vegas at the Police Department. No, first I was in charge of the Stockade, it was on Bonanza.
HF: The Stockade, was it a county or city facility?
HF: And that would have been a jail type?
BO: Yes, it was a jail and they also had the Transient Camp in that area. During the depression they had a big Transient Camp there to feed hungry people coming through town. They could eat there, sleep there, and they had doctor there to take care of anybody that was sick. It was right alongside the stockade. The stockade was fenced with a high fence around it . . . the building was made out of switch ties that were, I would say, twenty feet long at least as made for double track. They were standing on end buried three feet in the ground right close together. The buildings had a sheet iron roof on them. They had another little building at the end of that, that was made for women prisoners. It would hold nine women. The Stockade itself had two little board rooms built inside of it that was for anybody that did something wrong or was real bad and had to be locked up. They had a kitchen close to the women's quarters where the meals were cooked and brought into the prisoners in the Stockade. they also had a big wood yard inside the Stockade. The prisoners cut the wood that was burned in a big homemade stove inside the Stockade to keep it warm in the wintertime.
HF: Did you ever go back into the Charleston Mountains at that time to get wood or where did you go to cut that?
BO: the wood came from mesquite trees close to Las Vegas.
HF: Was there a sawmill up in the Charlestons at that time?
BO: There was a sawmill, yes. I was never right to it.
HF: The building material that came into Las Vegas was all shipped in. Was Ed Von Tobel there at that time?
BO: Yes, Ed Von Tobel had a lumberyard. He carried all kinds of building supplies.
HF: Was that his yard that he had later on there on First Street?
HF: That was where Ed Von Tobel first started up his yard. How old were you when you first went to work as a police officer? Running a beat in Las Vegas?
BO: Let's see, it would have been in January 1, 1935, when I first went on a regular Police Department. They closed up the Stockade and transferred me over to the regular Police Department.
HF: Was Boulder Dam being built at that time?
BO: Boulder Dam was being built at that time, yes.
HF: You never did consider working at the Boulder Dam?
BO: No. My brother Bill worked at the Dam, but I never did.
HF: When you first went to work as a police officer in Las Vegas, did you have a car or did you walk a beat?
BO: We took turns walking the beat or riding in the car.
HF: Did you remember what kind of car you had, your first police car?
BO: We had fords, Chevys, and Pontiacs and we had Mercurys, too, while I was there. But the Pontiac out wore two Fords and a Chevy.
HF: How many paved roads did you have around Las Vegas at that time?
BO: Well, Fremont was paved down to . . . Fremont was really paved clear down at that time because the highway went to Boulder City where they built the Dam.
HF: It was paved clear out through Henderson up over Railroad Pass?
BO: Henderson was built during the War.
HF: What year do you feel, just a rough year within 10 years, was the road paved like from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and on up towards Salt Lake?
BO: Had to have been in the 30s. I'm not for sure when it was, but I remember it was still gravel and washboardy in the late 20s. Caused a prospector ... what makes me remember for sure, the prospector was coming in on the Salt Lake highway towards Vegas and out towards where Nellis Air force [Base] is now, he had a case of dynamite caps in the back of his car. coming over that rough road, it blowed up and scattered him and the car for a quarter of a mile.
HF: You know, nowadays you can't even carry the cap an powder in the same vehicle. did you ever have any interest in working on the roads? did you ever use a team of your horses to build any of roads?
BO: I worked on the Tonopah highway when they were building it, with a team of mules.
HF: And with a slip scraper?
HF: How far out did you work?
BO: I worked out about as far as Tule Springs.
HF: How many years, do you suppose, that you worked on the Las Vegas Police Department before you went to work on the Sheriff's Department?
BO: I went from the Police Department to the Sheriff's Department in 1942.
HF: What was the highest rank you ever reached on the Police Department?
BO: The Police Department, I was Sergeant. The Sheriff's Department, I got up to be Under Sheriff.
HF: Why did you change from the Police Department over to the Sheriff's Department?
BO: Glen Jones and I worked together on the Police Department. Gene Ward was Sheriff and he decided not to run for sheriff again. Glen had worked for a short time under Gene Ward as a Deputy. When he got to be Sheriff, he ran for sheriff and got elected, he asked me to come over and work with him at the Sheriff's department. That was the first time the Sheriff's office had ever been kept open at night. I worked the sheriff's office at night all by myself. The calls would come in through the telephone operator. She would take the calls and every time I got back to where I could phone her, I would call the operator to find out what other calls I had to go on. That's the way the sheriff's operation was there for quite a while and then they finally got put on 8 hour shifts and hired men to be put on those shifts. Then I was made Captain, when we had two night shifts. Then later, I can't remember just exactly what year it was, that I was made Under Sheriff.
HF: When you went to work on the Sheriff's Department was the original courthouse built at that time? the same one that was there in the 40s.
BO: Yes, the same courthouse.
HF: Was the jail in the basement on that?
BO: Yes, the jail was in the basement.
HF: When the Dam was being built, did all the miners and the workers come into Las Vegas on Saturday night?
BO: Oh, yes, and the big problem was the Dam workers would come in at night and get drunk and have fights. Unless the fight was really hurting somebody, we didn't even pay any attention to them because there was one on every corner. But if they got serious about it, and would fight with broken bottles and somebody had to be taken and be sewed up at the hospital, then we had to intervene and take care of it.
HF: Do you remember when the first gambling casino came in, as what we knew as gambling casinos in the 40s?
BO: El Rancho was one of the first built.
HF: What were the names of some of the owners in the El Rancho?
BO: Beldon Katleman.
HF: And then what would be one of the next ones?
BO: The Green Shack was down on about 15th and Fremont and then the El Rancho...
