Carl Dodge Oral History Part 1 of 2
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
An Interview with
CARL F. DODGE
April 12 1994
This interview is part of socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.
Museum and Archives
University of Nevada
Oral History Program
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Carl Dodge was born in Reno in 1915, but moved to Fallon with his family when he was five years old. The Dodges became successful farmers and ranchers. They also founded a construction company which took on projects throughout Nevada and Utah, and later helped build the Fallon Naval Air Station. Following graduation from the University of Nevada, Carl earned a law degree from Stanford and then served in the Navy during World War II. Returning to Fallon after the war, he purchased the family's Island Ranch. In 1958 he was elected to the state senate for the first of six consecutive terms. His distinguished service in the legislature ended in 1980 when he resigned to take a seat on the Nevada Gaming Commission. He remains active in public life.
Carl Dodge's oral history explores several subjects. Chief among them are: changes in agriculture and irrigation practices in Churchill County over time; the origins and economic impact of the naval air station; real estate development and construction in Fallon; and principal pieces of legislation that Mr. Dodge was associated with in his twenty-two year career in the state senate.
- T. King, Director
University of Nevada Oral History Program
SYLVIA ARDEN: This Is Sylvia Arden, Interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Project interviewing Carl Dodge at his home at 1850 Manchester Circle Fallon, Nevada. The date is April 12, 1994. Good morning, Mr. Dodge, it’s a pleasure interviewing you this morning. Can you first tell us your full name and where and when you were born?
CARL DODGE: My name is Carlon Fayette Dodge, but I've always gone by Carl rather than Carlon. I was born in Reno, Nevada, June eighth, 1915.
SA: I first want to learn about your grandparents, especially the Dodges. Tell me a little bit about your grandparents—as much as you can about your grandpa Dodge before they came to Fallon.
CD: Well, that would have been Harry Dodge. And I really don't know too much about him, except that he came west at a point in time after my father and uncle came west . . . and actually was with my dad up in the Madeline Plains in Lassen County, California and is buried in Reno.
SA: Did Harry ever come to Fallon?
CD: Not to my knowledge.
SA: Now, tell me about your father.
CD: His name was Carlon Fayette Dodge, Senior. [He was born in Algona, Iowa, February 1885.] I'm named after my father. My father's mother and father were divorced when he was young. He quit school when he was in the eighth grade to help support his mother. At a later point in time he went down to Mississippi. I don't know what he was doing in Mississippi, but he came to Nevada, to Goldfield, during the gold strike in 1907. He was the first member of the family that came west.
SA: Tell me about your mother before she was married.
CD: My father knew my mother [Buena Reed] in Algona, [Iowa]. He was seven years older than she was. He went back in 1913 and she was nineteen years old at the time, as I recall. She was working in a jewelry store in Algona, and he went back to marry her. It's kind of an interesting story because he went back there with gold pieces in his pocket and one thing and another, and they thought that he was part of the wild, wild West. [laughter] And so he asked her mother if he could marry my mother, and she said, "No." She [Buena's mother] didn't want to have anything to do with him. So they eloped to Mason City, Iowa, where they were married. They came west by train after they were married, and at that time, my dad and uncle were living on the Madeline Plains in Lassen County, California. He had sent word ahead that he was going to be there at a certain time, and when they got there a whole bunch of cowboys were there. They were curious about the bride. And so they got off the train and my mother tells the story . . . and she always laughed about it. She said they looked her over, you know, for a long time and nobody said anything. And finally one of these guys said, "She'll never stay boys; she'll never stay." [laughter]
SA: [laughter] Was that because she was kind of citified looking?
CD: No, no, not particularly. But she was young and they just figured she wasn't going to stay in a kind of isolated area, and it was a real pioneer life really. Then at a later point in time, of course, her mother got to be very fond of my dad. [laughter]
SA: What was your uncle's name?
CD: His name was Dana C., but he was called Bob Dodge.
SA: That was your father's brother?
CD: Yes, younger brother.
SA: Was he married too?
CD: No, not at that time. He married a girl from Susanville after he came to the Madeline Plains. He knew her in Susanville; they were married up there. So he was single when he came. In 1912 my family homesteaded 160 acres of land up there on the Madeline Plains—it was a cattle area, a range area. The Madeline Plains was desert and brush. It was about a mile high and surrounded by mountains where the cattle ranged. One of the very early recollections I have is that my grandmother Dodge moved out from Iowa and was living with my mother and father when I was little. They used to range sheep through that area, and at night the sheep herders would have a campfire; and I can remember—this must have been when I was three years old or something like that—my grandmother taking me out at night to see the sheepy lights on the hills. [laughter] That was an exciting thing to me.
CD: They homesteaded 160 acres of land which had some water access; then my uncle Bob was married and they each built a home. There were two children in each family. I had a sister, and then there were two boys in the other family. And at the point in time they came to Fallon, the children ranged in age from two, three, four, and I was five. The reason they came to Fallon is because the only school up there on the Madeline Plains was a small country school that was quite a distance from the ranch, and it was a mile high. It was a bad winter country and the roads were poor, and they figured it was no place to educate children. So the reason they came here is because I was about ready to enter school. And I did enter the first grade here in Fallon. They came in the summer of 1920.
SA: A Couple questions. How far was that homestead from Fallon? About how many miles, that they picked Fallon instead of some other place.
CD: Oh, I can tell you the reason they picked Fallon. Didn’t have anything to do with the miles. But that's an interesting story. When my dad came west, he got off the train in Hazen. He took a stage to go down to Goldfield, and it came through Fallon. At that time Fallon was in the early stages of agricultural development, but there was a fair amount of irrigated land off the Carson River, riparian right land. He came by stage over a sandy road through Fallon, and he thought it was a real desert oasis.
SA: Even then?
CD: Even then, and he never forgot it. And so when they decided to make the move, I think it was primarily because of his initial impression as he came through here going to Goldfield.
SA: That’s a wonderful story. Tell me, as you can from what he told you or your remembrances, what their beginning here… how they chose the place, etcetera.
CD: They came here with about three hundred head of horses they had acquired while they were on the Madeline Plains, quite a few horses. Incidentally, they did not sell that Madeline property at that time. They operated it for a number of years, and I finally liquidated it after they both passed away. But they had these horses. And the first year they were here . . . it was really quite a logistical thing. They bought some big hay presses to press alfalfa hay, not in small bales but in very large 5-wire bales that weighed about 160 to 170 pounds apiece. They had a crew with each press. People put up their hay loose at that time in stacks. So my dad and his brother would buy hay from a farmer, and they would bale that hay and then haul it into the railroad in Fallon to ship it out. They processed ten thousand tons of alfalfa hay and shipped it out the first year they were here. It was a big profit.
SA: Let me back up, at first what property did they obtain here in Churchill County?
CD: At that time they didn't obtain any property. It was at a later point in time when they finally began to acquire some property.
SA: But, I mean, where did they raise this hay?
CD: No, they didn’t raise this hay. They bought it from the farmers.
SA: Oh, they bought it! I see.
CD: Wherever it was, the farmer had it produced. It was in a stack. And they handled it from there. And that’s why these three bailers were just scattered here and there around the valley.
SA: So it was like a business they were starting.
CD: Sure. And then the other thing that happened was my father went to work about that time as a manager of a department store; and it was a large department store. It's the building that's on the southeast corner of Maine and Center streets that was called Gray, Reid & Wright Company. It was a large department store, considering the number of people here. They had all kinds of things: clothing, hardware, and everything. And he managed that store for a number of years.
SA: Two questions: Can you first spell the name of the store, and then tell me what year this was while they were doing this?
CD: It was “Gray, Reid & Wright” They were headquartered in Reno. They had a store there and they had a branch down here. This was probably in 1921, and he continued on with that until about 1923 or 1924. Meanwhile, they didn't have a home for the horses, so they rented pasture and bought hay for them in the winter and that sort of thing. The reason that they eventually bought the Island Ranch, which I now own with my son, was for a home for those horses. In 1923 they started a highway construction business, when it was still a horse business, you know. Everything was teams.
SA: Where the horses pulled the equipment.
CD: They started that business and they continued with that until the company was liquidated in 1967.
SA: Let’s not move that far ahead, I have some questions to ask. First, when you first arrived and there were the two families with the children, where was your first home?
CD: Our first home was a rented home on East Center Street, and I think there might have been a second one. My maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Carlon, had a brother named Will Carlon, who was an excellent carpenter. So when my folks built the home on Williams Avenue, they had him come out from Iowa, and he built the home for them. I can remember him . . . he was an interesting guy. He had one of those walrus mustaches, and when he drank coffee he'd get the lower end of his moustache in the coffee and then he'd wipe his fingers. [laughter] And he was a big stout man. They built that home . . . it must have been around 1925.
SA: Did both families live together in that house?
CD: No, no. My uncle Bob bought a home down near the Oats Park school, and that's where his family lived and the children were raised.
SA: I hope you have pictures of that first house
CD: No I don’t, that was a rented house.
SA: No, the one that was built.
CD: I’m not sure that I do have… I looked through the pictures and I’m not sure I do. I can show you the house. Because it was moved. It now belongs to the county. it's over near the Churchill County hospital. It was a well-built house, and it was moved off of that property when American Federal Savings bought that property they moved it off and put their own facility on the property.
SA: When you first came, you were five, so that’s kind of young. Tell me your very first memories. Do you remember when you first arrived here?
CD: No. But I can remember starting to school. Down where the Cottage schools are now was what they called the old high school. It's now the junior high school. That was a two story brick building that housed the first and second grades, and that's where I started to school in the first grade. The third and fourth grades were in a similar brick building over where the West End School is now, and that's where I went to the third and fourth grades.
SA: DO you have any memories of the time you were back on Madeline Plains? Was that a more lush place than fallon?
CD: Oh no, it was a desert and brush area. It was a high area, about a mile high, surrounded by hills and mountains where the cattle ranged. One of the recollections I have of that, which was a very early recollection was my grandmother Dodge moved out from Iowa and was living with my mother and father when I was little. They used to range sheep through that area and at night the sheepherders would have a campfire. And I can remember – this must have been when I was 3 years old – my grandmother taking me out at night to see the “sheepy lights” on the hills. (laughs) That was an exciting thing to me.
SA: Did any of your grandparents move to Fallon?
CD: Yes. It was an interesting thing. Like a lot of other Midwestern families, finally both families moved west—all of them. My grandfather Harry Dodge, my grandmother [Emily Carlon] Dodge, my grandmother [Kitty Corey] Reed, my grandfather [William] Reed—they all moved West finally. Originally my grandmother Dodge came to Madeline Plains and then down to Fallon with them. But the rest of them came west after my folks were in Fallon.
SA: Now let’s go back to your father and your family. He was with the department store and you also had the horse in the pastures and they were doing the hay?
CD: Yeah, then in 1923 the family started in the construction business. The first job they had was down in southern Nevada building some of the original roads that were built down there by the state. That was when it was all horse teams. That went on for several years, and then in time it got to be mechanized and the teams went by the boards. [laughter]
SA: Did they continue with trucks?
CD: Oh, yes—all kinds of construction equipment: tractors, trucks, gravel plants . . . .
SA: Later let’s follow that in more detail. When they had all of those horses were you ever involved in riding or go out with your dad or…?
CD: Well, I was a little young at that time. I was involved in a later time when I went out to work. The first time I went out to work I was sixteen . . . It was on construction jobs in the summer. I always worked on the construction jobs in the summertime.
SA: We’re gonna stay with childhood for a while. I want you to tell me about your father. He sounds like he was certainly a man with broad interests and talents. Tell me about him as a person.
CD: He was a very energetic person, and he was an empire builder. Maybe that was one of the problems that might have hastened his death, I don't know. He got into a lot of things. At one point in time after he came to Fallon, he owned four agricultural properties besides the Madeline property. And he got into other types of investments here and there, besides building a construction company. So he was a hard worker and he was a tough trader, and I always thought he was a person of integrity. He always tried to take care of his family well. He and my mother had a happy life together. I had a very high regard for my father. He and I had always planned on . . . he told me one time when I was young "You know, when all of the children grow up, what we'll do is we'll split up the business interests. You and I will go our own way." And then unfortunately he passed away a year after I graduated from Stanford Law School, so that never materialized.
SA: Did he have any fun side, light side, loving side, or was he more of a person involved with all of these different growing…
CD: He was pretty well involved with his business, but we had a good family life. I don't know that I ever thought that we were shorted [in] any way, when I was growing up, my sister and myself. There is one thing that I do want to tell you about him: he felt a real weakness in his own life because of the fact that he had to quit school when he was in the eighth grade. And if he'd have lived and I would have been willing, I think he would have still had me in school. [laughter] When I got out of the University of Nevada, I thought that I had all the education that I needed if I was going to work with him, and he was the one that wanted me to go to law school.
SA: He was living vicariously through you. [laughter]
CD: Yes, right. That's right. And so his own lack of education . . . it made him have an enormous priority on that as far as his own children were concerned.
SA: Nothing wrong with that! No, as you were growing up through your teen years - One of the things I am very interested in learning is your observances of the results of the irrigation, and changes as the town was growing. Of course you came in the early 20s so it was pretty well established.
