Charles Gomes Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with
November 18, 1999
This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final by Pat Baden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.
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.
Born in 1945, Charles Frank Gomes, is not what one would yet consider to be an elder of the community. However, his life experiences in Churchill County combined with what he has learned from his long-time resident father, make him a prime candidate for an oral history.
Charles spent his early years in a tiny railroad settlement outside of Hazen called Massie. His father, Frank Games, maintained the railroads for many years including through World War II when one of his primary jobs was to check the tracks and drains for sabotage. Charles easily remembers his father working the railroads and stories his father told him such as having an overabundance of food during the war due to freight trains throwing off food packages as they passed by a settlement. As a boy growing up on a ranch, Charles learned how to repair automotive equipment and throughout his adult years it has been his livelihood. Charles owns his own shop and most of his time is spent there. His passion, however, and a great deal of his happiness, is derived from flying.
Charles learned to fly early in his early adulthood as a result of his childhood dream. He bought a small Cessna with which he logged many of his first hours. He later replaced the Cessna with a larger version known as "Old Blue" to seat his family. Much of Charles' flight time now and in the past, has been spent working with Search and Rescue, the Sheriff's Department, and different archaeologists who have required aerial documentation of local sites. Charles recalls different incidences of searching for missing people, tracking criminals through the desert and acquiring indispensable information from pebble mound sites near Hazen and exposed burial sites at Stillwater. After the flood waters of the late 1980's receded, ancient burials at Stillwater were exposed. Charles documented the sites from the air and the ground after the inactivity of local officials combined with the pillaging of the sites by looters threatened to destroy the informational and historical value of the sites. Charles' wife Hazel took pictures of the
burials, these photos being the only documentation which may ever exist as the graves are now once again covered by earth.
His obvious interest in Churchill County history makes Charles Games a reliable storyteller. He is soft-spoken, yet open and attentive to detail. The interview took place in his home, set on a country road off Highway 95. The house itself is filled with happy companions who listened quietly as Charles spoke. These included an assortment of chattering birds housed in a rainforest-like oasis of their own (the chattering ceased as the interview began), a Chesapeake Bay retriever called "Lucky" who has been trained to assist Charles in his search and rescues, and an anonymous large cat who materialized suddenly, obviously offended that he was not invited to eavesdrop.
In the distant future, after Charles has lived many more years filled with compelling history, his home will surely be the site for a follow-up interview. Charles' future plans includes retirement from his automotive shop and continued service to Churchill County through flight.
Interview with Charles Gomes
PETERSON: This is Marianne Peterson of the Churchill County Oral History Project interviewing Charles Gomes at his home at 5643 Solias Road in Fallon, Nevada. The date is November 18, 1998. Good morning, Mr. Gomes.
GOMES: Good morning.
PETERSON: Thank you for allowing me into your home for this interview. And we'll start with your full name.
GOMES: Charles F. Gomes
PETERSON: What does this F. stand for?
GOMES: Frank, Charles Frank.
PETERSON: Where were you born?
GOMES: Yerington, Nevada. 1945. September 30, 1945.
PETERSON: Were you named after your Dad?
GOMES: Yes. Actually my grandfather too. Fernando.
PETERSON: What is your Dad's name?
GOMES: Frank Edward Gomes.
PETERSON: And your grandfather was Fernando?
PETERSON: Where was your father born?
GOMES: I think he was born in Smith Valley.
PETERSON: Do you know the date of his birth?
GOMES: Yeah, but I can't remember, it's like November 16th.
PETERSON: Do you remember the year?
PETERSON: What is your mother's name?
GOMES: Pauline. Her maiden name's Pauline Howard.
PETERSON: Howard? And where was she born?
GOMES: She was born in Yreka, California.
PETERSON: And do you know the approximate date of her birth?
GOMES: It would be right around the same time as Dad was born. Be the same time I have all that stuff written down somewhere. I think I give you that.
PETERSON: You were born in Yerington. How long did you live there?
GOMES: Never did live there. I was just born there and then actually when I was born my parents were living in a little side track named Massie. It would be just east of Hazen and when it was time Mom and Dad went over to Yerington and left my Mom over there where the doctor and stuff was and then when I was born she came back to Massie. I think that I probably spent three years at that little town of Massie. I was three or four years old when we left there.