HF: Bob, did you know that Green Shack is still there? they just had some kind of a doings there the other day. The restaurant is still there and it has the same furnishings and is still owned by some of the same family that built that thing. the Flamingo Hotel, do you remember when the Flamingo Hotel was built?
BO: The flamingo was started by Bugsy Siegel.
HF: Did you know Bugsy Siegel?
BO: I knew Bugsy Siegel real well. Bugsy Siegel used to ride around in the sheriff's care with me.
HF: He was supposed to be so notorious and of course, the way he died, did you feel those guys were notorious in those days? Were they from the East? did they used to be gangsters?
BO: I knew he was supposed to be a notorious gambler, but he was one of the best guys that you would ever want to meet, to just meet and ride around with, talk and everything.
HF: Describe him. What he looked like. What his build was.
BO: He wasn't a real big man. He was about 5'9" or 10" and had dark hair and slim. He was a real jovial guy; he would ride around with us in the sheriff's car and tell us stories and stuff, you know about things that happened. He was just a nice guy to be around.
HF: Did he have bodyguards? Did he have a fear that somebody was going to take him out?
BO: No, he didn't have any bodyguards.
HF: Whose money would you say he was spending?
BO: I really don't know that. I don't know where the money came from. I know he had a bunch of partners in with him to build the Flamingo Hotel. But as to who they were, I don't know.
HF: Were you surprised when they killed him?
BO: Yes, I was.
HF: Did you have any idea why they did it?
BO: Well, I knew it was a gang-related incident but I didn't know just exactly why they did it. I had heard stories, of course, that he had crossed somebody and so they were just eliminating him.
HF: did he ever give you a tour? did you ever tour the hotel and some of [the tunnels]? They claimed he had tunnels. Did you ever tour?
BO: I never saw any tunnels or anything. We did tour the hotel with him though.
HF: You said there was one more hotel out on what is today known as The Strip?
BO: The Last Frontier Hotel was out there. It was there before the Flamingo was built.
HF: How many people do you think worked at a hotel of that size in a given year? give us a rough year.
BO: Well that would be in the early 40s the Last Frontier, the El Rancho and they were building the Flamingo. Oh, I don't know. I imagine probably 50 people worked in each hotel.
HF: Did you have many sheriff's calls out there? Because that was way out of Las Vegas.
BO: Yes, we had quite a few sheriff's calls out there. A lot of time, it was because somebody had gambled and run up a big bill and couldn't pay it. they had quite a run in with the El Rancho Hotel one time. At that time I was Under Sheriff and all the deputies that worked at the hotels were given regular uniforms, and were regular deputies out of the sheriff's office and had regular deputy status. So if any emergency arised, we could call on them to go right into work, you know, and fill in for whatever we needed. To start with, the strip hotels were hiring their own deputies. A lot of times they were from back east someplace and had records and everything and were undesirable. When I was made Under Sheriff, I started with the hotels. They could not [no longer] hire their own deputies. they had to call the Sheriff's office and say how many they needed to go to work. We would have these men on file that wanted jobs and they had already been checked out and found to be clean, with no record or anything. Then we would just call so many men and send them out to that hotel to go to work. It stopped all that conniving of having somebody shipped in special to work the hotels. This one time this man had gambled a large sum, I can't remember how much it was, but they put him in a bungalow in the hotel and then had two deputies stationed there to watch to see that he didn't get out [They] told his wife to go back to California and get this money collected that would bail him out. Ralph Lamb was one of the patrol deputies and he came in and told me that this man was being held a prisoner out there until his wife could collect the money in California and come bail him out, which was kidnapping, of course, holding him against his will. So I went out and talked to Beldon Katleman who was the manager of the casino and hotel and told him that couldn't go on. We took the man and took him uptown and put him in our jail at the courthouse for safe keeping until we could get the matter straightened out. Katleman hired bud Bodell, who was a private investigator, to bring some men out and police the hotel, but I pulled all the regular deputies off the hotel until it was settled. When I pulled all the deputies off the hotel, it cancelled his insurance, he was very unhappy. I told him that he had to hire all those deputies back and pay them their back wages and then we would send them back out to go to work. That's what happened finally. He stalled for several days before he would consent to that happening. We sent the deputies back out and they all went to work. He had fired the deputies that was supposed to be guarding this man. I made him hire them back and pay them their back wages before I would send the other deputies back to the hotel to go to work.
HF: Did you ever have a gangland murder, a hit, in there related to the hotels and the gangsters that you knew of?
BO: I can't remember any special hit. I think most of the hits were made in California. They would call somebody down there for a special meeting or something and then get rid of them.
HF: I had always heard that there was sort of an unwritten law in Nevada that they didn't do this sort of thing because it would cost them their gambling license.
BO: That's right.
HF: So, therefore, if they were going to knock of somebody, it wouldn't be done here. That was a pretty good rule; I like that. Let's go back up now onto Fremont Street and start right there by the old train depot and go down the street on each side and see if you can remember some names of the clubs that were there.
BO: Well, there was the Las Vegas Club which was owned by Kell Houssels, the Horseshoe Club which was owned by Benny Binion, and the Golden Nugget which had several partners in it. I can't remember for sure, but one of them was named Thomas, who was also a partner in the theatre on 2nd Street, the Palace Theatre. I can't remember any more casinos then on Fremont Street.
HF: Was the El Cortez there in later years or was there an old hotel?
BO: The El Cortez was built I would say, the last of the 30s or early 40s. I can't remember for sure when it was built.
HF: Benny Binion. do you remember when Benny Binion came to Las Vegas?
BO: I don't remember just what year it was that he came to Las Vegas, but I understand he came from Montana. He had a big ranch in Montana.
HF: Did you know Benny Binion pretty well?