CD: Well… not too well. The dam was completed in 1915, and so, we came after that. One thing that I recollect about the [Newlands] project was that in the early years it had no drainage in here, and these lands that were irrigated began to get salted up and alkalized up because of high water tables. When they found out they had to set up and put in a drainage system. That started about the time that I came here, and I can remember the big drag lines and shovels that they had where they were building these canals and drain ditches all over the valley.
SA: What changes did you see because of the development of the irrigation system? Did you begin to see changes around in nature?
CD: Well, they were gradual. I observed more in later life. There have been a lot of changes in recent years, particularly in the on-farm efficiency of water use in this valley.
SA: Were they still homesteading or had they finished by that time?
CD: Oh, no. They were still homesteading. I think they were still buying water rights way into the 1950s and maybe even the 1960s.
SA: Did your family take advantage of any of the homesteading?
CD: No. The only place they homesteaded was on the Madeline Plains. But they owned four different agricultural properties here in the valley: one down near Stillwater, one in the Harmon district, one southeast of Fallon, and then the big Island Ranch south of Fallon.
SA: What time periods was that, that they were acquiring those?
CD: The Island Ranch was the first one they acquired—I think that was in 1927.
SA: So let’s stay with that for a while and go through that. And that you said first was because of the horses?
CD: They had an interesting plan. It was the first time they had a home for the horses. Their plan was to farm the [Island] Ranch with mares and then breed them, and then raise the colts and break them to go out onto the construction jobs. So that way they were able to replenish their construction horses. That's a large ranch—it's around twelve hundred acres of irrigated land—and they used to have around fifty men in the summertime on teams doing various things around the ranch. And a lot of horses: the mares and all the colts, and it was the home for the construction horses when they came in off of a job. Of course, the idea was they wouldn't have to board them out somewhere anymore, and they'd raise their own feed and have a place for them when they came off the jobs and then raise the replacements.
SA: Did anyone ever live out there to manage it?
CD: There were managers that lived there. Nobody in the family that owned the property ever lived there until my son, who's now out there, living on the property. My dad, of course, had an office in Fallon with the construction business and so on. They built a home on Williams Avenue and always lived there, and my uncle lived in town. When we built this house, the decision I made was to build it here because I thought that if I ever did anything as far as selling the Island Ranch, I didn't want my home involved. And I was still involved with the construction company at that time, and I was spending a lot of time here in town, and so I did not live at the ranch. The other reason why we built this home here rather than at the ranch is that the children were just getting into their teens, and I didn’t want- [end of side A, tape cuts out]
SA: Somebody had to be managing [the ranch] there.
CD: Oh yes. There were different managers on the ranch during that time. There were about three, and the last one that worked for me for many years was a member of an old family here. His name was Alfred Harrigan. His father came to the valley, I think, in 1903 and married the sister of Alfred Oats. He was always called "Whitey" Harrigan. Whitey came to the ranch when he was still in school and chored out there at the ranch before and after school. Then later he worked at the ranch. He could care less about school, so I think he quit when he was about the second year in high school.
SA: Is this while your father was still the owner?
CD: Yeah, this was while he was still alive. He [Whitey ]was on the ranch for many years. It would have been in the 1980s when he finally left the ranch and went to another situation. There were always foremen there, ranch foremen, and then of course my dad and uncle were always involved—I won't say on a daily basis but they were right here in Fallon and kept an eye on it.
SA: What kind of feed did they have for the horses?
CD: Well, it was and still is an alfalfa producing ranch. Its irrigated acreage is about twelve hundred. Normally there would be, I suppose, eight or nine hundred acres in alfalfa, and then grain and a rotation crop and so on.
SA: Was that all for your own use or was some of it sold?
CD: The alfalfa was originally just used basically for our horses. At a later point in time I started a feed mill there and a commercial feedplant as it developed in the late 1950s. So we sold a lot of different types of feed, incorporating alfalfa. It was a pelletized feed, and we developed a big business in horse feed with pellets containing alfalfa and some concentrates and molasses and grain and so on. And so it kind of went through an evolution. The reason I built the mill was to feed lambs. It was a new feeding program of pellets that were developed at New Mexico A&M college. For many years we fed a lot of lambs.
SA: Did you own the lambs? Were they on the ranch?
CD: Yes. I had, ultimately, a joint venture with Armour and Company, the big packing company.
SA: What year?
CD: Let’s see… I was buying lambs for myself and feeding them; then I started selling lambs to them about the middle 1960s. Later we developed a joint venture with Armour and got to a point where we were feeding about twenty-five thousand lambs a year on the ranch; but also we were shipping them in off the ranges in the fall of the year and feeding them and then sending them on to a packing plant in Dickson, California.
SA: I want to go back . . . you talked about the irrigation. I want you to tell me from the time you got the ranch . . . start with the elementary points and follow through on the water rights, irrigation, water problems?
CD: Well, we didn't have too much in the way of legal problems at that time or challenges to the water like we've had in more recent years. But one of the things that happened during my time was . . . the ditches had been put in high profiles of ground so that they could irrigate the fields by gravity. And nothing was square on the ranch, the ditches meandered. So the biggest thing that I have done through the years . . . I began to straighten the property up. I did a lot of releveling, a lot of consolidating the fields. And it resulted in an enormous increase in the efficiency of water use on the property. We were still using internal ditch systems and gravity flows of water to flood irrigate the alfalfa. Originally we had levies maybe fifty feet wide to control water, and then outlets from the ditch. That's what everybody was doing. And then as time went on, I had to change the ditch systems, squared them up as we went. Every winter I spent all winter leveling a little ground somewhere or consolidating some fields and changing the ditch system, and this went on, I guess, for fifteen, twenty years.
SA: Who did you hire to do that? Did you ever hire Indian workers?
CD: No. We did it on the ranch just with my own people. When we were able to get good tractors and equipment, mechanized equipment, the horses finally were phased out. We didn't have any horses. And so in the wintertime, for the men that I wanted to keep busy, I'd put them out on one of these projects.
SA: I see. You must have had quite a mind to be able to know that by leveling and changing that you were going to improve the watering. How did you learn that?
CD: Well, I don't know that I was all that advanced in my thinking about that except that it was a mess the way it was.
SA: Just observation.
CD: Yes. For example, the largest job we ever did involved 120 acres of land—I had to move 150,000 yards of material in order to put that field in its present condition. And that area involved all, or part, of seven fields with 135 ditch outlets to irrigate it. When we got done with the project we had twenty-two outlets. And you can't believe how much water that saved, because every time that water was cut out of 135 of them there was a loss off the end of the field that went into the drain ditches, you follow? So when I reduced that to twenty-two outlets, it was a great saving of water, great saving of water.
SA: Now I want to go back to when your father bought that land. How did they work out the water rights and how did you pay for the water? Was it restricted? How did that work in the early days?
CD: That land down there is what you called vested land. It had a riparian right on the south fork of the Carson River, and I can trace ownerships out there back to 1870. It's an old, old property. In 1915 they changed the water law in Nevada from riparian ownership to the appropriation of water. That was about the time that the [Newlands] project was just beginning to grow. This is an interesting part of the early history of the project: about 21,000 acres of land here in the valley—different parts of the valley, depending on where the river flows—were being irrigated early on by riparian rights, riparian to the river system. So when the project was built, the United States needed to try to bring that land into the project to help pack the operation and maintenance cost. So they asked the people that had those rights, including the rights on the Island Ranch, to surrender their riparian right and take out a right under the project. It was a two way street. It helped broaden the base for operating the project, but it also helped the farmers at that time because until then all they had was just flood irrigation in the spring of the year. And this way, with the stored water at Lahontan, they were able to irrigate on through the season. So finally, all of that vested land . . . People independently made the decision, and they conveyed their riparian rights to the United States, and the United States made some contracts with them for water under the project. And so those are called the vested lands, and there's about 21,000 acres of them in the valleys, including the Island Ranch.
SA: Now, was there always sufficient water for irrigation?
CD: No, there wasn't. Not any more than there has been in the last few years when we went through a six year drought. The valley itself is a very arid area. Over the history of the project the average precipitation—rain, snow, hail, thunder showers—averaged less than five inches a year. Very arid. So they were just depending on the winter storms and we had, over the years, lots of short water years, lots of good water years; but that's just the history of the project. You never know from one year to the next.
SA: So did they have to ration the user's use?
CD: The users had to ration themselves. They were on a water allowance in more recent years. The lowest one that we had was two years ago—I guess it was 28 percent is all the water we had. We had a lot of years when we might have had a 50 percent allowance and so on. And we were able to get by. Alfalfa is a fairly deep-rooted plant, and it's pretty hardy; and if you get any amount of water a year on it, why normally it will live. It may not produce a lot but it will live.
SA: Who determined the allotment and what do you have to pay for that water?
CD: There was always an operation and maintenance cost after the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District took over the project in 1926. Before that the government was paying the bill on the distribution of water. I'm not sure whether they were charging the farmers. I don't remember that. Once the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District was established, then they set up an operation and maintenance charge each year against the farmers that they paid on all of their water right land. And that's what operated the project over all these years.
SA: Was it determined by the acreage?
CD: Well yes, it was determined by the total acreage and the total budget of the project, don't you see. That was a charge per acre. And that has changed over the years. It's generally been increasing.
SA: Yes, never decreases.
CD: No, never decreases [laughter].
SA: Like taxes [laughter]. When the horses were phased out, when the equipment came in, your father was still involved?
CD: He died about that time.
SA: Oh. How old was he when he died?
CD: Well, he was fifty-five. My uncle and dad both died young. My uncle was fifty-one and he died ahead of my father a year and a half. And then my dad died when he was fifty-five.
SA: Oh, how sad.
CD: Well, it was sad. I want to give you a little story about that. I had just graduated from Stanford the year before. He had had a heart attack. He came to Stanford in a wheelchair to see me graduate. And I had always had this plan, even though I had gone to school, that I was going to work with him. And when he died the next year, it really set me afloat. And it was a real blow. And I didn't know what I was going to do. Anyway, about the horses: the last time I ever talked to him about those horses, he sent me to look at some horses towards Susanville, California that were for sale. We had horses down here that we couldn't sell. I mean, you know, no one needed them—work horses and then some lighter horses too, some saddle horses. He was in the hospital in Reno. I came back into Reno and I told him that they could be bought real cheap. But I said I don't think we want them at any price. "We got horses we can't dispose of now." Dad really took affront at that. He said to me, "Oh, that's not true. If I had to start all over I would start with those horses and make it like I did." So that's what he thought about what those horses had done for him. [laughter]
CD: So he died, and I wanna continue on with something I thought of. My uncle had passed away, and it left my mother and aunt, two widows, with all this property: four properties here in Fallon, the property on the Madeline Plains, and the construction business. One thing I had really learned at Stanford was good estate planning, so I tried to help and I did help my mother and my aunt [Mrs. D.C. (Bernys) Dodge, my father's brother's wife]. We began to liquidate properties. We sold the cattle ranch at Madeline with two thousand head of cattle on it. And we began to dispose of properties here in Fallon—the one southeast of Fallon was disposed of, and the one on Harmon Road. And finally in the deal, my aunt took the Stillwater property for her second son. The elder son died when he was young. That left the Island Ranch. She had a half interest, of course, in the Island Ranch. She came into the construction office one day, and she said, "What are we going to do about the Island Ranch?" And I had never really thought much about it. I never really thought I was going to get it.
SA: You weren't involved with it?
CD: Well, no. I had been with the construction company growing up and then in school. So I said, "Well," I said, "I'll make you an offer on it," and I said if it was not satisfactory we'll put it on the market. So I drove to the Island Ranch and talked to Whitey Harrigan because I didn't know anything about the ranch, I really didn't.
SA: [laughter] You were an attorney. Stanford attorney.
CD: And into construction. I knew something about the construction business. So I said, "Whitey, Aunt Bernys wants to liquidate her part of the ranch here. I made her an offer." I said, "I'm going to try to buy her half interest if you stay here and operate the property." He said, "Well, I'll stay here as long as you want me to." So anyway, she came back and asked for a little more money. It seemed like a lot, but it wasn't too much additional. So I bought her half interest. And then my mother, of course, had the other half interest. I helped do this planning with her. My mother's very cooperative, and so she gifted her half of the Island Ranch to my sister and myself. So I wound up owning three-quarters of it and my sister a quarter. And Whitey stayed. I have a great admiration for what he was able to help me with, because had he not been there, I would have never had the public life that I have had. I never could have spent the time away from Fallon that I did, particularly when I was in the senate.
SA: We’ll cover that in another session. So that’s the time period when you had to get rid of the horses. Tell me about that.
CD: Well, we finally sold all of the horses off and we quit breeding them.
SA: Who were you able to sell them to?
CD: Oh different people. They went different directions. I can’t… No single sale. It became a mechanized business.
SA: What year did it become mechanized?
CD: It was beginning to be mechanized—not to the extent that it is today—just prior to World War II, in the late 1930s, early 1940s.
SA: When the horses were then gone, did you still need all that land? What did you do with the land?
CD: Well, I needed the land, but I didn't need fifty people to operate it, because they were all teamsters. So I began to use tractors and better equipment and so on. Then we began to reduce the number of people that we needed on the ranch. Today we operate that property with about five or six people.
SA: The fifty people who were there, when it was the teamsters and the horse ranch, where did all these helpers came from?