PETERSON: What is your parents' ethnic background.
GOMES: My dad is Portuguese and I'm not quite sure what Mom was. Probably Irish and maybe a little German.
PETERSON: Did your father celebrate Portuguese festa every year?
GOMES : Not every year, but yeah, we did celebrate it.
PETERSON: Do you know if your ancestors on your father's side, obviously they were immigrants. Do you know when they came to the United States?
GOMES: I'm not quite sure. I know that my grandfather actually was born in Boston. And what happened there I'm not quite sure but they moved back to the Azores Islands and when my Grandfather was, I think, ten, eleven, twelve, in there somewhere in there he jumped a ship and he came around the cape to San Francisco. And then he worked his way from San Francisco to Mason Valley, over here, where he had some relatives.
GOMES: Yeah, it was quite a trip.
PETERSON: What is your grandfather's name?
GOMES: It was Fernando. Actually when they found him on ship they made him a cabin boy, and that's how he worked his way on around. And he got a job working for a big ranch called Miller and Lux and he worked there for years and years and years. And I think that he probably made, if I remember right, my Dad was telling me, he made enough money to--they moved from there to Stillwater down here--and bought a ranch. And I think that during the depression times they lost that ranch and they had to move back to Yerington.
PETERSON: What was your grandmother's name?
GOMES: You know I don't know. I never ever got to see my grandmother. She passed away before I was old enough to remember her.
PETERSON: Do you remember the grandparents on your mother's side?
GOMES: Yes I do.
PETERSON: What were their names?
GOMES: John Howard was my grandfather and I'm thinking that-you know I'm not really sure what grandma's name was. First name. I'm thinking Helen maybe. That's something I can find out for you though. I just knew her as Grandma.
PETERSON: Do you know what your grandfather did for a living?
PETERSON: Uh huh.
GOMES: He was a rancher and actually--both grandfathers were ranchers. And they both had big time troubles during the Depression, so I think they both lost their ranches.
PETERSON: How many children did your parents have?
GOMES: Let me think now, boy, there's a bunch of them. On Mom's side there was like ten kids I think and I'm thinking on Dad's side probably pretty close to the same. I'd have to sit down and have a look.
PETERSON: And who are your brothers and sisters?
GOMES: Okay, I have a brother Frank Edward Gomes and I have a sister named Marjorie.
PETERSON: Her last name is?
GOMES: Mankin now.
PETERSON: And what did your mother do for a living?
GOMES: She was pretty much just a housewife. There was a time that she worked in a little store they called Farmer's Market [2180 Reno Highway] , it was just west of town. It's not there anymore. She worked there for several years but mainly just, you know, housewife.
PETERSON: And what did your father do?
GOMES: He's, well he worked for the railroad for years and then he went from there to work with my uncle Chris Madsen, as a mechanic. [He worked twenty-plus years at Tedford Construction as a general mechanic.] And he pretty much did that all of his life except for what he did on the railroad and basically that too, you know, he took care of the rails. He was a section foreman. He took care of the tracks and rails and whatever had to be done.
PETERSON: Is that while he was working for the railroad, is that when he lived in the small town?
GOMES: Yeah. Massie, right, yeah.
PETERSON: Do you remember that town at all?
GOMES: Yes, I do.
PETERSON: Can you tell me about it?
GOMES: Yeah, it was. It's a typical small little railroad type town, if you can call it a town. It was just a siding, you know, and I think every fifteen miles along the track they had one of those type of sidings. And the reason for the fifteen miles is, I think, is they had water towers there and during the steam train times they had to water at those towers. And of course, they maintained the tracks between those sections. It was, most of the buildings were typical small one or two bedroom, very small buildings. A lot of them were made out of railroad ties. You know, actually were very warm in the winter time. We didn't have any running water or we didn't have, of course we didn't have any electric refrigerators or anything like that. What we used to have is just these ice boxes and every so often a train would stop by, and they'd unload these big blocks of ice in these little ice houses, and whenever the ice got melted down you'd just go get another block of ice. And really, I think there was no indoor plumbing if I remember right in any of those buildings. Had the outhouses, typical of that time.