BO: Yes, I knew Benny Binion very well.
HF: Describe Benny Binion, his size and his character if you would, Bob.
BO: Bennie Binion was a man about 5'9" and he probably would weight 180-190 pounds, a fairly good size man, white haired, and he had a real good disposition. He was real jovial and he always wanted to help people who was down and out. He would hear of people that had trouble someplace, and he would go and give them money and help them out. He was a real good man.
HF: Tell us some of your experiences as a police officer. Just a story or something that happened that you thought was comical. I don't necessarily mean sad, murder scene, but something that was comical. You told me one time about you firing some shots and they went through the second story window of an old apartment house. Tell me that story.
BO: We had prisoners in the County Jail (I was on the Police Department at that time) and the apartment house was just southwest of the courthouse and it was a two-story building. The manager was one of the owners of the El Portal Theatre. His name was Pike and he was deaf. He was in his apartment up in that second story. This man broke out of the jail, like he was supposed to (we had been tipped off he was going to) and he started running across the courthouse lawn. I just fired in the air to scare him and the bullet went through the second story of this apartment, right in Pike's apartment, and he didn't know, didn't hear the shot or anything, but it hit a picture on the wall and the picture fell down and he saw it fall down. He started investigating and saw the bullet hole so he called the Chief of Police who was Dave Mackey and Dave Mackey got a hold of me then. I was a Sergeant and [he] said, "Come take a ride with me." I went with him. We went over to Pike's apartment, and he is just showing us all about this, the picture being shot and falling down and the bullet hole in the wall. The chief just wanted me to see that. He told Mr. Pike that we were investigating to find out where that shot came from and we would try to get it all taken care of. I learned a big lesson there, if I was going to shoot in the air to aim a little higher.
HF: Can you tell us from the beginning about Carole Lombard and the airplane that she was riding in that hit the mountain? Can you tell us right from the beginning?
BO: Yes. I was still on the Police Department when that happened. We heard this airplane go over town and it came right over the top of the police department and it was real low and going real slow. We wondered about it when it went over, and soon after it went over, we got a call from one of the mines out in that direction south of town that this airplane had hit Potosi Peak and exploded and was on fire. We sent a man out there to try to find out more about it (that was, of course, in the county and at that time the sheriff's office had just elected a new sheriff, Glen Jones). They said they couldn't get right to the airplane until way late that night. This one fellow got up there to it. He sent word back (I can't remember how he sent word back now), that it had exploded and there were no survivors. The next day we got a crew together with horses and mules and went up to pack out the bodies. We loaded the bodies, most of them. They had the Air force up there to just gather [body] parts and piled [them] in the blankets (brought in a whole bunch of blankets) to put on the horses and pack out. There were only four or five bodies that were whole and could be carried out that way. They had two bodies on a horse and two bodies on a mule that I had that were whole, and the rest were just blankets full of [body] parts. As we were coming out it was snow and ice, real rough country, and we had to go along a narrow trail that was mountain on the south side and a thousand foot drop down on the other side of the trail into a deep canyon. As we were coming out, the horse that had the two bodies on it slipped on the ice and went over the cliff. Tommy Young was leading him and he dallied the rope around a pine tree and the horse just fell over the cliff and was just hanging there, just barely over the cliff by the halter. We got the bodies off and got them back up on top, and the major who was in charge of the Air Force said that if somebody would kill that horse, he would see that they got paid for it. We got the bodies off and Tommy Young just reached down and took a knife and cut the horse's throat and then cut the rope and let him fall. The horse belonged to a deputy by the name of McKnight. He got $200 for the horse. We went on and the breeching broke on my mule and tripped her. She went over another cliff. We dallied the rope around and got the bodes off and back on top. Then I cut the rope and let her go. I didn't want to kill her, as it wasn't that far of a fall, only about 50 feet that she had to fall. It was shale, on a real steep slope. She hit on her hind end on that shale and then somersaulted all the way down that slope and brayed all the way as she was going. After she got to the bottom she got up and shook herself and took a couple of steps. I could see she didn't have any broken legs. So I had to go quite a ways down and around to get down to where she was. I got her and came back up there, and it had drove her tail bone back up into her body quite a ways (she looked awful funny), but she didn't seem to be hurt anywhere else but that. We had to get the bodies out of there, so I put the bodies back on her and went out with her. We got all the bodies out and then an investigation crew came from the Air Force. They came into the police station and wanted to know how to get there and if somebody could escort them up there. Chief pointed to me and said I was a good escort. I escorted them up there. We had to go around through Goodsprings, and then back north and then take a trail up a canyon. It was a steep trail to get up there to where the bodies had been. They were right up close to the peak, where the main part of the airplane was, and I was down below. While I'm killing time waiting for them to come back out, I just walked around, and I found several wallets that were in the crevasse in the ice against the rock; and I gathered them up and gave them to the major. I was just down below or probably 75 feet below where they were. It was a real steep slope and real icy and this major slipped. He slipped sitting up and he came sliding right down the mountain towards me. I threw my arm around a tree and just held my hand out. As he came by he grabbed my hand. If I hadn't had been there he would have went on down another couple hundred feet and then over a 1,000-foot cliff. He was very grateful that I was there and that he was able to grab my hand. We went ahead and they finished their investigation and we went back out. I heard since, that they went up there because they kept getting calls on it. Somebody would go up there and find this and that and then would report it. So the air Force went up there and blowed the cliff down over the top of that and just buried it. Most of the passengers were Air Force.
HF: Did you see Clark Gable up there at all?
BO: Yes, I saw Clark Gable. He came to the police station and later went up there. He was in bad shape. He was so broken up. Carole Lombard and her mother were both on that airplane.
HF: Did you know where they were headed?