CD: Well, they were called bindlestiffs. They just came seasonally and they were just people that packed a bedroll on their backs. A lot of them had worked for the construction company, you know, and they knew about the Island Ranch, so they'd come in here in the spring of the year and work here during the summer, and then they'd go somewhere where it's warm in the winter.
SA: Were any of them of different ethnic groups, or any Indians . . . or anyone?
CD: Anyone. They just were bindlestiffs.
SA: And did you have bunks for them?
CD: Yes. We housed them there, and they had a big cookhouse. Kept cooks, that sort of thing. It was a big crew.
SA: Did you ever go out and visit when they were out there?
CD: Oh yes, sure. Yes. And I can remember when I was young going out where the hay presses were operating, and they'd have a little crew and they'd have a cook with each one of them. They'd have teamsters that hauled the hay back and forth, and then they had two horses that went around and pulled to provide power for the press, so there was a teamster there. And then they'd have a man up on the stack using what's called a Jackson fork. He'd fork the hay, and then there'd be another teamster that would pull that fork over and then they'd drop it into the top of this bale press. All told, I suppose each crew might have been ten or twelve people and had their own little cookhouse on wheels. [laughter] The three [hay presses] just moved here and there around the valley. They never went out of the county—it was all within the valley here. Some of them hauls, of course, were longer than others. See, Stillwater was sixteen miles away and the Island Ranch was seven, just to give you an idea. It's just here and there and wherever they bought this hay in the valley. They had to haul it in and . . . .
SA: So, there was an awful lot of hay in the valley, a lot of ranching going on.
CD: Well yes, that's about all there was. When we came here, my guess was there might have been three or four thousand people in the valley, but the town was a small community. There were a lot of farmers. It was homesteaders and small property owners that came in here from everywhere.
SA: Did you observe, as you were growing up, the increase in these little farms and homesteads?
CD: Well no. When I was that young I wasn't paying much attention to that, but as I grew older, the trend was in a different direction. Those smaller properties were selling out to larger owners. At one point, for example, maybe a man had a dairy on forty acres of ground. Today the dairies are large. They have to buy outside hay. They don't produce their own hay. So there's been an evolution that's gone from small farms to larger farms. Now it's beginning to go the other direction; a breakup of larger farms going to rural dwellers.
SA: Developing homes on an acre or two of land?
CD: Yes, four or five or ten acres.
SA: Military and retired people coming in?
SA: Now, the construction company and the ranch, is that one location?
CD: No. The construction company had a building in town. They originally were in a building that was just opposite of the I.H. Kent facility on this side of the railroad track. It had been an old flour mill, and it was a wooden building and it burned out. Then they bought a property that had an office building on it and a metal shop. And then they built a large building north of the railroad track on North Maine. When we liquidated the construction business, we sold that to Sierra Pacific Power Company, and that's the headquarters. And the Dodge Construction name was left on the front of the building that was built in 1937.
SA: And was the equipment on those grounds?
CD: Yeah. They had a storage area there and a shop and all of that. That didn't have anything to do with the ranch.
SA: So once the horses left, that was just a ranch now growing commercially?
SA: Tell me about the kinds of equipment and about how many… how big did the business grow?
CD: Now which business?
SA: The Dodge Construction. That started after the horses, right?
CD: No, that started with the horses. Then became mechanized. At one point it was all operated as a single business. In the Depression years, they separated off. The only way they could get financing was to separate off the construction business, which still continued. During the Depression years, there was even more money that the federal government put out for highways and that sort of thing, for make-work projects. So they split the business: the ranch operated as Dodge Brothers, and the construction company became Dodge Construction, Inc. Two separate entities, and that happened during the Depression years [end of tape 1].
SA: Mr. Dodge, as we start the second tape, the two companies were separate entities, so let’s go back to the construction company.
CD: Dodge Construction, Inc., operated through the years in the heavy and highway construction business and the mining business. We shipped iron ore out of the Lovelock area to Japan for several years. We did a lot of placer mining and that sort of thing at Round Mountain and Plumas . . . Eureka in the Feather River Canyon, [California] The company was owned by two widows. The manager of the company had been with them early on . . . E.J. Maupin, Jr., who was getting along in years. That did not interest me as a future . . . to be in the construction business. I didn't want to carry on and there wasn't anybody else in the family, so it was liquidated in 1967.
SA: You mentioned something about ore. Was any of the work you were doing in Churchill County… that would relate to this or not?
CD: The mining business? No, not in Churchill County. The iron mine was in Pershing County, near Lovelock. And we placer mined, as I told you, round mountain and near Eureka, in Feather River Canyon.
SA: Okay, so you went quite a distance.
SA: Alright, then, when that ended… Let's go back now to the ranch and follow it from the time period when you then were in charge.
CD: All right. Well, I guess one of the big events on that ranch was in the latter 1950s, I became aware of a new feeding program for lambs on a pelleted feed.
SA: Where did you become aware of this?
CD: Well, It was developed at New Mexico A&M University, and I read about it in a bulletin. I sent to the university and I got some information about it. I was trying to develop a reliable outlet for the feed that I was producing. We were all field-chopping our hay at that time. And of course, field- chopped, you couldn't really sell it away from the ranch. It wasn't baled or in a concentrated condition where you could ship it—we were putting up the hay in just long stacks.
SA: Had that been for the horses? You were chopping it, what was it for?
CD: No, that was when I built the mill.
SA: Oh, okay we hadn’t covered the building of the mill.
CD: No. Before that we were putting up the hay just long, in stacks, like I told you with the big compressors. We never baled hay. We went from the long hay to chopped hay, which was a very inexpensive way of putting up hay. But when I made that decision, I knew I was committed, one way or another, to use that feed on the ranch. Now, I started speculating—fattening cattle—I'd buy cattle and bring them in and feed them. But I became convinced that had no future, particularly after they developed the large commercial feed yards in America. Building that pellet mill looked to me like it might be a pretty good outlet for the hay. This was about 1957. I built the mill and I didn't know anything about nutrition. You know, I hadn't been educated that way, but I became self-educated to where I felt I was a pretty good nutritionist. So we kind of drifted in to the commercial milling business. I found out, finally, that besides being a good lamb feed, we began to sell a lot of it out to people that had riding horses. Had a lot of advantages for that. And so, we finally got into the commercial milling business. And at the peak of that business, the biggest year we had was about 18,000 tons of feed, which is a lot of feed.
SA: What were the ingredients of these pellets?
CD: Originally, I was trying to utilize the alfalfa that we produced. For the lamb feeding I made a decision to use seventy percent alfalfa, about twenty percent small grains—this would be wheat, barley, and milo—and ten percent molasses. Later, when we got in the commercial milling business, I also made some straight concentrate feeds like a dairy concentrate and a steer pellet. And then I got to where I was making a small pellet for poultry feed and for rabbit feed. So I had a complete line of feeds.
SA: Are there pictures of that? Is it still there on the land?
CD: No, it’s not. WE closed it down. It had treated us real well in its time, but there came a point where it wasn't feasible to continue it. And so we closed it down, I think about 1986 or 1987.
SA: Are there any pictures? Either newspapers or…?
CD: Yeah, I’ve got some pictures. I don’t know of the mill, but I know I’ve got some pictures about some of the big hay stacks and the lamb feeding pens. It was in a newspaper.
SA: Good. You mentioned briefly, but let’s go into more detail. Did you then purchase sheep or lambs?
CD: Yeah. What I started out doing was purchasing the lambs myself. At that time there were about six hundred thousand sheep in Nevada. I bought lambs mainly off the ranges in the fall of the year. Mainly I was buying them just here in Nevada. Two things happened. One was the sheep numbers began to drop in Nevada. At the outset I just fed the lambs and sold them on the open market. But at a later point in time, I got to dealing strictly with the Armour & Company plant in Dixon, California, which processed more lambs and ewes than any plant in the west coast—over five hundred thousand a year. And it turned out, fattening the lamb on that ration was the best quality of lamb that was ever produced on the west coast. It was not fat. It was nice, lean meat. It was wonderful lamb. I didn't know that, but the Armour buyer kept urging me to feed more lambs. And I said, "Look, I got my neck out forty miles now." I said, "If you want me to do that, why get in and help share the cost." So about two weeks later, he showed up here with an Armour vice-president. And this guy, I liked him immediately. And in about thirty minutes, we had a deal put together. [laughter]
SA: What was the deal?
CD: Well, the deal was that Armour would loan us some money at the prime rate, which was a big advantage . . . it was a big company nationally, and they'd loan us the money. They would buy the lambs through this buyer. He bought them all over the West. He'd buy for the joint venture, and he'd take off the fat lambs and ship directly to the plant. The intermediate feeder lambs we'd ship into Fallon to fatten. The light feeders we sent to pasture in the beet tops in Southern Idaho during the fall—it was a good feed. There was a lot of sugar in it. It took us about sixty or seventy days to finish off these lambs as they came in to the feedlots. So, we start getting them in September when the weather started to cool. And then by December, we'd have them finished and out of the feedlot. I could handle about twelve thousand at a time. Then what we would do on those beet top lambs, we'd take off whatever fat lambs there were and send them direct to the plant for credit to the joint venture. And we'd bring the feeders into Fallon. So I wound up where I was feeding about twenty-five thousand a year.
SA: Unbelievable! How many people did you have to hire?
CD: Oh, we didn't have to hire too many. I had one guy that fed and took care of the lambs.
SA: How did they feed them?
CD: They had self-feeders.
SA: And pellets are clean.
CD: Yes. And so we built a little feed truck that had an auger where we could dump the pellets into it from overhead storage, and then we would just drive along the mangers and it would self-feed. During the day, why he would take care of the water and the sick lambs and that sort of thing. I worked them all myself. Every Monday morning, I would work what lambs were ready to ship. And then on that Monday, I would call the buyer at the plant and tell him how many loads we had to send in the following week so that he could plan a week ahead.
SA: And they would bring their trucks down?
CD: They'd send trucks out of Dixon. There was a commercial trucking company that pioneered the handling of lambs, getting the maximum on the trucks and trailers. So, nearly every Monday we would ship lambs for the week. And that worked. It was a real wonderful joint venture. It was the only speculated feeding deal that I ever knew about, in any type of livestock, where we made money for seven straight years. We had a couple of years with losses—not too heavy, but we had some losses. But we had seven years straight where we made money on that deal, and consumed a lot of feed. It was just a good thing all the way around. Finally, they developed a better feeding program that was less costly per pound of gain on almost straight corn. And there was a lot of that feeding went on in Southern Idaho and in Colorado, so that part of the market was lost. Then the other part of the market was lost because I was supplying a lot of small dairies, and the dairies began to consolidate into larger dairies. They were buying the ingredients as cheap as I could buy them, and then they had these big mixer wagons. And they didn't have to pay the cost of the processing, you see, and putting them into the pellets. So I lost that market. The peak we already had was about eighteen thousand ton, and then it began to fall off. And it finally got to a point where . . There were two things involved: one was we really had lost a lot of the market, not through any fault of our own; and the other was that the plant was beginning to develop some obsolescence. In order to continue, it would have taken a major amount of money to redo the electrical system and some other things. So we made the decision, finally, just to close it down.
SA: What year was that?
CD: That was in… I think it was in 87.
SA: Oh, not very long ago. So what happened then?
CD: Well, what happened then is my son, who I helped acquire some property just south of the Island Ranch, started farming on his own land. He had a lot of good experience before he came back to the ranch. He was raising alfalfa and he was baling his hay down there. When we shut the mill down, it was not feasible any longer to chop that hay because you couldn't do anything with it except feed it on the ranch. So, for the first time on the Island Ranch when he came back, we started baling our hay, primarily to sell away from the ranch. And so that's been going on since then.
SA: That's the major operation now? Is it raised for commercial selling?
CD: Yes. It's a big market in California. The other thing that has developed in recent years is an export market for compressed bales, which has developed a big outlet, particularly in Japan and more recently in Taiwan and South Korea. In Japan, and, I guess, maybe to an extent in Taiwan and South Korea, they don't raise fibrous crops like alfalfa. They raise food for human consumption . . . row crop stuff. They don't have the land. And the dairy cows need a certain amount of fiber in order to maximize the milk production, but they don't have the fiber, and that's what the hay furnishes. That's gotten to be a big market, not only for hay out of this area, but out of Canada and out of Southern
California. In 1992 there were over 500,000 tons of those compressed bales shipped to the Pacific Rim out of California alone.
SA: So do you belong to some big organization? How do you learn about all this?
CD: No, this was an exporter who came in and established and there are exporters, people in the export business. There are different exporters on the West Coast.
SA: So the exporters buy it from you?
CD: Yes, that's correct.
SA: And they're dealing overseas?
CD: That's correct.
SA: OK. When did that first start?
CD: I never entered in the market because I could always do better with it. Originally, it started with pellets just like we were making. They needed to develop a better density. The hay in a normal bale is not that dense by weight, and they needed to develop enough density that they could get twenty-three tons into one of these containers that they could ship overseas. So, one way or another, they had to compress that hay. So it started out as a pellet. And then they have what they call a "cuber" which makes a little kind of a square compressed amount of hay. They have a lot more density than the bale. And then they went to these compressed bales—they are able to take a 120 pound bale and compress it down to a much smaller size. The end result is that they can get twenty-three tons of hay into the containers. We've been selling to an exporter does the compressing. He buys the hay from around the valley and from other areas. And so that's gotten to be a big business in this part of Nevada and in California and in Canada and in the Northwest area—Seattle, Portland.