PETERSON: Did you ever go watch your dad while he worked?
GOMES: Um, pretty small. But when he was working close to where we lived there I could watch him from the little back yard that we used to have. Believe it or not the buildings were really close to the tracks. I'm thinking that our building probably wasn't more than thirty or forty feet from the tracks themselves. Just had a little back yard to where we could get in it without getting out on the tracks, you know. I can remember when they were still running a lot of those big old steam trains at that time. We used to run out in the backyard and watch 'em go by.
PETERSON: Must have been exciting for a small little boy.
GOMES: Yeah, it was, especially when they had what they call a mountain mallie, it was a huge steam engine that used to pull the cars over the top of the Sierras and whatnot and that was really a sight to see because they were so big.
PETERSON: Do you remember any of the other families there?
GOMES: Yeah, there was some people by the name of Hartor, Jennings was another, they had a little adopted boy named Jimmy. Jimmy Jennings. And believe it or not I met him again here, it was like three weeks ago.
GOMES: First time I've seen him since then.
PETERSON: Oh, wow.
GOMES: Yeah, yeah. Then there was a lot of Mexican people that worked there too, that stayed there too. A lot of it was Mexican labor and there was a Mexican by the name of Ceasario, I can't remember his last name. Actually my uncle, Orin Howard, he worked there, I don't know, for quite a while. And Remo Matteucci, he's still here. He didn't live there, but him and dad did a lot of work together, so I know him a lot.
PETERSON: Did you dad ever talk about his work?
GOMES: Oh, yeah. If you want an oral history that's who you need to talk to. Yeah, it's really interesting. What he did and what they had to do, especially during the second world war, you know. It really interesting.
PETERSON: How long were you there then?
GOMES: Well, I was there about three years. You know, I can't remember, dad I think worked for the railroad for maybe nine years or so, ten years.
PETERSON: Where did you move after you left there?
GOMES: When dad left the railroad we moved here, in to Fallon and I was sitting here trying to think this morning, the first place we moved to. I think we moved to a place over there off of Sheckler Road and the people that owned it last name was Peltons. And we lived there for maybe a couple of years and then we moved from that location over to a place that was owned by Tidwell. And actually, Allene Tidwell is still alive and their son, Larry Tidwell, I went to school with him He's my same age.
PETERSON: Do remnants of the Massie settlement remain, can you still tell that there was something there?
GOMES: The only thing you can see there right now, is there's some concrete floors, and actually other than that, there is literally nothing left and you can see a few old tree stumps, where we used to have some trees. And if you look real close you can find stuff still scattered around. Actually I found a few marbles and a few things. Might even have been mine when I was a kid. (laughing) I don't know.
PETERSON: Do you know when the town disbanded?
GOMES: Well, I'm thinking the reason why we left there was because they were shutting that phase of the operation down on account of the diesel locomotives didn't need those sections anymore. And I'm thinking, probably in 1949 or 1950 somewhere in that era I would think.
PETERSON: Do you know what your earliest childhood memory is?
GOMES: Yeah, it would be, it would be in Massie and there were several of 'em there, I can't remember what would be first. We had a little dog named Skippy and I remember playing in the backyard with him and I was probably about two. That would probably be about the earliest. I'm thinking, in '49, it must have been in '50 when we left there. Because in 1948 and '49 is when they had that air lift, the winter was so bad, we had a lot of snow, and I can remember being there, we were trapped there for quite some time because we couldn't drive to Hazen, at that time was a big town. That was our closest town was Hazen. And in order to go to Hazen we had to get on a train and ride it to Hazen, and then ride it back. Because of the snow, you know.
PETERSON: You said that you didn't remember your grandmother but your memories of your grandfather, your father's father. . .
PETERSON: Can you tell me tell me a little a bit about him?
GOMES: Um, he was a very short individual, really cranky all the time. (laughing) Hard to get along with, you know. Of course, he'd lived through a whole lot of history, he'd seen the last Indian battles. Fact is he was working for Miller and Lux, his job was taking care of livestock and stuff around camp and one thing and another and at one time he had to have an armed guard with him all the time because of Indian uprising at the time. That was one of the last ones. I don't know what else to tell you about him. Except he looked the typical small Portuguese person. (laughing)
PETERSON: What about your mom's parents?