BO: They were headed to Los Angeles. Rumors said they had been partying in that airplane. That was never proven.
HF: Can you think of another rescue or something that would make a good story? Where you had to go out and rescue somebody or something? How did you determine, was it much of a decision to make as to whether it was a county call or a city call?
BO: It was a county call to go out there.
HF: No, I mean in Las Vegas, when the calls came in?
BO: Yes. Of course the city calls were just in the city and the county took in the whole county and Clark County is a very large county. It took in all of Moapa Valley, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Jean to the south and Blue Diamond to the west.
HF: Did you know Doby Doc?
HF: Did you know where Doby Doc came from to Las Vegas?
BO: I really don't know where he came from.
HF: What did he do when he first came to Las Vegas? Because what I knew of Doby Doc, he never was involved in gambling until Benny Binion was out of Las Vegas for a while.
BO: I really don't know exactly what brought him here. Rumors were that maybe Benny Binion brought him here. I don't know for sure who brought him here or anything. He was one of the ones that was at the Last Frontier Hotel. He was one of the ones that was in on that.
HF: I know that he had a lot of his old western stuff out there. I never did know whether he was involved in gambling. He was involved in gambling in Winnemucca, somewhere up north, and his place burned down and he came to Vegas. do you remember when Binion came to Las Vegas? did he come right in and open up, was it called the Horseshoe?
BO: Yes, I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was back in the early years.
HF: that house that he had out there on Bonanza, did he move right into that? Or did he have it built?
BO: He had it built. It was a really nice place.
HF: Did you ever meet or know any of the entertainers that came up to the hotels?
BO: Oh, yes. Lots of them.
HF: Who were they? Give us a name or two of some that you remember.
BO: I remember about two or three of them. A colored man that dances, how's that.
HF: Sammy Davis?
BO: Sammy Davis was one too that was there a lot. Spike Jones, I used to love to go see Spike Jones. He was so funny. He came several times to Vegas.
HF: Did you go a lot to the shows in the hotels?
BO: I went quite a lot, yes. took my family out and we would spend the evening there and watch the shows. Went a lot of times to the Flamingo.
HF: Give me some of the names of the Chiefs of Police that you remember.
BO: Clint Boggs was Chief of Police when I first went on the job at the police department. Dave Mackey, he was a real good chief and he went to the FBI academy and learned all he could learn there and came back. Every night he would have all the policemen come back for a session at the police department and h would teach what he had learned at the academy. This was very good. Then Frank Waite was a chief, Frank Waite was one of the main men that tracked the outlaw Indian, Queho.
HF: Tell us about Queho.
BO: Queho was an outlaw Indian that everybody was scared to death of back in the 20s, and I guess early 30s. He had a reputation of not caring about human life or anything. He went into a house in Searchlight, Nevada, and a man and woman were sitting in their living room with a lamp and heard a noise in the kitchen. He had come in through a window and had a gunnysack and filling it full of supplies off of their shelf. He dropped a can and made this noise. The woman thought that one of her cats had got into the house and knocked something over. She went to the door with the lamp to see what was out there. He just shot her and went out through the window.
Us kids, growing up out on the ranch, every time we slept outside, all summer, on beds outside ... Every little noise we would hear at night had to be Queho. We were scared to death, boy, I'll tell you.
Frank Waite, Joe May, (Joe May was an early policeman in Las Vegas. He patrolled on horseback in the early days, so did Frank Waite), they formed posses and went down along the Colorado River where they had heard that Queho was hanging out. They tried to track him and everything. He pulled all kinds of tricks. He tied his shoes on backwards so they would try to track him going the wrong way. He traveled the tops of mesquite trees. Mesquite trees were real thick, and big, down there along the river and he traveled through the tops of the trees. The closest that they knew they were close to him was when they came onto his campfire and part of a sheep was being roasted over that fire. He had heard them coming and took off. In the later years a prospector found a mummified body in a cave and they figured it was Queho. He had been bitten by a rattlesnake and died in that cave. Frank Waite got the mummy and brought it home and built a glass case in his house right alongside his stairway going up stairs and he had it in that glass case. Every time we had a Helldorado event, he would put that on display. His wife didn't appreciate it at all. She was real upset about it being in her house and having to go right by it to go to bed.
HF: Do you know what finally happened to it?
BO: No, I don't know for sure. I have heard different stories.
HF: I think that Roland Wiley claims that he put it down here at his Cathedral Canyon. Do you remember Roland Wiley?
BO: Very well.
HF: Tell us about Roland Wiley but don't let me forget to go back to the Chiefs of Police. I'm getting off beat here.
BO: Roland Wiley was a lawyer in the early days in Las Vegas. McNamee was a judge. We would take somebody in front to McNamee that had done something wrong and Roland Wiley would defend all the time, different ones. He used to get mad at me, not really mad, but he would come an tell me "Dog gone you, you've beat me in court, I couldn't get that guy off." I would arrest somebody and have to get up and testify. He was a good friend of mine and in later years he would want me to call him when I would come to Vegas. He wanted to take me out to his ranch and everything, but I never did get to go out there.
HF: You know he died just recently.
BO: Yes, I saw that in the paper.
HF: Let's go back to the Chiefs.
BO: Frank Waite was chief one time and he was the man that had been in posses. In the early days, he patrolled Vegas on horseback. Joe May was another man that patrolled Vegas on horseback. I can't remember who was Chief of Police after I went to the Sheriff's Office. The City Commissioners had fired Dave Mackey and why I never could figure that out. He was really a good Chief of police. He did something that the commissioners didn't like and they fired him.