SA: Is that exporter in this area? Where is the closest one?
CD: No. He's headquartered in California.
SA: So how did you hear about him?
CD: He originally set up a plant to compress these bales in here a few years ago and started buying local hay.
SA: What year did you start selling to him?
CD: In the late 1980s.
SA: Has the volume he's buying increased?
CD: Yes. It's increased all over the West. It's a big outlet.
SA: How much are you selling?
CD: Well, I think the most we ever sold to him in any one year was somewhere between two and three thousand tons.
SA: And it's still going strong?
CD: Still going. Now we have other outlets for that hay, too, mainly in California—a lot of the dairies . . . and dry cow feed and beef cattle. Particularly because of this export business and one thing or another, California just is not self-sufficient in hay anymore. So they buy hay from the closest place. This northern Nevada area is a good area. They buy hay out of Arizona, more and more as time goes on . . . and I've told my son, I think there's a better future just raising alfalfa here because I think as California grows, there will be more of that land taken out of production, and more dairies, and the market will be there for the hay. So it's kind of an evolution thing, based on the economics of the situation. Well, a lot of the hay is used locally, there are a lot of local dairies; but a pretty good percentage of all the hay that is produced here is shipped elsewhere.
SA: Now, how is that done physically? Do you bring it to them or do they come and get it?
CD: No, they come and buy it in truck and trailer lots.
SA: That's why you see so many trucks coming through Fallon?
CD: That's correct.
SA: And so is all of the Island Ranch in alfalfa hay now?
CD: Practically this year for the first time. Normally more of the acreage has been in rotation of small grains. But this year for the first time, it's all in hay—about twelve hundred acres.
SA: Do you have any animals on the ranch?
CD: No, not to speak of, no. So it all depends on selling the hay.
SA: Then you have seasonal workers coming?
CD: Well, yes, to an extent, although we try to keep the men that we really need in the summer. I have two of them that have been with me for years that stay there year round. And then this year he's had a third man there. He's a good man, and in order to keep him we had to give him some winter work. Now, another thing that I wanted to say to you about this valley: we have tried different kinds of row crops, and in my opinion Mother Nature never intended any other use for this area than to raise alfalfa and small grains, because it only has about 120 frost-free days. It's a short growing season. The second reason it's not good for row cropping is, particularly in the years when they had to depend a lot on row crop labor, we were always a labor deficient area. So it never fit. And that's why we have never turned as an alternative to more row crops here.
SA: I see. Before we leave the ranch, anything more that you want to tell about it? It looks like it's going to stay in the family. Is that right?
CD: Well, it's going to stay through my son. His boy is just graduating from high school and we don't know where his interests might be. But my son really likes to farm and he has a lot of pride about the ranch. You know, we've talked about these water problems, and he said, "Well, a lot of these people figure that we're not going to have agriculture in the future. I'll tell you one thing, I'm going to be the last one to leave." [laughter]
SA: Oh, that's wonderful. That must make you feel good.
CD: Yes, right. He's a wonderful farmer. He loves to farm.
SA: Does he get right out in his Levis and do work, or just supervise it?
CD: Well, no. He does to an extent, but it's a big enough operation that he usually just takes care of getting his crew lined out and taking care of supplying things that he needs and all of those things. But I wanted to tell you why this agriculture has never changed.
SA: That's the first I've heard about that. And that's very interesting. I know that there were attempts . . . the beets that didn't work out, you know.
CD: We were part of that. It was kind of an interesting thing. In order to maximize the beet production, we had to get them in early. We planted them in April. And then with other growers we built a labor camp; we brought people in directly from Mexico on an approved deal. Sugar beets are planted on beds and irrigated from furrows, and they need to be thinned—as the beets start to grow, in order to let them get big, they have to be thinned out. At that time, they had not perfected mechanical thinning so they had to have hand labor, and that's where we had to use this Mexican labor.
SA: How many acres?
CD: I think on the ranch we had somewhere between thirty or forty acres in beets at a time. That's a lot of acreage for what we were doing. And in the valley we had several growers, other farmers, along with us. We had an organization, and we might have had 250 to 300 acres total. The beets were shipped by rail out of here to Spreckels Sugar in California.
SA: I know they built the beet factory. It was here for a while.
CD: Well, that was an earlier project. This was later, about 1970. They had a disease called curly top that whipped them in the early days.
SA: So what year were you growing these, about?
CD: Oh… let’s see… Maybe about 1970? That was after the earlier deal.
SA: So that was much later. That ended about in the 30s about 34?
CD: Oh, yeah. I remember that actually, when I was a kid. Anyway, row cropping . . . there's a limited amount of it here, but as a major thing, I don't see a future unless you get something that doesn't need hand labor and can be produced in that short growing season.
SA: So how did you get these workers from Mexico?
CD: Well, it was an arrangement we made where we could bring them in legally by contract. There had to be certain requirements for housing and medical attention and all those things, which we followed.
SA: You did better for them than California does. [laughter]
CD: And then we worked through a labor contractor, who actually ran the crew. And we paid him so much an acre—I forget how that was done—for the thinning. And they did need to be thinned because otherwise you would never get a beet that could develop the right size because they're too close together. We had one field at the ranch . . . best ground we've got on the Island Ranch—I got on Spreckels's gold star list one year for the amount of sugar that came off of it.
SA: How many years did this go on?
CD: Oh, I think three or four. Something like that. One time we had a pretty good sized field in, and, as I say, we had to start them early. They're pretty hardy, but they'd frost and then it'd kill out the plants. And so one year we had them going pretty good and it was late, along in May sometime. And the Spreckels guy came up and it had snowed the night before. [laughter] He took pictures of snow this deep over the poor little sugar beet plants. He just couldn't believe it. [laughter] So, you know, those are the problems that we faced.
SA: Did any of those Mexican workers stay in the area?
CD: No. Now, one year we had some help from . . . . They had an Indian school over here at Stewart, south of Carson City. And they brought a lot of Indians in out of Arizona, the tribes down there. They gave them a five year program—three years of basic . . . to understand English and how to handle a bank account and that sort of thing. And then they'd put them in vocational training, whatever programs they had. One year we had some of these Indian boys over here that did that work from Stewart. These were kids that were in their teens. They were living over here at this camp that we had, and one time over a holiday or something, all these Indians left except one Indian who walked to the Island Ranch. It must have been eight or nine miles. Out there he had his hoe and was hoeing beets. And when he finished that program we hired him, and he's still at the Island Ranch.
SA: Oh, that’s wonderful! And what was his name?
CD: His name is Spelman Arizana. He's a Navajo Indian, [tape cut] been with us thirty years by now.
SA: Did you have any other Indian workers that occasionally come in?
CD: Well, occasionally we did. I had another guy that was there at the Island Ranch. He was a big, strong, husky guy and I knew him briefly before the war. His name was Ray Lannen. One day after the war was over, about 1947 or so, I was out helping work some cattle. We were putting them through branding or something, and I was prodding them along the shoot when he drove up in a pickup. His family originally come out of Montana, and he'd been up there after the war was over. He drove up and I shook hands with him and we talked a little bit about the service. He told me about when he got out. I think he was in the Marine Corps, the Army or the Marine Corps. So I said, "What are you doing down here?" And he said, "I'm looking for a job." And I said, "You got it." [laughter] And he's still there. He came in 1947, so that's pretty near fifty years ago. He’s now in his 70s.
SA: And he's still a good worker?
CD: Oh, yes. He's not as active as he used to be, but he's a very faithful worker. He raised a family there and the Indian had five children he raised there. Arizana has a small house, and then Ray's is a better house. As his family expanded, we built onto it. And so they both live there on the ranch.
SA: How nice. That shows a kindness of the owners, and then probably a loyalty of the workers.
CD: Oh yes.
SA: Those are wonderful stories to tell. Any other experiments on that ranch? Did you ever raise melons or turkeys or . . . ?
CD: No, never turkeys. The ranch will raise some row crops. I told you about the fifty men? They raised their own garden vegetables. We had a reservoir where the water came into the ranch from the distribution system, TCID. And we had some good land right up next to that reservoir that we could just turn out water when we needed it out of the reservoir, to irrigate relatively small acreage. Well, it wasn't all that small. It was about fifteen acres.
SA: You didn't need the ditch riders? You could just do it yourself?
CD: No. The water was charged to us once it went into the reservoir, so we didn't need that. The point was we had control on water there when we needed it. The ranch would hire a gardener, and so they put in a lot of vegetables that they raised through the summer for their own use at the ranch and the cookhouse. They had all kinds of garden vegetables—corn and squash and all of those crops. I think some potatoes.
SA: The house that your son lives in, when was that built?
CD: This is an interesting story. We had a big old two-story house that was a cookhouse. They had some bunk space for men on the second floor. They had another building for these transient workers in the summertime. But anyway, that building burned down about 1947—it was an electrical problem in the wall. It started in the wall, and it was a big old wooden building there was no way to save it once it started. There was an old man named Tom Dolf who at one time was in the Nevada senate from here and was an early farmer here. (His grandson, Kenny Kent, operates the property out here now.) It was right at dark, and of course you could see the flames all over the valley. He came out there and he said, "You know, I remember when this building was moved in here from Virginia City in 1885." And so anyway, after the building burned down, the construction company had a portable-type kitchen-dining setup that we used temporarily. It was the same time they were building the Churchill County Hospital, the original building. The builder had the plan for the hospital and for reinforcement on the walls, the block, and everything. At that time, we didn't have nearly as many men that we were boarding, but we were still using a boarding house. So I made a little layout about what we needed in the way of a room for her [the cook] and storage areas in the kitchen and the dining area, and he built the building. It didn't take him long to put it up. Then after we closed the cookhouse down, we converted it into a home. It's not an ideal layout; it's basic. Then we added to it at a later point in time. So my son has lived there and it's comfortable.
SA: What year was that finished?
CD: The fire was in 47, and then the building was built that year.
SA: Who lived in it when it was first built? The manager of the ranch or…?
CD: I’m trying to think. Originally Whitey lived in a two-story home. Oh, this is part of the story I should tell you too. My father and uncle bought the Island Ranch property from R.L. Douglass, whose home was just east of the Island Ranch and who owned this property. He had a farmer foreman by the name of C.W. Renfro, and Renfro came with the deal. They bought the property in 1927. Well, actually the deed, I think, was in 1928. And it was Dodge brothers and Renfro. Renfro had a third interest in the property, and my dad and uncle a third each, and Renfro was the foreman. He was an excellent foreman for his time, an excellent foreman and a very fine man. The sad situation with Charlie Renfro was during the Depression years it was very difficult for my dad and uncle to survive. You know, they had obligations here and there, and it was just nip and tuck whether they were going to be able to hold the thing together. That's when they separated the construction company from the ranch for financing purposes, and the construction company is what saved them, because there was a lot of public works during that period. Anyway, one night in 1933 or 1934 Charlie didn't come home. Around dinnertime Mrs. Renfro got a hold of Whitey and she said, "I don't know where Charlie is, but maybe you ought to look around for him." He had killed himself out there on a ditch-bank. He got so despondent about . . . he saw no hope for his own future, and it was an unfortunate thing. He had farmed the property, and it was a big property. He had fifty men, and I remember him leveling land in the fall and winter months. Anyway, that was a sad thing. My dad and uncle made a settlement with his wife, and then they had to hire another foreman . . . which they had two or three of them before Whitey finally took over.
SA: How did they pull out of the Depression?
CD: Well, as I say, the only thing that saved them was the construction business. They just struggled along with the ranch and with the property up north. Ira Anderson, the guy that ran the ranch up there at Madeline, had an interest in the ranch property after they left there. I made a settlement with him later when he was getting ready to retire. He told me a story one time: He had a buckaroo by the name of Harvey. One time my dad came up there and told Ira Anderson, "You know, we just don't have any money, and we really can't afford to keep Harv. But," he said, "you can offer him fifteen dollars a month and his board if he wants to stay." So that's how bad it was through the Depression years and it was just a tough deal. And the man stayed. He didn't have anywhere to go, so he had his place to live and food and fifteen bucks a month. It was a bad time. I always thought maybe the Depression might have accelerated my own dad's death, too.
SA: Did he die at a down part of the company’s…
CD: When he died, no, the company was in pretty good condition, but the Depression had been a stressful time for him, trying to hold everything together. He didn't want to go bankrupt. They were fortunate enough that they were able to stay out of bankruptcy and basically hold things together. I don't know how they did it, but a lot of other people struggled to do those things.
SA: So then you said the public works brought the construction company out, tell me about that.
CD: One of the things that saved them at that time is they were doing some work over in Utah . . . some highway work. And they were doing business with a Utah bank. And during the Depression years, the Wingfield chain in Nevada collapsed. Wingfield had thirteen banks, one in Fallon, and over the years he had helped finance my dad and uncle. They had a very close, personal relationship. Wingfield had a property down here, and he used to come down and they'd see each other a lot. He had a little agricultural property here. So when the Wingfield chain folded up, nobody could get any money—the money was all tied up, what there was. Fortunately, my dad and uncle had money over in this bank in Utah through the construction business, and they had work going on over there that kept some money flowing and kept them afloat in a very difficult time when you couldn't lay your hands on a dollar anywhere. And so in a sense, that's the only thing that saved them.