GOMES: My uncle John Howard was a very tall individual and very good looking individual, very kind. Worked hard most of his life and the fact is every time I think I was around him, he was working. That's about all I can tell you on that.
PETERSON: Now you called him your uncle?
GOMES: I mean Grandpa. I*do* have an Uncle John too [laughs]. Yeah, Grandpa John.
PETERSON: Where did you spend most of your time before you started school?
GOMES: Obviously my mother, you know. My dad, he worked all the time too. About the only time we ever seen him was on weekends and at night. But yeah, obviously we spent most of our time with mom.
PETERSON: When did you start school?
GOMES: I started school, the old St. Clair school over here, it was one great big single room school basically. I think I was six years old then, the time to start.
PETERSON: Did you ride the bus there?
GOMES: No, we did not. We rode our bicycles from this Tidwell place over to that school, which was like two miles, three miles. And then obviously, when the weather was bad mom would take us to school, but most of the time we just rode our bikes to school.
PETERSON: Do you remember some of the friends that you had?
GOMES : Oh, yeah, still have a lot of those. Got Larry Miller and Stan Lehman, we started first grade together there. And we went till third grade I think is when they closed that school. There's Harley Lehman, be Stan's older brother. Just many more I can't think of right now.
PETERSON: How about some of your teachers?
GOMES: Mrs. Staples we had most of the time. Through that three years, and she was kind of like the old-timers too. Believed in smacking you on the back of the head or the fingers or whatever, if you, you know, and it was a strict school. But it was good and too bad couldn't do that now. (laughing)
PETERSON: What kind of chores did you have to do at home around this age?
GOMES: Boy, everything, yard work. We always raised a garden in the summer time and we took care of that. Primarily, the yard thing, keeping the weeds down. When we lived over to the Tidwell place was where we had our first lawn, real lawn. Had to take care of that. And, see I'm thinking that, when we were over there too we had some livestock; we had a cow and a couple of pigs, and we took care of those.
PETERSON: What kinds of things were there in the garden?
GOMES: Oh, the typical stuff, tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, mom liked them string beans. Squash, we did raise some cantaloupe and stuff, but you'd have to have a real large area to raise any amount of them, you know. It was more just fun raising them then for, just at the time, instead of for canning or anything. You know mom canned those beans and all stuff. Tomatoes and all that. Cucumbers, made pickles out of those.
PETERSON: Can you remember what your favorite thing to do was, when you were young like that?
GOMES: MMM. Boy I couldn't really tell you there, except for riding a bike. We loved to do that, that was our only freedom we had, you know. We did a lot of that.
PETERSON: Where would you go bike riding?
GOMES: Well, at that time we could go anywhere, you know, we could go down--which was St. Clair road, and of course the road where we lived, it was a long driveway. We was always limited though how far we could go. We couldn't go any further than the school and back.
PETERSON: Did you go with your sister and brother?
GOMES: Yeah. Pretty much so. Another real favorite thing to do, we did when I was that age is on weekends a lot times dad would take us camping or fishing. We liked to do that.
PETERSON: Where did you go?
GOMES: When we went camping most of the time it would be out in the Reese River Valley out in those canyons out there, like Washington Canyon, San Juan, Cottonwood Canyon and all of those out there. That was probably our favorite.
PETERSON: Did your mother go with you?
GOMES: Yeah, uh huh.
PETERSON: That was nice.
GOMES: Yeah, we all got together. A lot of time the relatives went too. So we had a good time.
PETERSON: Did your dad hunt at all?
GOMES: Yeah. Dad did.
PETERSON: What sorts of things?
GOMES: Primarily deer and then ducks and geese and chukars. He hunted chukars a lot, he liked those. The fact is, I still like to eat chukar, I don't hunt anymore but. .
PETERSON: Where did you go to middle school?
GOMES: West End. That was in town. And then from there I went to high school.
PETERSON: What are your memories of West End?