Mackey was Chief of Police and they decided to fire him. They were going to bring in somebody from California to be chief of Police that had never had any police experience. We went to the legislature and got them to pass a bill that nobody could be a Chief of Police without having five years police experience. The city commissioners got mad that we went over their heads and got the law passed. They fired us all. I had been on the police department for five years and got fired. I took Esther and the kids and went to Utah; we had taken a bunch of cattle up there and were in partners with the Bowlers with the cattle and a deer camp. I had this deer camp every fall at the old Truman ranch and we would go up there and say. I would take my vacation, take a bunch of horses, mules, and stuff up there. We had doctors, lawyers, etc. from California to hunt deer. We had this one little mule named Addie Godlyn. You could lay your rifle right between her ears and shoot a deer and she would never move. She finally went stone deaf from the guys shooting on her.
HF: Let's talk about sheriffs. All the sheriffs you remember in your lifetime.
BO: Sam Gay is the first sheriff I remember in Las Vegas. He was a great big huge man with a deep voice. He never carried a gun. He had hands on him (it would take three or four of mine to make one of his); he was a big son-of-a-gun. If he wanted somebody, he would just reach out and take hold and say, "come with me." that is all there was to it, they did. After Sam Gay, Joe Keate was sheriff. Gene Ward got to be sheriff after Joe Keate. Then Glen Jones. Then Butch Leypoldt. Then Ralph lamb. After Ralph Lamb was John Moran. He is the last one that I really remember.
HF: OK, let's talk about judges. How many judges do you remember in Las Vegas?
BO: Back in the early days, Henderson was the judge for years and years. McNamee was a city judge. Lillis was a judge in the 1930s. I just can't remember who else was a judge.
HF: Let's talk about when you first came to Pahrump. The first time you had ever come to Pahrump.
BO: I took Esther and the kids and went to Veyo, Utah and I didn't give a darn if I ever went back to the Police Department. they knew where I was up there and they telephone up there and told me that everything was settled and come back to work. I hum, hawed around. I didn't care if I went back to work or not after that. Anyhow, finally I went back and we went to work again. We got it all settled. I think Frank Waite was Chief of Police after Mackey. they did fire Mackey and Mackey died shortly after that. He was such a big heavy man that it took four of us on each side of the coffin to carry him. His wife worked in the last Frontier, after his death, as a secretary in the hotel.
HF: Tell us the story about the wife beater.
BO: When we were on the Police Department we had a lot of different stories but the one that always sticks in my mind was the man that would get his pay check and stop by the boulder club and cash it. Then he would get drunk, loose all his money and go home and beat his wife and kids. We would get a call from the neighbors that this man was beating his wife again. So we would go down and get him. He lived on Eleventh Street off of Fremont and North Eleventh. We would get him and put him in jail and have to turn him lose so he could make a living for his big family. One night, Glenn Jones and I were patrolling in the car together and we were down about Fourth and Fremont. this man is staggering down the street headed for home. We decided to teach him a little lesson. We'd take turns jumping out of the car and slapping him and kicking his hind end down the street and telling him that that was what he was going to get every time he beat his wife and family. We took him clear home that way, knocking on him the whole way and telling him that if we got a call that he was beating his wife, he was going to get more. Every time he beat his wife, we were going to beat him. That man never beat his wife again. That cured him and we figured that was better than taking him to court or putting him in jail or anything else. He learned his lesson.
HF: Tell us about the highway patrolman that went out to do the accident for you.
BO: When I was in the Sheriff's Department, we were real busy one night with a lot of calls and all the deputies were out on calls, and a highway patrolman came into our office. we had a call of a wreck out by Jean, Nevada (which is south towards Los Angeles about 30 miles). I asked him if he would go out there and check it out and see what it was. Hours later he came back into the office and handed me a slip of paper and said that was it. After he had gone, I took time out to look at the paper and he had written on the paper, "car hit cow, cow dead." That was his report.
HF: Tell us about the Indian Village, where it was in relationship to downtown.
BO: In Las Vegas there was an Indian Village down south main Street and it was about 10 acres or so. there was a lot of camps in there and some cabins. We were always getting calls down there to go to the Indian Village because somebody was in a fight or something was wrong. When we had a lot of Indians that would get drunk uptown, (and of course) we would have to sober them up. We had two sisters, and one named Liza and I can't think of the other's name. they were so big and wide that they had to twist and turn to ever get through a door of a car and get in it. they would be drunk and we would try to put them in a car and take them in and lock them up and sober them up. They would just stand there and laugh at us because we couldn't push them in the car. they had to want to get in the car before you could ever put them in the car. Sometimes we would walk down the street to the jail and get there with them. We [would] have to coax them and coax them to get in a car because they wouldn't get in by being pushed; they had to want to get in. That's just one of the stories of the Indians. They would get drunk all the time.