SA: Oh, and now the public works comes in. Tell me about that.
CD: They started with the construction business here in Nevada. They started one of the early companies. They started in 1923 with some original roads down in some of the rural areas of Clark County in southern Nevada, and then they began getting contracts in different parts of the state, all over. And they did some work in other neighboring states. And then during the war, they helped build the original airports out here at the Fallon Navy base. And they built an airport down at Inyo in Southern California on Highway 395. They were in all kinds of that type of construction, and they even got into the mining business. This iron ore business out of Lovelock went on for several years. So they were kind of diversified and had the equipment to do all of those things. That business was finally liquidated in 1967.
SA: What part of it was the public works? You said the government was putting in money?
CD: Well was in highway work. That’s how they were developing jobs was through highway work.
SA: I See, so the government was developing programs to make workers for WPA.
CD: Well no, they were putting more money out into these states for highway construction, which was needed. You know, it’s always needed. So the government poured a lot of money in, then.
SA: To get people working again.
CD: Yeah, so that kept the construction business going.
SA: You mentioned earlier that some summers you worked in the construction company?
CD: I always did.
SA: OK. So tell me how old you were when you first started and what kinds of things you did?
CD: I was sixteen. The first summer I went out was a job which was fairly close. It was a stretch when you . . . if you come to Fallon from Carson City, you go through Silver Springs. Well, there was a stretch of road just south of Silver Springs going towards Yerington. A guy named Smiley Atkinson (later a county road superintendent here) was a superintendent on the job, and he put me on a big, old hard-steering truck. We were hauling gravel or something, and the first thing that happened is that when another truck came by me and I got over towards the edge of the grade, I just wasn't strong enough and big enough to steer that truck and I tipped it over. I didn't get hurt, fortunately.
SA: Anyone else in the truck?
CD: No. No. I just had this load. And so anyway, Smiley was all put out, and he said, "Well, you're not going to make it that way, so I guess I better put you in the office where all you can break is a pencil." [laughter] So actually, I got to be a timekeeper.
SA: Were you glad?
CD: Oh, I don't know; but anyway, I enjoyed working. I was out in different places. And then one summer, I worked over in Utah. Through central Utah, they had some oiling work . . . just surface work on some of the existing roads. They had it in different areas, but it was a whole summer, my first summer out of the state. I always saved my money. My folks had started a savings account for me up in Lassen County in Susanville when they were on the Madeline Plains, and I loved to look at that savings book. I knew how much money I had. So I went over there that year (I must have been about maybe eighteen) and I remember my dad telling me, "You know," he said, "it's there [the savings account] if a problem arises." Something else he said was, "For God's sake, do something even if it's wrong. Do something!" And so I always remembered that. The other thing was, I had my board and room over there.
SA: Where was that?
CD: Parowan, Utah. It’s on interstate 15, comes down through Las Vegas and into Southern California.
SA: And did you board in someone’s home?
CD: No, we boarded in a little hotel there. The total crew was probably ten or twelve men. They came from Fallon, basically. They might have hired a few local people, but not many. They brought people that they knew had specific skills.
SA: Were you the youngest of the crowd?
CD: Oh, by far. These guys were just working stiffs at different ages. But anyway, [Dad] gave me thirty dollars when I went over there . . . for myself. And the only cost I had was my laundry. And I came home with twenty-one bucks. Nine dollars is all I spent the whole summer. So anyway, I started saving my money. And then at one point in time during the Depression my dad bought the Section Ranch, which is just south of the Island Ranch, for me. You know, those properties were practically given away at that time. And even though they didn't have any money, he bought this property for me for, I think, twelve thousand dollars. It was a 780 acre ranch with water rights. I leased it to a couple of guys. I was still in school—see, I was twenty-four when I got out of law school. Finally these people gave up the lease. They had other things they wanted to do. I couldn't find anybody to lease the property, and I was still in school, and it was a real problem to me—I didn't know anything about farming. So I finally sold the property for $35,000. I had saved my money when I worked in the summers, and I had this savings account from the time I was small, so when the time came that I made the offer to my aunt for her share of the Island Ranch, I had $50,000 in the bank. That was the only reason that I was able to buy the Island Ranch. If I hadn't had any money, I don't think I could have hacked it, and I don't think she would have been satisfied with it. But I paid her the fifty down, and then on installment payments I paid her off the balance. It's funny how these things work around. As I say, I never had been involved at the ranch; I didn't know anything about agriculture; and I can't tell you why I even made the decision to buy that property, but I did. And it was only because I had saved that money over the years that I was able to do that. As I mentioned earlier in the interview, I had this agreement with Whitey Harrigan that he would stay and operate it. So from there, I look back and I shudder at some of the things that happened to me that I survived. [laughter] But it's like a lot of human experiences that you have, you know.
SA: When you went to Stanford, did your dad take care of paying for that?
CD: Oh, yes. He did. He'd have had me in school the rest of my life. I didn't want to go down there particularly, because I was going to work with him and I didn't think that I needed to go to law school to do that. But the thought did occur to me that there were so many young people that would have loved to have the opportunity, that couldn't do it. So, it really would have been crazy if I hadn't taken advantage of it. So, I applied and I was accepted . . . it was luck. They only take a very small percentage of the applicants, and they get so many applications. There were only eighty-six in my entering class in law school. And I think the only reason, really, that I got in is that I was a student body president at the University of Nevada.
SA: And you probably had darn good marks.
CD: Well, I did the last couple of years. I fooled around a lot the first couple of years. But the last couple of years were pretty good. But, I think the reason I was accepted was I was a student body president. So anyway, they admitted me. And there was one other Nevada boy that came in that class—Bruce Beckley from Las Vegas. So there were only two of us from Nevada. Eighty-six of us entered, and there were thirty-six of us that graduated. Some of them were not in our entering class—they had been there four years or so. So, there was a big attrition rate in that class. I wasn't trying to be competitive particularly at the university; but when I went to Stanford, I knew I was in a different crowd, and I had made up my mind they weren't going to show this country boy up! Fortunately, I didn't have any friends there or any social relationships . . . male or female. [laughter] So I rented a room from a family, and there was a separate entrance. And I ate my meals out. You know, maybe other people have done this, but I had fifteen hours of classes and I studied seventy hours a week. That's eighty-five hours. This was Saturday, Sunday, holidays, everyday. That was eighty-five hours a week. And you divide that through and that's an average of about twelve hours a day.
SA: Well, it shows discipline and self-motivation.
CD: That's right. And the sequel was that I graduated fourth in my class.
SA: Now, don't you think that having all of that legal background and all, your business dealings and your political life has been an absolute asset. And then having that on your record.
CD: Oh, yes. It always stood me in good stead. When I was in the state Senate, I was always on the judiciary committee. And you know, I made my contributions along with everybody else. I did practice law briefly. After my dad passed away I was really adrift, so I passed the bar examination and I decided that I would open a practice in Fallon, which was not fruitful for the reason that there were three lawyers here that had most of the business. And as a sole practitioner, you know, I didn't do that well. I got by . . . and then the war came along in 1942. I actually enlisted in the naval officer training program, the V7 program, in 1941, and then I was called up in July of 1942.
SA: What were you doing when you enlisted?
CD: I was practicing law here in Fallon.
SA: What kind of law? Did you specialize in anything?
CD: Oh, no, I just had a general practice. It wasn’t extensive. [End of tape 2] After I came home from the service I had friends who were practicing in San Francisco an opportunity to join a law firm in San Francisco where my closest friend in law school was a partner. His name was Charles Jonas—he's still a close friend. I thought about it seriously for a while, and one morning I woke up and I thought to myself that I would never be happy anywhere but in Nevada. And the die was cast at that point. I turned my back on the law practice to, in effect, help out with some family matters. It wasn't that I was feeling I was making a sacrifice for the family, but I was the oldest child and I was the only one that had completed an education at that point. Well, my sister had, but she wasn't actively involved. So I did feel a certain obligation to both my mother and my aunt. You know, that was a big decision, and I was so thankful in light of the good things that have happened to me in my lifetime, in Nevada, that I made that decision.
SA: Did you have anyone that you talked it over with, or was it purely your own decision?
CD: No. My own decision. That was in 1946. I came home just before the holidays in 1945, out of the service, so this was in 1946.
SA: And so you were still single, so you didn't have to consult a spouse?
CD: I was still single. It was just one of those deals that, you know, I just had to make the decision what I was going to do with my future with my dad gone.
SA: And I bet your family, your mother and your aunt, I bet they were all relieved.
CD: Well, I know that my mother was. And I think my aunt was because, you know, there was really nobody else to… well, I don't know. I'm not going to say that somebody wouldn't have helped them do their planning and make the decisions.
SA: Well, it's different if it isn't family; also, that was a major, heavy responsibility you took on.
CD: That's right.
SA: But I'm sure by then you had the shoulders to do that.
CD: Well, I guess so. You look back and I wasn't burdened by having to do it, if that's what you're saying. Sometimes I got a little scared. [laughs]
SA: I know that there was a great big earthquake here. Was that in 1954? Did that affect any of your holdings? Tell us about that.
CD: Yes. Our children were small at that time, and we had taken a vacation with the children at Zephyr Cove, which is one of the popular places on the Nevada side as you go to the south end of the lake. The children were sleeping in a loft that was, you know, like on the second floor in this small cabin deal. And Betty and I were sleeping down below. That quake happened, and it seemed to me it was around two o'clock in the morning, and it shook things pretty good even up there. So the kids woke up and they were startled, and they came barreling down and jumped in the bed. We finally got them back to sleep, and Betty said, "I wonder where that was centered." I said, "Well, I suppose down along the San Andreas fault in Southern California." We went back to sleep, and when we woke up in the morning, I wasn't even thinking about it. I went over to the store to get a paper, and a couple of guys were talking about this quake centering near Fallon, Nevada. My mother was living alone, and of course nobody was at our home which was then on Williams Avenue. My mother finally got through to us (the phone lines were jammed) in the afternoon and said that she had been over to see what she could see through the windows at the house and there didn't seem to be any damage. She said she had some things fall off the shelves and one thing or another. But it turned out she had more serious damage to a fireplace chimney that hadn't been reinforced, she thought, but she didn't know it at that time. At the ranch, we had a lot of damage that was caused by topsoil that was underlaid with sand. It turned out there was a lot of movement in that sand underneath, and there were a lot of places that heaved and sank. I had one section of a ditch about twenty-five or thirty feet long that was displaced about eight feet. It just took that section, moved it right out of the ditch line and moved it over. And so it was damaged. But, as it turned out, it wasn't a major portion, because we were still pretty well able to irrigate the fields. But as time went on, as we rotated those fields, we had to do a lot of work releveling to even out the fields so that the water would flow uniformly. And we had a lot of damage. I had a shop building that the concrete floor broke and heaved. All that sort of thing that took us several years actually to correct.
SA: And the houses?
CD: The place that we lived in was not seriously damaged. My mother's . . . as I say, she had to rebuild a big, tall chimney deal, and it was a two-story house. She had to have that reinforced and rebuilt. But it wasn't anything that was major. Now, if you ask Hammy [Ira Kent, Stillwater area] about this, he'll tell you about a lot of damage done in that area at that time. And there was damage all over the valley. But anyway, those things all got taken care of in time. No one was hurt or anything, but it was a heavy earthquake. It measured around 6.7 or 8, I think.
SA: That’s a pretty big one, then. Now I want to start the years of your schooling from your earliest days. Just whatever you can remember that you feel is important. We’ll start with elementary, then as we go through high school I’ll want to ask you a few different kinds of questions, and then through your college. We want to go through your education. I remember you said education was very important to your parents.
CD: Well, and my dad, he was very sensitive about it, because his education was cut off when he was in the eighth grade.
SA: And he wanted to make sure….
CD: …That it didn’t happen to me.
SA: So let’s start. Because I know a person’s interests and strengths and weaknesses begin to show as you’re going to school. So I want you to talk about school, including when you first discovered certain areas you did really great in, and certain areas hated and you had to struggle more. Take me to your elementary days, first with the education part then we’ll get to sports.
CD: I don't remember all that much about the first four grades. They were in two different schools, one being for first and second; then the West End School, where Margaret York was a teacher. We lived at that time on Williams Avenue. I don't remember how I got to school when I started—I don't know whether I rode a bike or not. But I remember that when I went to that grammar school, which is down in Oats Park and that was quite a ways from . . . I always rode a bike to school. I had a dog, a wonderful pet. He was a bulldog named Pal. My paternal grandmother lived near the grammar school, and I took my lunch with her. (These were grades five through eight.) And I had a little basket on the back of my bicycle, and my dog rode to school with me and then he would go over and stay at my grandmother's place. He was always there when I came out of school. He would wait for me as I came down the steps, and we'd get on the bike and ride back home. I don't remember through the grammar school years anything that was too significant. I was always a good speller; I liked to read. You know, at that time, they were strong on phonics. The biggest mistake they made in American education is when they went to sight reading. Absolutely the biggest mistake that’s been made in American education. So I had wonderful instruction in phonics. I guess because of that I became a little more articulate than I might have been otherwise. I was never that strong in math. I got along all right—about average, I guess, but it wasn't my long suit, and it showed up when I was in high school. I worked pretty hard. And it depended on the instructors. When I went to the university, I was going to study engineering because of the construction business. And boy, you know, I didn't take to that at all. So I switched after the first year, back to an arts and science course.