GOMES: Actually, memories of West End was real hard because when I was third or fourth grade I got real sick. And there was one year there that I missed almost the whole year and I had to try and make that up. And I'll be honest with you, I don't know if I ever recouped from that.
GOMES: You know, I lost and missed so much of it. Even to this day I find myself thinking if I hadn't, it would have been a lot easier for me.
PETERSON: What was it that made you sick?
GOMES: I got scarlet fever and rheumatic fever at the same time, both of 'em at the same time.
PETERSON: Where were you being treated?
GOMES: Well, actually, obviously some of it was done here in Fallon but it got so bad that a good part of it was done in Reno. You know I generated mastoid infections and stuff in my ears and at that time, I think they give you radiation treatments to kill that, you know. And that was a new technique at that time. And I remember there was a guy that I met at the hospital as a kid that got those treatments and he actually lost the hair all the way around his ears and everything and it never ever grew back so, and I had the same treatments I guess I was real lucky and it didn't do the same thing.
PETERSON: So after about a year you just got better?
GOMES: Yes. Slowly got better but it did take years to overcome that, you know. And what was really hard is what I missed at school. I fell a long ways behind but they didn't hold me back; they went ahead and sent me on.
PETERSON: Oh, that was good.
GOMES: Well, yes and no, because I still had to make up a lot. And to this day I feel that I missed a lot. It would have been a lot better maybe if they would've held me back.
PETERSON: It wouldn't have bothered you that your friends had moved on?
GOMES: No, we're still friends.
PETERSON: When you were healthy can you remember what sorts of things you did after school during the weekend?
GOMES: Well, actually, when I was like ten years old, eleven years old working for a rancher, his name was Roy Zaugg. And I used to cut hay, rake hay, bale hay, take care of his livestock. Was just basically an employee for him. And that's basically what I did.
PETERSON: That was your first job?
GOMES: Yep. Paying job, yeah.
PETERSON: That's great.
GOMES: And I worked for Roy for a very long time. Until I was probably, well I started on a Co-op education thing when I was a freshman in high school and that was at the Fallon Garage and I worked for those people I think for fourteen years after that. But the thing with Roy Zaugg was really good because instead of paying me in cash in a lot of things he'd just give me a cow or a calf, and by the time that I was in school I had a real good herd of cows, and then I was able to sell those and of course, I bought a house. I'd already bought my car, so I was pretty good set-up.
PETERSON: That is amazing.
PETERSON: During your middle school years and in high school did your family entertain a lot? Did you have a lot of company?
GOMES: Yeah, we did but it was mostly relatives like my uncles and aunts. Nearly every weekend really, we'd either go to their place or they'd come over, it was a real close knit family. The older we got the further it fell apart and I don't know why. Just times change, you know.
PETERSON: Yeah. It seems easier sometimes when you're younger to do things like that. I know it's the same thing in my family.
GOMES: You know, I think that, too, you know, as time went by, money was better and people had more things to do on their own instead of -- to entertain yourself was a lot easier to go to somebody else's house for dinner and you know. And I think that's what made a lot of the changes there.
PETERSON: I do too. I never thought of it that way. Did you attend church?
GOMES: No, I did not. Doesn't mean I don't believe in the good old boy, you know what I mean, [laughs] but I did not. No, I didn't go to church.
PETERSON: After middle school you went to Churchill County High School?
PETERSON: And were you living in the same house at this point or had you moved again?
GOMES: No, let's see, we moved from the Tidwell place to a place they called--gosh can't remember the name of that place--but it was over on Sheckler there and we only lived there for one or two years and then we moved from there over to this ranch where Roy Zaugg was. They called, well, just the Zaugg ranch on Bafford Lane and we lived there--in fact is my dad lived there until just here a few years ago. Basically we really grew up on that Zaugg ranch. And that is the last place that we actually moved to until all of us kids left home.
PETERSON: In high school were you involved in any extracurricular activities?
GOMES: F. F. A. [Future Farmers of America] I spent a lot of time with that. And I did want to play ball but it was a type of thing where too many chores to do, too much work to do and I couldn't do it, you know. There was a lot of times I would have liked to but we couldn't do it.
PETERSON: So after school you mainly went to your job?