The first time I ever was in the Pahrump Valley, I was 14 years old and I came out with a man named Track that wanted to get a bunch of the old ties off of the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad that they were tearing up after they discontinued the train. We came out close to the turnoff to come to Pahrump from the Tonopah Highway, which was the old railroad bed at that time. We gathered 600 ties and hauled them over behind the little mountain by where the town of Crystal is now. I painted a green T on the end of each tie and he was going to gradually haul those ties to Las Vegas. Somebody stole all the ties and he never got anything out of all of our work. After we got through hauling the ties over behind the little mountain, he said he had a friend up here in the mountains and wanted to know if I would like to go up there with him. I said sure. We came around the mountain to what is now my ranch in the mountains, and the name of the springs there is, Crystal Springs. Bill Beck and his wife lived there. Bill Beck was a friend of Mr. Track. Bill Beck was married to an Indian woman and they had a brand new baby boy and a little girl that was about three years old. The little girl would hide behind the rocks and watch me walk around there and watch every move I made. I got a big kick out of her hiding and watching me. After we left and had gone, in Las Vegas Darv Sampson and another fellow decided they were going to come over here to the Pahrump ranch, buy some horses, break them, and sell them. We came over to the Pahrump ranch and got about 20 head of horses, and most of them were big workhorses, but they had never been broke. some of them were 12-14 years old. There was one little sorrel mare in the bunch that was real young so I broke her on the way home herding the other horses. We got up to Johnnie and Walt Stennett, a colored cowboy, was living there with a white woman and three children. She had been a schoolteacher. She got broke and didn't have any place to go so Walt Stennett took her in and she was living there with him. Darv Sampson and Roy bought some horses from Walt and they had to go up in the mountains and gather those horses. one of them, I remember, was a black, gaited mare and she was broke. Walt saddled her up and got on her on the edge of a cliff. We asked him what he was doing that for and he said she would be scared to jump off that cliff. She wouldn't buck. We got some Shetlands from Walt, too. We drove them on through, over to the Tonopah Highway. The horses we had got from the Pahrump ranch were real fat. they had been living in a big mesquite pasture and grass on the Pahrump ranch. They had a bunch of hogs in there that was wild and they would shoot a horse and let the hogs eat the horse meat and the mesquite beans and the hogs got real fat off of that. Anyhow, in July on our way to Las Vegas, just before we go to Indian Springs, one of these horses started running backwards and kneeled over. We found out that it had just been so fat that the fat had melted on this horse because it had got so hot. It was in July that it got so hot. The fat melted and that killed him. We lost another one after we left Indian Springs going towards Las Vegas the same way. We got them to Las Vegas and after several months of working them and breaking them, we took them through Bunkerville and Mesquite, Nevada and traded them and sold them off over there. That was the second time I had ever been into Pahrump Valley.
HF: Tell us about Walt Stennett teaching you how to catch chickens.
BO: Walt Stennett was a real character. He later came down and stayed with us in Las Vegas for a while. He worked at the slaughterhouse in Las Vegas at the same time I did. [Bob Owens worked at the slaughterhouse after he worked for the railroad.] He told me he was a cattle rustler, a chicken thief, and everything else that came along. He told me his trick of staling chickens was to take gunnysacks with him, of course, to put the chickens in. he would take a pole with him, like a broom handle or shovel handle or something. he would build a fire way out from where he was going to steal the chickens and get that wood real hot (the pole). then he would wrap some sacks around it to keep it warm and then he would go to the chicken house. He would take the sacks off and tap a chicken on the roost on the legs and the chicken would club onto that pole. He would tap another one and kept that up until hot a pole fill of chickens. He would just put it over his shoulder and take off. The chickens would put their heads under their wings and go back to sleep because they were nice and warm. Then when he was way out away from the place where he stole them, he would dump them into the sacks and carry them away. He later got caught stealing cattle and died in the penitentiary in Carson City. He was quite a cowboy and he worked at the slaughterhouse. Milton Bowler from Veyo, Utah had leased the slaughterhouse and was running it. I worked for him and Walt Stennett worked for him. Bowler and I went to town one day to take orders for meat, going to the different grocery stores to get orders. Walt Stennett was told to fire up the boiler, so we could kill a bunch of hogs. He fired up the boiler [and then] he went back inside butchering beef. The boiler got too hot and it went to popping off. He looked out the door at it. He was scared to go outside to it, and when we got back it was still popping off so we shut it off. We told him that if that boiler had blown up it would have taken the slaughterhouse and all with it. He said if he'd known that he would have run clear uptown. Another time he was butchering a bull in the slaughterhouse. He had shot it in the chute and opened the chute and let [it] roll out onto the floor, and the bull got up and took after him. Of course, with the wet floor, the bull would slide on the wet cement floor. Walt would duck one way then the other and the bull would slide right on by him. He finally got hold of the gun again, shot the bull again, and got him down. another time he was butchering a big beef and had it way up in the air and was skinning on the bottom part of it. the cable broke that was holding the pulley and the beef fell on top of him and pinned him to the floor. He laid there for a hour or more and nobody came to get him out from under the beef. He kept wiggling a little at a time until he finally got out from under beer. He was really a character.
HF: Was this the slaughterhouse that I knew in the 40s that was there along the railroad tracks?
HF: Who owned that?
BO: Blanding originally owned it and it had been sold to somebody and Bowler had it leased. I can't remember who was the owner. It later burned and they wouldn't give him a license to reopen it. They wouldn't let him rebuild it then. The man who had been running it moved to Arizona and built a slaughterhouse.
HF: When did you come back to Pahrump? When was your next move?
BO: I had been running livestock east of Las Vegas and had a bunch of cattle and horses running down there. I was looking for a place to run stock. I had heard that Herman Jones was up here in the mountains on the old Bill Beck place and he wanted to sell out. I drove up to talk to him, made a deal with him, and bought the place from him. That was in 1944, and we still own that place, and have it leased out now to a man that runs cattle up there. The horses are considered wild horses now but back when I first bought the place, I brought 70 head of horses and some cattle up from Las Vegas and put them on the range there, besides the 100 head of cattle there. Then it built up to several hundred head of horses very quickly. I would sell horses to people in California and they would taken them to California 100 head at a time, cull them out, and use them for different things that they wanted them for. I had every color of horse you could ever imagine. There are still a lot of horses out here on the range but, of course, the BLM claims [them] now. They have been taking some of the horses and burros off of there and taking them to other places. I heard they took 60 head of burros to Colorado.
HF: What about the water rights? How did you acquire the water rights on that mountain?