SA: Let's skip the first four years of school and go from fifth to eighth. Did the school have any extracurricular activities—music, sports, glee club, band, anything that you entered?
CD: No, I never was involved, and I'm not so sure at that point in time they had that many extracurricular activities. I don't remember just where they taught music along the way, but that was never a big interest with me. I don't know if I started in the grammar school, but I got involved in debate and oratory when I was in high school.
SA: So, you see where your interests were fairly early.
SA: Were you a fellow who liked social life?
CD: Oh, yes. Reasonably. I don't think I had any steady girlfriends or anything like that when I was in high school.
SA: Did you go to dances?
CD: Oh, yes. Sure. And you know, I had nice relationships with classmates in one thing or another and participated in the school activities in college.
SA: Going through your junior and high school years, did you have a group of kids . . . you went fishing or swimming in the ditches or anything like that?
CD: Yes, we swam in the ditches all summer in the canals. It was great. We had favorite swimming holes; they weren't always the same, but they were usually on these drops in the canal system where there would be a big area that would wash out, you know, and some turbulence to the water. And oh, that's the best thing we did. There were five or six of us that would get in a car with a guy that was old enough to drive and we'd go to a swimming hole and stay for three or four hours in the afternoon. So that was the best thing we did all summer.
SA: Was that boys and girls or just boys?
CD: Well, it was just boys that I went with. But usually, wherever the swimming hole was, different children would come, boys and girls, you know, and swim.
SA: When kids were small, was that dangerous? Because you read so often about children drowning.
CD: I don't remember that we ever had much of a problem with that. That was a summer recreational thing. Kids around ranches, they'd start in their own ditches, dog paddling and that. I learned to swim out here in the Carson River, just west of Fallon—there was a family out there that I used to stay with, and they had some children.
SA: Some people that I interviewed tell me what fun it was ice-skating on the sloughs and ditches and canals.
CD: Yes. We did that to a certain extent in the winters when it was cold enough to freeze the ice. We had fun doing that. We'd have bonfires and roast marshmallows and do those things.
SA: Now, let's go back to school to your elementary. Do you remember any of your teachers in your elementary school?
CD: Yes. The one I remember mostly was Laura Mills, for whom the park was named. She was an excellent teacher, and I learned a lot in her classes. I don’t recall offhand… I don’t have the same pressing recollection of other teachers.
SA: What made her so outstanding?
CD: Well, she was a very dedicated teacher. She was a pretty good disciplinarian. I don't even remember what courses she taught. But anyway, I remember that I thought she was a good teacher. I'll tell you, another teacher, and I don't remember her name, was a penmanship teacher. She was very good. I don't know that I had the best penmanship involved, but what I do remember is some Indian girls that just wrote beautifully. They were from down here at the Stillwater Indian Reservation. And incidentally, speaking of Indians, when I was growing up I never had any feeling of any difference between Indian people and white people. They were just boys and girls that I knew, mostly from the Stillwater Indian Reservation. They didn't have any school down there at that time.
SA: So here there was no segregation of the Indian and the white?
CD: No. And as a matter of fact, I think they still basically attend the public schools from the reservation. They don't have separate schools.
SA: Most places have gone to the segregated schools.
CD: Yes, I know. But that wasn't the case here.
SA: What would the ratio be? About how many Indian kids . . . of course, your classes were small.
CD: Well, yes. Yes. I would say maybe ten percent. There were quite a few Indians down there as against the number of white people that were here. Of course, they had their own families.
SA: Just for the record, for people who aren't used to hearing of Indian and white kids, did they learn at the same pace as the other kids?
CD: Well, I felt they did. Yes. Some of them were very intelligent. And as I say, I remember that some of the best writers in the class were some of those Indian girls.
SA: Were there other ethnic groups through your elementary and through high school?
CD: Not much. No. Growing up here there was only one Black person that I remember, and that was a woman who did some housekeeping work in one thing or another. I can't remember, until later years, any Black people in this community other than that woman. The Mexican people hadn't started to gravitate this far into the United States. You know, they were in Texas and New Mexico and California and Arizona and so on. But it was a later point in time that they began to gravitate this far away from the Mexican border.
SA: Now, I want to get back to high school again and I want to learn more about your developing leadership, because those qualities start in a person young. As you were going through high school I want you to tell me as you began to discover and take on any responsibilities or felt within yourself certain qualities that you revealed.
CD: Well, I was never in athletics much. I broke my collarbone five times. And twice . . . once in high school football and once in basketball. I was really not that well coordinated as an athlete anyway. Athletics was not a forte with me. I got involved in high school debating, and I debated a lot. I mean, we debated with other high schools in competition. And I was a college debater. In high school, I also got involved in . . . I don't know, it was called the National Oratorical Contest or something like that which was clear across the country. As a senior, I won the Nevada competition, and I went to the . . . I think they called it the Pacific region. It involved several western states and Hawaii, and I took second in that competition. It was down in Royce Auditorium on the UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] campus. Probably six thousand people. I became comfortable with that kind of thing. Because of that background . . I guess you develop this over a period of time, an ability to speak extemporaneously, particularly if you know what you are talking about. So, I was able to do that. That was one of my real fortes when I was in the Nevada Senate. I could really argue the point.
SA: Did you run for any office in high school?
CD: Oh, yes. I did. And I was defeated by Norma Jean Mills right at the end of the senior year as student body president. [laughter] She was a nice girl. I don't know whether they'd had a girl president earlier than that, or not. But anyway, when I was a senior, she out-voted me.
SA: Did you get involved with any school newspaper or anything?
CD: No. Mostly just debating work.
SA: Did you do a lot of homework? Were you as serious a student then as you were later?
CD: Yes. I was, particularly in the math courses. The principal of the school was a great instructor, George McCracken. And I don't know whether anybody has ever mentioned him to you, but this guy was great. He was superb. He was also the debating coach. He was the guy that trained me for this oratorical deal and went with me . . . he and his wife and my folks went together to that contest. He also taught geometry. I don't remember if he taught trigonometry. I think he taught algebra and geometry. He was an excellent teacher. Geometry wasn't one of my easiest subjects, but one of the things that we did which was kind of unique is, we developed sort of a competition in the class by illustrating geometrical diagrams in unique ways, and then below it was set out the formula for how you arrived at whatever you arrived at. I can remember, for example, one that I made in the shape of a light bulb which spiraled around on the lower end and then the upper part. It got to be quite a thing because the kids got really involved in it and tried to have innovative ideas. When he took up the papers the next morning in the class, he'd always hold up some of these real unique things that kids were doing. It was great because it got them more involved in the subject matter than they ever would be otherwise, don't you see? Anyway, that was basically about my high school experience. I got good grades. Not maybe exceptional, but anyway, I did my share of studying. I was graduated on my birthday, June eighth in 1932.
SA: Was there a celebration?
CD: No. At that time they didn't have these all-night parties for kids. It was a nice affair with parents and relatives. They always had a good speaker. They had it on the stage of the now junior high school, but they didn't have any special planned activities. It was a later point in time when they started doing this with kids, which was a good idea. But we never had, as I recall, we didn't have parties. Oh, we had proms.
SA: Did you take somebody?
CD: Well, yes. I wasn't that good of a dancer. [laughter] I finally learned to dance. I went with a girl that I went to the university with that was a pretty good dancer and I finally learned to dance. I went with her. [laughter]
SA: You took an older woman?
CD: Yes. Well, I mean at a later point in time when I was at the university.
SA: But at the high school did you . . . ?
CD: No, I'm not so good. I wasn't that sharp. [laughter]
SA: When you were finishing high school, had you started applying for colleges? Did you know what you wanted to do?
CD: Well, no, I never applied for colleges. I wanted to go to the university in Reno, and I think there might have been a couple of reasons. I was born there in Reno. I knew quite a lot about the university. And I was close to my folks. So, no, I don't think I made any decisions about going anywhere, and that was the only university in Nevada at the time. We didn't have UNLV [University of Nevada, Las Vegas]. That was later. And so I don't think that I had to make any particular decision about that. I just figured I'd go up there and go to school, which is what I did.
SA: And so when you started there, did you live on campus?
CD: Yes. I joined the ATO [Alpha Tau Omega] fraternity. Pledged the fraternity that year, and lived in the fraternity house for four years.
SA: Were there other young men and women from your high school that went the same year you did?
CD: Yes. And some of them that joined the same fraternity.
SA: So it was a friendly atmosphere?
CD: Oh, yes. There were a lot of boys and girls that were going to the University of Nevada. And let me tell you another reason for that. Bear in mind, we were still in the Depression at that time, and most families couldn't afford to send their children out of state.
SA: What were the expenses like to go there?
CD: Well, they weren't very heavy. The tuition had to be very low. The biggest cost I had was the cost of room and board at the fraternity which you would have anywhere. I don't remember what that was. And my folks . . . you know, as tight as money was, they always did well by me as far as supporting what I needed, including for social activities.
SA: So they would set it aside way ahead?
CD: Yes. Well, I don't know about that. But anyway, they made it available. [End of tape 3 side A] My dad bought me a first Model B Ford coupe when it came out. I had just turned sixteen, I think, when I could get a driver's license, and he bought me this Ford coupe, and I loved that coupe. At that point, I was able to drive in the summertimes wherever I was going to work and have transportation available. I took that car to the university with me. Then later, he bought me another Ford coupe that I never will forget. It had first what they called jumbo tires on it, which were thin here and then widened out on the bottom. This was a real fancy coupe. Another boy from Fallon who was in the university and fraternity with me, Joe Wallace (his widow is the one that runs the Wallace Reality down here), and I went to a fraternity convention back in Memphis, Tennessee, and we drove that coupe. Then we took a big trip to the east coast in it. We were in forty-two states.
SA: Now what year of college were you when you did that?
CD: Oh, I don't know. I might have been a sophomore. I don't remember. Sophomore or junior.
SA: I want to back up just a little bit. When did you drive your first car; when did you first learn to drive?
CD: Well, when I got that car when I was sixteen, this coupe that my dad bought.
SA: You were sixteen when you got that, and that's the one that you took to college? Were you seventeen or eighteen when you went to college?
CD: Yes. I'll tell you what. I skipped two half grades, so I graduated when I was seventeen. In retrospect, that was a mistake. It's a mistake for kids to go to a college that young . . . a normal child.
SA: Not socially ready?
CD: Well, I'm not even sure they're intellectually ready. And the size of it was that I learned more in my senior year than I did the first three years combined. At that time, see, you could enter school when you were five. Later—and this was when I was in the legislature—we made the decision to increase that to six years old, and that's one of the best decisions we ever made. I think that it's so much easier for children when they go on to advanced education if they've got a little more maturity. I graduated in my school when I was seventeen years old having skipped two half grades.
SA: And did you come back summers and vacations?
CD: No, I worked on the highway jobs. Well, I might have been back in Fallon for a while, but if they had summer work, I went wherever it was. One year it was in the Las Vegas area. I spent the full summer down there. They had road work down there.
SA: As you were going through the university at Reno, what kind of subjects were you taking?
CD: I started in engineering and then I figured out pretty fast that wasn't my cup of tea, so I switched over to an arts and science course. I majored in economics and minored in philosophy. At that time, they didn't have a business school. I guess if I were going to do it today, I would have enrolled in the business school.
SA: So during those four years and with your father's kind of nudging you to go higher, when did you decide that you would go for a law degree and apply to Stanford?
CD: Well, I guess in my senior year I had to make the decision. And I told you earlier, I thought one day how many boys and girls would loved to have that opportunity, and it would be wrong for me to pass it up, regardless of what I did in the future. I had never been down there, and I applied and I was accepted. Kind of an interesting thing, I got out a map and knew I had to go through San Francisco and then down the peninsula, and I had my second coupe. I was traveling alone. I didn't realize it until later, but I got into Stanford on a back road; [laughter] into Palo Alto, which was a city. Anyway, I finally got down to the campus and got enrolled.
SA: How did you feel?
CD: Well, you know, it was different. This was the first time that I was really taken off from home and into a new environment and a new experience, and it was a big challenge. As I told you, I made up my mind they weren't going to show me up. [laughter]
SA: Did you know anyone there?
CD: No, I didn't. As I told you, that was one of the reasons why I had no social relationships. Why all I did was study [laughter], which was good, you know. And after I got through the first year, of course, it became easier. And then I developed these good friends the senior year I was there. This best friend of mine . . . his mother and father were divorced, and his mother had rented a home there in Palo Alto while he was having his education. She was taking a worldwide trip that was going to take seven months, so he invited three of us to live with him and share the costs. It was a beautiful four bedroom . . . and she had beautiful furniture. We each had a bedroom and we lived like kings. We hired a black girl . . she'd come in the afternoon about four and make up the beds and then she'd cook for us. Each week two of us would do the shopping, and then the next week, the other two would. We had our evening meals there. And it was just . . . it was just an ideal existence. You know, we all went our own ways studying. We had different courses and separate rooms. We didn't all attend the same classes or anything, so maybe we wouldn't see each other through the day.