GOMES: Yeah, and did the chores at home.
PETERSON: When did you learn how to drive?
GOMES: When I was about six years old.
PETERSON: Oh, my gosh!
GOMES: I owned my own car when I was ten years old.
PETERSON: Oh, you're kidding! (laughing)
GOMES: No. I worked and got this money, my first car only cost me twenty-five dollars. But it took me a couple of years to build a new motor and everything for it. And, yeah, we drove that car from about the time we was about eleven until high school. And I still have my real first car is a '58 Impala and I bought that when I was a freshman in high school. From the Chevrolet garage. I still have it.
PETERSON: So did you teach yourself how to drive then?
GOMES: Yeah, pretty much so. But you know when you grow up on a ranch, you're driving tractors. See, I was raking hay when I was six years old with a John Deere tractor. And you just go on with it, you know. (laughing)
PETERSON: I read that you graduated from high school in May, 1963.
PETERSON: Can you remember that time?
GOMES: You bet.
PETERSON: I remember seeing in the paper a little blurb--it was called "Seniors To Have All Night Party." Do you remember that party?
GOMES: You bet.
PETERSON: Did you go to it?
GOMES: I did go to it. Although I did not spend all night, you know, I had to work the next day. So, but I probably stayed there until about one o'clock.
PETERSON: What did you guys do?
GOMES: Oh, they had games and--it was more a big b.s. session than anything
PETERSON: Yeah, right.
GOMES: And, you know, of course, you have the typical guys sneaking booze in the bathroom and one thing and another, you know what I mean. (laughing) I, myself, never did drink. I could not stand that stuff. And to this day I don't. But, they were all good kids, we had a good time. I used to be their "designated driver." (laughing)
PETERSON: Sometime after you graduated there was a controversy over the atom bomb blast that they were going to do, do you remember that at all?
PETERSON: Can you tell me more about that?
GOMES: I can't remember so much of the controversy of it; I do remember though that it did bring a lot of money to the town because there was a lot of people involved in doing that out there. I can remember the day they detonated that bomb because it did shake and rattle things around here. I can't remember any real controversy over it.
PETERSON: I read that there were concerns about if it would affect the people's lives or would they be able to feel it and some official assured whoever was writing the story that "No, nobody would be able to feel it." (laughing).
PETERSON: You actually did feel it?
GOMES: Oh, yeah you can feel it and I can remember, well, I was working in the garage, at the Fallon Garage, at that time. Yeah, I can remember that, you know, the building shaking a little bit. And the thing of it is they give the countdown over the radio, you could just wait for it, you know what I mean?
PETERSON: You knew it was coming?
GOMES: Right, yeah.
PETERSON: So, directly after high school you continued to work at the Fallon Garage.
GOMES: Yeah, right, I just continued working, like I say, I worked there until about fourteen years total.
PETERSON: Were you ever in the military?
GOMES: No, I wasn't.
PETERSON: How did the Vietnam War affect you, was it a big thing here in Fallon . . . [End of Tape 1 Side A] How did the Vietnam War affect you?
GOMES: Yeah, it did affect us a whole lot, like a lot of my friends had to go to Vietnam, which bothered me. I didn't go because the illness that I had when I was a kid they figured that I couldn't handle it, although, I think I'm probably as well as any of them. I did have a wife and a child at that time. So, obviously, they didn't take me. But, yeah, some of the people that we knew here didn't make it back.
PETERSON: Who were some of those people?
GOMES: One of the Rogne boys didn't make it back. And sadly enough a very good friend of mine, Denny Waldren, well he did make it all the way back and I think it was just a couple of weeks or so after he got back, he got involved in an automobile accident and was killed. It was a sad time. My brother, he got drafted into the service, although he never did leave the States, but still, you know, was still a sad time. My brother and I were real close, real close.
PETERSON: Is he two years younger than you?
GOMES: Yeah, not quite two years younger than I am, but
PETERSON: When did you get married?
GOMES: Well, let me think. When I was nineteen. My first wife was seventeen when we got married.
PETERSON: Did you ever get the urge to leave Fallon?