BO: The water rights on the mountain to the different springs were originally filed on by Bill Beck starting in about 1919. I was trying to file on the water rights and was informed by the water engineer's office that I couldn't do anything with them because they were in Bill Beck's name. I found that Bill Beck had died in Barstow, California and I got a death certificate from there. Then later Elmer Bowman had moved into the [Pahrump] Valley and Beck's wife and some other Indians were camped by Bowman's ranch. Bowman came and told me that Annie Back was camped down there and we should talk to her. I got a quitclaim deed from Annie Beck for all the land and water rights on this mountain that they had in the early days. I have that and also I have an affidavit from George Ishmael that he know Bill and Annie Back in the early days and they had ran cattle and horses on that range at those springs all that time. I then sent all that in to the water engineer's office and got all the springs in my name. That is the way it stands today.
HF: The State of Nevada, we know the water all belongs to them, but has what is called a vested right. The vested right is one that existed prior to them putting a permit number on each water right. Has that ever came up in your conservations with the State, that those are vested water rights?
BO: Yes, we are in the process now of trying to get that cleared up with the information that we have and the papers that we have on the water rights. We are going to try to get all that in vested rights.
HF: Tell me about how you used to come up from Las Vegas on weekends, or sometimes on your vacation, and ride those mountains and check on your cattle and horse.
BO: On days off from the sheriff's department, after I bought the ranch, I would bring my family (days off, vacation time, anytime we could get away) and come up and ride the mountains and work the livestock, cattle and horses. Brand them and do whatever had to be done with the livestock. In the late 50s I got sick and couldn't operate very good up there at that time. My two sons, Dave and Jim, quit their jobs in Las Vegas and moved out here with me and helped me run things up there until we finally moved to Utah and leased the place to different people.
HF: Tell me about when you retired and sold your property in Las Vegas and then bought 40 acres right here in the valley floor. What year did this happen?
BO: That was in 1963. I had put in over 20 years in law enforcement in Las Vegas and retired. I sold the place we had in Las Vegas and it was turned into an urban renewal district for the colored people. this was located alongside of Vegas Heights. We moved to Pahrump Valley, bought 40 acres from Chuck Connelly, and built that up from sagebrush to a nice ranch. We had an orchard on both sides of the house, big corral built like one in a stockyard for breaking horses, took care of cattle there that came off the mountain. We hauled cattle to Fallon, Nevada and sold them at the sale there.
HF: In what year did you sell out and move to Utah?
BO: It was in the 70s that I sold the place to my nephew, Billy Owens, and moved to Ferron, Utah. We had a large operation up there, cattle and horses, but we have now sold most of it and just live in town and have a small operation in town.
HF: Tell me a little bit about your brother, Bill. Bill was the only member of your family that I knew. Tell me a little about Bill, what he did as a boy; how, I understand he had a chance to go down to the movies, and he tried that a little, cowboyed a little. Tell us something about Bill.
BO: Bill grew up in Las Vegas and later moved to California (after my mother moved to California) and he was a truck driver in California. When I acquired this mountain place, I went and talked to him and to him to come over here [and] go in with me on it. Then he decided he wanted to go into the plastering business. He started his own plastering business in Las Vegas and that same business is in operation today by his son, Billy. Bill was always a prankster when he was a kid. Kids were all on horseback at that time and they would ride around and do different things. One of their favorite tricks was outdoor toilets on Halloween. They would catch somebody going to the toilets, watch until they go in, then they would rope the toilet and jerk it over. That was their favorite Halloween pastime. Bill finally bought... his some bought my place in Pahrump, and then together they bought the Carberry Place on Homestead Road and had 200 acres of alfalfa down there. They were putting the fence around it to keep cattle out and were hurrying to get through so they could go deer hunting. Bill was driving a jeep and had buckets of cement in the back of it so they could pour cement around the corner and brace posts of the fence. at the northwest corner of the place, Bill started up the hill in the jeep with the buckets of cement and it turned over backwards and came down [on] him and killed him. His son and wife had the place then. Now I understand that a man has taken it over and planted alfalfa and [is ] working it again, but I don't know the actual status of the place.
HF: My father was Stanley Ford, and you and Stanley Ford had the most different relationship of any people I have ever seen in my life, as friends. Would you tell me when you first met him, how you first met him, and a little bit about your friendship over the years?
BO: Well, when I first bought the ranch in the mountains we had trouble with the cattle coming down into Pahrump Valley. I rode a horse down hunting cattle and met Stan Ford on the old Raycraft place and told him what I was doing. He said it was getting late in the afternoon and you just come on in and we will have supper. You can stay here tonight, feed your horse, and tomorrow I'll go help you gather cattle. From that time on we became very close buddies. Stan Ford was one of the best friends I ever had in my life. Whenever I came to Pahrump Valley, to gather cattle or anything else, I always had a home to go to. Hattie Ford, his wife, always set a table that nobody could turn down. We had a real relationship clear through life with Stan Ford until he did. He was my best friend.