CD: Chuck Jonas, my friend, was an undergraduate there. As a matter of fact, the other two boys were too. They were undergraduates at Stanford. They knew a lot of friends, so we used to host social affairs and then invite a lot of people. I can remember one time we were going to have a bunch of people in and so we were going to make a rum punch, and we had a great big punch bowl and we put all this rum in the bowl and then we got a lot of juices of different kinds to dilute the rum taste. [laughs] I can remember us dumping these juices in to try to get some kind of a neutral taste to that rum. I don't know that we ever got the job done, but anyway, the rum was well accepted at the party—the rum punch. [laughter]
CD: One of the things I remember about it was Hank Luisetti, who probably made a bigger impact on college basketball than anybody that ever lived. He came from the Mission District in San Francisco. He came to Stanford the same year that I came to law school. (He might have been a year earlier.) I was able to watch him play all three years I was there. He perfected the one-handed shot, and I can remember when I was a senior at the university and we'd listen to some of those ball games and he'd make thirty points, which was unbelievable at that time. I mean, it was big if a college basketball player could make twelve or fifteen points. And here was a guy making thirty points! And he was just a fantastic basketball player any way you take it. And the three years that he was there, they won the national championship every year. And one year the Stanford basketball team, the starting five, were the all-coast team—every player on there was the top player in the league in his position. The five of them were All Pacific Coast. They just had a wonderful program. Well, I remember this party that I'm talking about—I had never had a chance to meet Hank Luisetti. He was a good friend of the fellow that owned the home, Chuck Jonas, so he came to the party, and I remember having a nice visit with him; and boy, it was a great thing for me because he was just so unbelievable for his time. I think he made more of an impression on basketball than maybe anybody that ever played the game because of that one-hand shot deal. Before that, they'd get fixed positions and shoot with two hands, see. And he never played the game that way.
SA: As you were going through Stanford, you must have developed a lot more self-confidence and discovered some more qualities. So as you were graduating and looking inward, what are some of the things that changed during those four years?
CD: Well, it was three years. Some people were four-year students for one reason or another, because they hadn't completed their work in three. I went to one summer school session while I was down there, and I worked in a law office the second summer in San Francisco.
SA: Oh, as part of your program?
CD: Well, it was an elective thing if you wanted to do it, and I wanted to do that. So, I was not home in the summer either one of those two years. First of all, let me tell you about the environment at Stanford. That was absolutely the most wonderful three years that I ever spent in my life. That was before they developed all the technology programs and leased all that Stanford ground. It was the first time I was ever in a place, having growing up in Nevada, where in the spring, it was like a green carpet. Just wonderful! And I used to get in my car and just drive around through those hills and enjoy that scenery. And the weather was beautiful. I can remember one night my first year there when I was eating out, and I bought a newspaper before I went in to eat. I opened up the newspaper after I sat down, and there was a little box story on the front page—the night before it had been fifty-six degrees below zero in Elko, Nevada, and here I was, not even wearing an overcoat, you know, at sea level. So the climate was nice, and it was just . . . I'll tell you, I couldn't have been living in a more ideal environment. So, that contributed to the enjoyment of my whole experience there. Then living with these other friends my senior year was a nice experience. We've all remained good friends, and all attended my fiftieth class reunion down there in 1989. And we're all still alive. All four of us.
SA: And did it build a lot of new kinds of feelings of confidence in you?
CD: Well, you know, I don't know that you realize those things from day to day. They kind of evolve. One thing I can tell you that I did learn was good study habits. I learned how to concentrate and I learned things that were important. You know, I read just thousands of pages of material and took thousands of pages of notes. And so, you know, I guess the best experience in that way, besides the information I got out of the courses, was the study habits that I developed. The other thing is that particularly because of my experience at Stanford, I was able to organize my thoughts in a much more logical sequence. And in all of the things that I have ever written or ever spoken about since that point in time, I'd have to say that one of the big fortes I have is to be able to do that. And that is a result of the Stanford experience.
SA: So then graduation time came. What was it like?
CD: Graduation time came. It was wonderful.
SA: Did your family come up?
CD: Oh, yes. I told you, my dad had to come in a wheelchair. My mother and father were there. They have an open area amphitheater there called the Lawrence Frost Amphitheater. When I went down to Stanford it was under construction. A student named Lawrence Frost died while he was at Stanford, and his parents, in memory of him, gave the money to build this amphitheater. It was a beautiful outdoor amphitheater. It was all graduated so that, from the bottom of the amphitheater to the top, everybody had good views. Then they had a big raised platform area down at the bottom where we all sat as graduates and where the speakers sat, and it was a lovely day. It was just a nice experience. Of course, this was not just a graduation for the law class—this was the undergraduate school and all of the master's degrees and everything. I think I mentioned earlier that there were eighty-six of us started and there were thirty-six of us that finally graduated, and not all in the same class. Probably only thirty of us survived the attrition, whatever it was in that class.
SA: Because it was so tough?
CD: Yes. Or illnesses or some other reason that they couldn't graduate at that time.
SA: So that made your accomplishment even that much more significant?
CD: Yes. It was.
SA: I'm sure it was also mixed emotions because you were leaving this idyllic kind of life.
CD: Yes. Well, yes in a way. I came home. I had no idea of staying in California at that time. I came back to Nevada and my dad was still alive, and I came back because he and I were going to go forward together. After he died I was kind of adrift, and so I started to practice law. And of course, the war came on and I went into the Navy. After I got out, they wanted me to come down there, and I made the decision to stay in Nevada and not practice law because this was a small community. If I had really wanted to practice law, I would have had to move.
SA: Yes. And by then, despite the beauty of the greenery, this was home.
CD: Yes. This was home.
SA: Now, when we touch the war years we're not going to go into detail, because that won't fit into this. But all I want on those military years is just an overview of those years without much detail. And at that time, had you yet met your wife to be?
CD: No, I had not. I knew her.
SA: But not seriously.
CD: No, she was in high school in Reno when I was at the university. And she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, but I did not know her. I was single when I went in the service, and I was glad in a way because I felt so sorry for people in the service that had wives and particularly children to be away from. Actually, the only person I had close to me at that time was my mother, and that was bad enough. My heart bled for these people. I was spared that kind of problem. I was about ready to be drafted in the army. And I didn't want to be a foot soldier, so this V7 program for naval officer training was available. They called them ninety-day wonders—they just trained us for a short period of time. You had to be a college graduate and you had to be under twenty-eight and single.
SA: And how old were you?
CD: I was twenty-seven. I enlisted in San Francisco in this V7 program and I was not called up for about seven months. I finally reported to Notre Dame University. They had a training program for twelve hundred of us. They had taken a portion of the campus, a cafeteria, a big exercise quadrangle and some dorms for us . . . put us four in a room. We were there for a month, and then the class split and six hundred of us went up to the city campus of Northwestern University where they had taken some of that facility, including a cafeteria, some living quarters, and some classrooms. We were there for three months. Then I was ordered to some gunnery training back in Norfolk, Virginia, then to a ship that was under construction in Oakland. That was the first ship that I went out on, and I was on that ship for twenty-three months before we came back to put another ship that was built in south San Francisco into commission. I finally left the Navy in November of 1945 after the war was over. I put in 175,000 miles at sea, and retired from the Navy as a full lieutenant senior grade. I was gone from July of 1942 until November of 1945.
SA: There must have been many changes. Can you tell us what it was like when you returned?
CD: Well, one of the significant changes that I found was a gradual thing, and I wouldn't have noticed it if I had been here, I guess: that was the improvements people were making on their own land on the project. Even though fuel was short . . . well, they had certain exemptions for fuel for agricultural use, so I'm not sure that they had a hardship that way. But it was hard to get equipment and one thing or another. I was very much impressed with the work people had been doing on their own farmland to increase the on-farm efficiency of the use of water. Very much impressed with that. The other thing that I noticed, that I knew that was substantially different, was the buildup of the naval base.
SA: When you said you saw changes in the water use, can you give us more detail on that?
CD: Well, as I say, I could see where people had consolidated fields, improved their ditch systems like we had been doing at the Island Ranch, and creating better irrigation slopes. And I could just see lots of changes on fields as I drove to different parts of the valley.
SA: Was there a decrease or an increase in the population or businesses or of growth, or was this a slow period in Fallon?
CD: Well, I don't think there was a significant increase. The base was just in its early stages of expansion. Most of the population growth that was related to that came at a later point in time, after the war was over, because the war was not a good time for any kind of an expansion. People were pretty limited in what they could do, and with rationing of fuel and other types of things, there was a problem of getting materials where so much of it was commandeered by the military forces. So that was not a period of substantial change or expansion as far as the community.
SA: From my research I understand that after the war there was a burst in the economy. Construction began again, and prices of beef and other farm products rose. Did you observe this burst of energy in the economy when you came back?
CD: Well, to an extent I did. Yes. After rationing stopped, and materials and equipment became more available, we surely noticed it in the construction business, which was pretty seriously restricted because of equipment acquisition during the war. Equipment was much easier to get. There was a lot of additional road work that had been delayed during the war that was resumed, which was helpful to the construction company. It was much easier to get labor and materials at the ranch.
SA: Now, the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] was here during quite a lengthy period working on ditches and things that would affect the ranchers. Did you observe any of this personally or can you share any information about that?
CD: Well, I observed it. They were doing head gate work and diversion gate work all over the irrigation project, which was very helpful to the project. It gave them work, and I knew a lot of the people that were involved in that and some of the people that stayed here after they served that service. As a matter of fact, the person that owned a subdivision was a CCC boy. His name was Cecil Cheek. He owned this subdivision, and he came from the South somewhere. Not too well educated, but he became a pretty good builder. As a result of the work he had been doing with concrete and so on, he continued to do a lot of that kind of work after the war. He never became a licensed contractor, but he built his own home . . . he built these two homes right over here himself.
SA: Is he still alive?
CD: No, he's not alive. I knew a few of the people that stayed here after the war. Quite a few of them did.
SA: Really? Did they come into town? Did they mingle or did they work and go back to where they were housed? Do you know where that was?
CD: No, I do not. I do not remember that, and I don't know the extent to which they were absorbed into the community. I never was that close to them, but I know a lot of work that they did.
SA: Did you ever see them working? Did they wear certain uniforms? Did they all dress the same?
CD: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think they wore uniforms.
SA: Did you ever talk to anyone who- where a lot of them came from?
CD: No. A lot of them came, I know, from the poor part of the South.
SA: Were there black fellows?
CD: I don't recall that. The people I knew who stayed here were Caucasians.
SA: So if there were blacks, they didn’t mingle in town, you didn’t see them.
CD: Well, I don’t recall one way or the other.
SA: Did the work that they did help your ranch at all?
CD: Well, it might have. I don't know. I guess everything helps on each canal delivery system. And we were on one of those canals. Now, I don't remember specifically too much of the work that was done right around that area of the ranch, but I'm sure there was a lot done on that particular delivery system that was helpful in the control of water and creating better efficiency and that sort of thing.
SA: When they put in the concrete, did that conserve the water that would have been absorbed?
CD: Oh, well, it created a lot better system of controlling the water through proper head gate or cross structures and that sort of thing. And gates that had a better control of the water. Before, there was a lot of leakage on a lot of those structures, probably a lot more washouts and that sort of thing, that the TCID had to repair.
SA: So that helped both the kids that needed work and the kind of work that was needed here.
CD: If the TCID had to do that work, I don't know, even then it would run into thousands of dollars.
SA: Now I wanna move into the major change in Fallon, when the air base was started here in 1942. Do you know about the steps before it came? Tell us that first.
CD: I know ‘em all. Probably I’m the only person that knows ‘em. [end of tape 3]
SA: This is tape 4, and would you please start telling us about the steps before the airbase came here?
CD: Yes. During the short period of time I was practicing law in Fallon after I got out . . .I had an upstairs office in a building downtown on Maine Street. One day a man came into my office. He was one of the biggest men I had ever seen. He was not particularly fat, but that might have been a nine-foot ceiling and he was taking most of it. He was a big, broad man. He must have weighed three hundred pounds at least, but he was not fat. His name was Bob Schmidt. At that time, we had a Junior Chamber of Commerce organization made up of a bunch of young guys. We had quite a lot of energy, but no money. [laughs] I was the chairman. Somebody referred him to me. Pat McCarran was then the senior United States Senator from Nevada, and he had introduced the legislation that created the Civil Aeronautics Authority. He was the author of the bill. This guy was from an office down in Santa Monica. He came in and said he understood I was president of a Junior Chamber; then he said, "Pat McCarran sent me up here to locate a civil aeronautics field." And he said, "I need to find out whether there are any suitable locations here." I said, "Well, I can show you a couple."
CD: So we got in the car and I took him out to where the present city airport is. Then I took him to the present site of the navy base. At that time, two local pilots had taken a patrol, and they bladed out along the west side of that area. That was a two-mile square area out there that had never been taken up for agricultural land. It belonged to the government, but it was in the custodial position of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. It was bad land, and had never been taken up. They had bladed out a little runway north and south that they used. So, I took him out there and he looked at this runway and, he said, "This is a perfect location for a civil aeronautics airport." He said, "I'll let Pat know. You send all the information out that you need to take care of, and if you take care of it on your end, well, we'll get this thing going pretty soon." I began to get reams of stuff from Pat McCarran. [laughter] The things that he wanted, we were doing here. One of the things, we had to transfer the land from the custodial possession of the TCID to the Bureau of Land Management. It was all federal land. He took care of that part in Washington. And whatever he wanted, we took care of here in Fallon. The plans then were developed for the initial civil aeronautics runway out there. And this was an interesting thing. Plans were received in Fallon by Dodge Construction, Inc., on the second day of July. I was going to get on a train in Hazen to report back to South Bend, Indiana, on the next day.