(Bob Owens sings this song)
"The Ballad of Billy Vanero"
Billy Vanero heard them say
In an Arizona town one day
That a band of Apache Indians
Were on the trail of death
Heard them tell the murder done
three men killed at Rocky Run
They're in danger at the Cow Ranch
Said Vanero under his breath
Cow Ranch forty miles away
Was a little place that lay
In a deep and shady valley
In the mighty wilderness
Half a score of homes were there
And in one a maiden fair
Held the heart of Billy Vanero
Billy Vanero's little Bess
Not a moment he delayed
When his brave resolve was made
Why man, his comrades told him
When they heard his daring plan
Your are riding straight to death
But he answered save your breath
I may never reach the Cow Ranch
But I'll do the best I can
Lower and lower sank the sun
He drew rein at Rocky Run
Here those men met death, My Choco
And he stroked his glossy mane
So shall those we go to warn
Ere the coming of the morn
If we fail God help my Bessie
And he started on again
Sharp and clear a rifle shot
Woke the echoes of the spot
I am wounded cried Vanero
As he swayed from side to side
Where there's life there's always hope
Slowly onward I will lope
If I fail to reach the Cow Ranch
Bessie Lee shall know I tried
I will save her yet he cried
Bessie Lee shall know I tried
But for her sake he halted
In the shadow of a hill
From his chaperejos he took
With weak hands a little book
Tore a blank leaf from its pages
Saying this shall be my will
From a limb a twig he broke
And he dipped his pen of oak
In the warm blood that spurting
From the wound above his heart
Rouse, he wrote, before too late
Apache warriors lie in wait
Good-bye Bess, God bless your darling
And he felt the cold tears start
Then he made his message fast
Love's first message and its last
To the saddle horn he tied it
And his lips were white with pain
Take this message if not me
Straight to Bessie Lee
Then he tied himself to the saddle
And gave his horse the rein
Just at dusk a horse of brown
Wet with sweat came panting down
The little lane at the Cow Ranch
And stopped at Bessie's door
But the cowboy was asleep
And his slumbers were so deep
Little Bess could never wake him
Though she tried forever more
You have heard the story told
by the young and by the old
Down yonder at the Cow Ranch
The night the Apache's came
Of the sharp and bloody fight
How the Chief fell in the fight
And the panic stricken warriors
When they heard Vanero's name
And there heaven and earth between
Keeps a little flower so green
that little Bess had planted there
they laid her by his side
HF: Let's talk about Vera Krupp
BO: Vera Krupp bought the old Wilson Ranch on the eastside of Spring Mountain and ran cattle there for several years. She was from Germany and had been married to the man that had the Krupp & Krupp Munition Factory in Germany. She wanted to get away from there and come to America. She just took off without anyone knowing it, left him and came to America. As I understand it, he tried to find her and bring her back to Germany.
She didn't want to go to Germany and she had bodyguards for a while to be sure that no one got in and took her away. She had her house fixed with alarms so if anyone tampered with anything at all, it would ring an alarm in her house and she would know it. She enjoyed being in the cattle business here. When I was at the end of my term in the Sheriff's Department, working with livestock division, she was having a lot of trouble with cattle being stolen. I was out to her ranch quite a bit at that time and around the range trying to catch up to the cattle thieves. One day I got close enough to a guy that had roped the calf and I was so close they couldn't finish the job. they had to let the calf go with the rope dragging. I caught the calf and got the rope off of him but we never did catch the cattle thieves.
HF: What was her foreman's name?
BO: She had Brumley, can't think of his first name. (Possibly called him Slim.)
HF: Let's talk about Matt Cusick. Can you tell us where you saw Matt Cusick and when you met him?
BO: Mat Cusick, when I bought the mountain ranch, was living at Johnnie. He had a house to live in, but he built him a little screen cage, I would called it, right out against the highway. He had a bed in that and would lay there and if a car was coming he could flag it down and talk to them. He would get the news; he always wanted to know what the news was. He told me how he was a boy and the Turks came after him in Yugoslavia and that they hid in a cave to keep the Turks from getting them. His whole family was hid in this cave and there was a tiny baby in the group that kept crying. It just wouldn't quit crying and they were afraid the Turks were going to find them and kill they all. They killed the baby to keep from being caught. After he was over here in America, he was interested in mining and he prospected all around the country, different places, and wound up here in Johnnie as an old man. When he died he wanted to be buried at Johnnie by another man that is buried there (but I can't remember the name of the other man now but I knew him). I met him when I was 14 years old and came up here the first time. Mr. Track knew him, too. We stopped there, and this man was fixing dinner for us. I was walking around outside and there was a lot of burros. I was interested in the burros and I was following them around and talking to them. I came back to the house and I heard this man laughing and telling Mr. Track that he was having burro steaks for dinner and wondered what I would think of it if I knew what they were doing. After we ate the steaks and had a big dinner, I turned loose and brayed like a burro. that man's eyes like to [have] popped out of his head. then we went on up to the Beck Ranch.
HF: Ok, tell us about Johnny Yount, where he was located and what you know about him and his ranch.
BO: Johnny Yount, in the early days, had the old place that Wiley wound up with down at the lower end of Pahrump Valley, the south end. He ran cattle there and was a real nice man, very quiet. He wanted my brother to work for him and then his wife had died. He married a lady that we knew, but I can't remember her name. Then he died and Wiley was doing some attorney work for him. Wiley really got the place for his bill for the attorney work. His wife then died later, so Wiley just wound up with the whole place.
HF: Let's go back to Las Vegas and talk about the undertaker, the lady undertaker.
BO: Mrs. Roberts had the undertaker parlor (and she later married a man, I can't remember his name, Gene something), on Second Street and it was right next to the Police Station. When we were kids going to school, I think I was in the fifth grade, a Mexican that was working at Sloan got a note from his wife who lived in some apartments on Lewis Street across from the courthouse. She told him that he didn't have to bother with her anymore that she had found another man. He came to town, walked in the house, and never said a word. There was a white woman in there that was married to a Mexican man visiting with this woman. He went on out into the Kitchen and got a plain table knife, came back in and grabbed his wife by the hair, threw her on the floor and went to sawing her head off. The white woman tried to stop him. He left his wife then and tried to saw her head off. Finally he got his wife's head sawed clear off and the white woman's throat was cut good, but she lived. She had a big scar around her throat. Being curious kids, we went by the mortuary and knocked on the door. A man came to the door, and we wanted to know if we could see this woman. He said, "why sure," and invited us in. The woman was laying on the slab and her head placed against her body. We were very wide-eyed and scared to death after we saw this woman. That is the one thing I remember about this mortuary.