SA: What year was this?
CD: This was in 1942. And so the last day I was here we had these plans. Ernie Maupin was managing the construction company after both my uncle and dad died, and he and I drove out around this area where it was all staked out, and he had the plans. So that night he drove me to Hazen, and we flagged down the train that I could get to go back to South Bend. That was a military passage. I was feeling pretty bad because there was a big Fourth of July celebration the next day that I was going to miss, among other things [laughter], besides having to go away to war. Anyway, Dodge Construction got the contract for that original runway out there, and at a later point in time during the war, the Navy took it over. They did some major runway improvements. They had to—that little runway didn't cut it. Dodge Construction and Silver State Construction—which was A.D. Drumm, who had a construction company here—had a joint bid and were awarded the contract for the original eight thousand foot military runway out there. I was gone in the Navy for twenty-three months. The interesting end of that story is that I came on one of the small aircraft carriers as a passenger from Honolulu into Alameda. I had a thirty-day leave to come home, and I got off the carrier and I went over to the Alameda Naval Air Station. I knew they were running a little flight back and forth daily for mail and that sort of thing from Alameda into Fallon, so I told them that I wanted to see if I could bum a ride with them to Fallon. About two hours later, they had this plane taking off and so we flew into Fallon, and I landed on a completed airport. I bummed a ride into town and the guy let me off at my mother's front door. She didn't even know I was home. I rapped on the front door, and I thought she was going to faint when she saw me. [laughter] That was the beginning of what became the ultimate naval air station. Now, they operated at that time as an auxiliary of Alameda, and they operated it for several years after the war; then they closed it down for a period of years. When they reopened it, they reopened it as a full naval air station of its own. The field is named after Bruce Van Voorhis, who was the only Nevadan, I think, that had gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor. I heard about it at sea. He took off on an absolute suicide mission. It was a bombing mission, and he volunteered, and he knew he was never going to have fuel enough to get back to his plane. He successfully completed the mission, and the plane crashed and killed him. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, and they named the station after him later. The other sad part about that was that he had a younger brother by the name of Wayne Van Voorhis who had been a roommate of mine at the ATO house in Reno. He was an officer in the ROTC unit up there and was a reserve army officer, and was called into the army and got involved at the death march at Bataan and died in the death march. And in the meantime, her husband passed away, so here was a poor woman who during the war lost her husband and both of her sons. I never grieved so much for a person in my life as I did for that woman. Anyway, that's the basic history of the base.
SA: So, you landed on the runway that your company built?
CD: No, the one that Silver State Construction and Dodge built together, which was the major eight thousand foot runway at the base at that time.
SA: Now, you were away during a part of that building, but when you returned . . . . Tell me how this base coming in affected the town. I understand there was a controversy. Was there?
CD: Well, I don't know that there was. It was not really at that point a large operation. When it was operated as an auxiliary to Alameda, they had squadrons up here doing some training, but it was pretty basic and not nearly the magnitude of what it has grown into in more recent years. It was pretty small. They did close it down, you see, for a few years before they reactivated it to create an independent station out of it.
SA: Do you know when they started to buy out some of the homesteads and take over some of the range land?
CD: That was after they had reopened it as an independent air station, and where they wanted a safety cushion around the airfield and the facilities, at a later point in time. I remember the buy outs and remember a lot of the people that were involved, and some of them bought properties in other parts of the valley. They were well compensated. They felt very good about the kind of prices they got from the Navy.
SA: So they were able to get new places?
SA: But in one interview . . . one or two people were saying graze land that wasn't theirs, that they used for their animals, wasn't available. Was there much of a problem with that?
CD: No, there wasn't. There was a pasture ranch and it was on marginal land. It wouldn't raise anything but a little pasture feed. And down south of the base, that was acquired as part of that safety cushion because it was right at the end of the runway. That's the reason they bought it. The runway was a north-south runway and this was to the south of it. They acquired it and there was a pretty good home on it. It had been built by a man by the name of May . . . not the May Company, but another May from the Los Angeles area. And he put a nice home on it. After they acquired it, it became the commanding officer's quarters and still is. But that was a marginal piece of property. Ran a few cattle, but it was nothing major. And it was not part of the general grazing areas and public domain grazing areas.
SA: I imagine that it helped the economy greatly to have that built here.
CD: Oh, sure it has. It has had more of an impact all the time as it's gotten larger and a lot more people involved. You know, it's growing, but the growth was a little slow early on. For one thing, the secret to this station and what will determine its role in the future is it's probably one of the few places in the free world that has that big an air corridor that they could train on. It goes clear out past Austin, over 120 miles. They got that air corridor that they can use for their training that I don't think you can develop anywhere in the free world anymore, you know, because of complaints and environmental considerations and all of those things. I can tell you this, and I've heard it from secretaries of the Navy, from admirals in the Navy, and everybody else—this is going to be the most important training station that the Navy has in this country.
SA: Well, I know that Miramar is closed, and that Top Gun is all moving here. Have they started the move yet?
CD: No, they haven't. They're in the process of building some facilities to accommodate them. There was an article just recently in the paper about a fifty million dollar program just under construction. A few years ago, they had a big hassle about buying this land in Dixie Valley, which was part of an air corridor that they were using for some electronic warfare training just south of Dixie Valley out by Frenchman's Flat. They've got over a hundred million dollars invested out there in just electronic tracking equipment. Anyway, there was a big hassle about the buy out there and about these guys weren't getting enough money for their land and all that sort of thing. Well, they finally got them pretty well all bought out. And that helped the Navy as far as being able to fully utilize this area where they do their strategic training and their air combat and all that sort of thing. They are able to measure accuracy and some amazing . . . .
SA: Was it after they got that corridor that they knew they could bring in the Miramar Top Gun?
CD: Yes. During that time, the hassle over Dixie, they had a morning meeting over here at the convention center when a bunch of admirals was out here with then Secretary of the Navy. And the reason they were out here was to develop a training agenda for the Strike Warfare University that they created at the base. I don't know whether you know anything about the Strike Warfare University. After the attack on Libya, they found out that the squadron leaders weren't as sharp as they thought they should have been. So the Navy decided they were going to set up refresher training for squadron leaders. The Secretary of the Navy was talking about this deal that morning. He said, "We asked all the top people in the naval air force, admirals and so on, where this should be located, and over ninety percent of them said Fallon." And so the Strike Warfare University, one of the recent developments, which last I heard had about 60 or 70 people – civilians, officers, and navy personnel – is a separate building.
SA: What year did they start that, or approximately how long ago?
CD: Oh, I think it's probably been eight years ago or something like that. They have people coming and going all the time. That's an independent command. It's a training facility for this purpose. The other important thing that I found out the last time I was out there, the "All Nav" [All Navy Bulletin] dealing with tactics and strategy and improvements in techniques in aerial fighting are being sent out of the Strike Warfare University for the whole Navy. So there's no question in my mind that as long as they have carriers at sea, this base is going to be a very active place.
SA: The new technology in war.
CD: Yes, and it will continue to improve with the training programs they have here.
SA: When I was giving oral history workshops at the Churchill County Museum, I met some wives of contractors who worked at the base. They had five-year contracts and moved to Fallon, and some of the wives volunteered at the museum. Did you notice a gradual increase in the kinds of people coming who worked for the base?
CD: Oh, yes. Yes. Ford Aerospace, and I don't know who else is involved. But see, a lot of those people are involved with this tracking equipment out there. Scientific people, and they're high paid people.
SA: High paid? And are they here long enough – I know some purchased home even though they left later – to interact with the community?
CD: Well, I can't respond to that too much. The Navy League is an organization that a lot of those people belong to, along with people in the community, but I couldn't comment on that too much because I don't know. There’s a home right here north of us that was on the market you know, and there’s not a lot of people who can afford say a $225,000 or $250,000 home here, but I know one man over here that’s connected with the Strike University and he’s still here that bought a $220,000 home. It was a nice place. But because it was on the market for a long time because of the price he snapped it up like that when he came in.
SA: Are there enough rentals for these people? Does the military put up housing?
CD: The military has got a lot of housing and are extending that. And that's an area right out west of the base there.
SA: Now, do these people purchase more things at the base, or do they use the businesses in town?
CD: Well, I think they use them to a certain extent. I remember talking to the people over here at Raley's, which is an enormous store, incidentally-64,000 square feet in a community like this. At the time it was built, I think it was the largest store that Raley's had built. It's a beautiful store. And they were complaining that they didn't really benefit that much from Navy operations wherever they were. So they do have their own . . .
SA: Commissary and Post Exchange?
CD: Yes. Yes. And even retired military people here have that available to them. And they do have special prices.
SA: Do they have a gas station out on the base, too, or . . . ?
CD: Oh, I don't think so. I don't think they handle everything. And so I think there's still a certain amount of spillover as far as what they require here in the community.
SA: Has the population of Fallon grown a whole lot?
CD: Oh, yes. When I went into the senate, which was in 1958, I think there were about 6200 people in the community. And each decennial it's grown. I think probably the population is around twenty thousand in the county. But that’s not all military.
SA: A lot of retired, aren't there?
CD: Yes. They're rural dwellers is what they are. They want a little country place. I told you when my dad came here and he came through, he thought Fallon was a nice desert oasis. And that's what people still think. They like a little stake in the land where they can have a few animals and a few trees, a little pasture.
SA: It's lovely. Did it create an increase in the value of property, the land, an increase in the prices of the ranches?
CD: It did on the smaller acreage, you know, like a twenty or a forty-acre parcel. On larger acreage like the Island Ranch, no. Those are strictly agriculture acreage. They're not interested in farming, those kind of people; they're just rural dwellers.
SA: Has it increased, though, the smaller rentals in homes, like in your area?
CD: Oh, I'm sure it has. Yes, and on smaller parcels, the land here anymore, the prices per acre are significantly higher because people can afford to pay more now. For example, the Island Ranch today is appraised at about $2,000 an acre, without improvements. A nice twenty-acre parcel might be worth $3500 to $4000; a forty-acre parcel, $3,000 per acre. Because the guy, if he's got the assets, can buy forty acres for, say $120,000, and build a little home on it, and even with improvements, he's not in it for too much money. But on commercial operations, those values have not changed.
SA: Has there been an increase in the businesses in town with an increase in the population?
CD: Oh, definitely. Definitely.
SA: I've observed one of the places where there are lots of little "Mom and Pop" operations; individually owned places. Is that changing, or are more small places becoming specialized?
CD: Well, yes. I see it all the time. You bet. You know, as the population grows, those things are going to happen. And one of the things that really ignited it was when we built the shopping center out here. There wasn't much along that strip. At the time that I acquired it, that land was in bankruptcy, and there were no utilities out there: no water, sewers, electricity, nothing. That was in the early 1970s or maybe the late 1960s. We formed an assessment district up here along the highway on the south side to put those utilities in. There were some other property owners in there. The assessment district went to Allen Road, which is the corner of the shopping center there. So the water and power and sewer went in, and that's what permitted the development. The population each decennial has gradually increased . . . I think it's increased more in this decennial percentage-wise than it ever has, because I think there's an accelerated growth here population-wise.
SA: And is the increase in people retiring here due to all the problems there are in places like California, or is it due to the military presence?
CD: Yes. It's largely an increase in the population for whatever the reasons, and that's one of the principal reasons. But, as the population grows, as in any community, you begin to see new service supporting businesses spring up, don't you? So that's the history of any community. It's no different here.
SA: But the radical increase? Do you think more and more people have seen bad economy, high prices, taxes, crime, violence, and gun use as some of the causes for a stronger movement away from California and other highly populated areas?
CD: Yes, I do. I sure do.
SA: So, to get back to finish with the military: did that influence your farm? Does the military buy their food supplies from the local ranches?
CD: No, they do not. I've told you that this is not a row crop area. The people aren't eating alfalfa or small grain. And the dairies, I don't think that's as big a factor here because nearly all of this milk is shipped out of here to processing plants either in Reno or in California. So the finished product has to come back in here.
SA: This is not a beef cattle area?
CD: No. It's a range area, out on the range. Hammy [Ira Kent] can tell you more about that. But there's a lot of dairies in here now. The last figure I saw was about 8,000 head of dairy cattle here in this valley. And they consume a lot of this local hay. Cows eat their weight every month, so if a cow weighs fifteen hundred pounds, she'll eat that much feed every month. Well, that's about nine tons per year that a cow eats. So, if you have six thousand milking cows (even dry cows eat about the same) if they eat nine tons apiece, that's 54,000 tons of feed that the local dairy cows will consume of hay. Not all of it here in the valley, because they ship in some high test hay that can't be grown here at some higher elevations.
SA: So then all the milk and cream we make here has to be…
CD: Yeah, some of it goes to California. Some of it goes to cheese factories in California. And then there’s model dairy in Reno, which has been a processing plant for years. [End of tape 4, side 1]