GOMES: Yes, I did. Matter of fact I did for a very short time. I moved to Elko and I wasn't there even a year and, the job worked out real well, I was making good money but my first wife didn't like it there whatsoever and she moved back home, so consequently I moved back home, too. That was the end of that. I have been here all the rest of the time.
PETERSON: Then you had a child with your first wife?
GOMES: I have two.
PETERSON: What are their names?
GOMES: Pamella Kay and Charles Edward. My boy.
PETERSON: And what was your first wife's name?
PETERSON: Her maiden name?
PETERSON: And where was she from?
GOMES: I'm not sure where they came from. I'll be honest. They may have moved here from California. I'm not really sure. I think, if I remember right, they moved from California to Yerington and then to here. But I'm not really sure there, you know. (laughing).
PETERSON: Where did you meet?
GOMES: In high school. Well, actually I met her after I was out of high school.
PETERSON: And your second wife, did you get married when you were about thirty one?
GOMES: Yeah, sounds right, twenty-nine.
PETERSON: How did you meet your second wife?
GOMES: My first wife left, and left me with the kids and which was no big deal, that was a great thing really. There was a mobile home spot next to ours, that we had over there on Bass Road, and she had moved her mobile home in next to us. That's how I met her and went on from there.
PETERSON: And where did you get married?
GOMES: In the Silver Dollar Queen in Virginia City. Good place to go, it's worked out real well. (laughing).
PETERSON: Did you have any children with your second wife?
GOMES: No, I did not. No, the first two is enough. (laughing) Truly, it's awful hard to raise kids anymore, you know. I got two great kids, but boy I don't know if I'd ever want to do that . . .
PETERSON: Where was your first home with your new wife?
GOMES: Okay, it was--with my second wife?
PETERSON: Yeah. What is her name?
PETERSON: Okay, where was your first home together?
GOMES: Over here on Bass Road and we lived there for probably about a year, year and a half. We bought this property out here where we're at right now and we built this place out here and moved out here.
PETERSON: Where is Hazel from?
GOMES: She's from Yerington. I think that she had moved around a little bit when she was younger. I know that they had lived in Reno for some time, lived in Fernley for some time, but most of her life lived in Yerington.
PETERSON: Did your parents support the things that you were doing at the time, were they happy?
GOMES: No, not really. After my first wife left it was pretty tough. Neither family supported me or the kids. And when I did get married to Hazel. . . it was really a pretty gone away part of my life, I hardly ever seen my folks. And her folks either as far as that goes. That time has changed you know. But there was a long period of time there that we were pretty much on our own. Which made us even closer yet, I think. There was nothing wrong with that except we missed our families, you know.
PETERSON: So you worked at the auto shop for about fourteen years and is this the same auto shop that you own now or is it a different one?
GOMES: No, that auto shop was called the Fallon Garage, it was a Chevrolet dealership is what it was. Then I went from there and worked for Crown Auto Body for some time and then from there pretty much went on my own. And I've been that way ever since.
PETERSON: So, the shop that you own now, can you tell me about that a little bit?
GOMES: I can tell you how I started out. I started out with another shop in town on North East Street and I worked there at that place for about, let me think, probably seven years, eight years. I sold that to one of the people that was working for me and it was a stress related thing, worked myself to death, and I had to get out of it. So, I laid off for about six months or a year, well, I didn't work for six months and I went to work for the County for a year and a half. Then started my own business again and actually I worked here at home for about seven years, business kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger all the time and actually the County got to the point where they really didn't like me doing what I was doing out here. Even though I had a use permit to do it. I went through all the trouble of getting the right permits and one thing to do it. It just kept getting bigger, bigger and bigger and they thought maybe it would be better if I was to go somewhere else and that's about the time where we bought where we're at now, and we've been here ever since.
PETERSON: What is it called?
GOMES: Just Charlie Gomes Auto Repair.
PETERSON: And where is it located?
GOMES: On 185 Grand Avenue.
PETERSON: And can you recall the year that you opened the shop?
GOMES: At 185 Grand here? It's been six years ago I think, or seven years ago, six years I think it was. I started in November.
PETERSON: Where did you receive most of your mechanic's training from?
GOMES: Well, obviously my Dad, you know, from when we were just little tiny guys we were helping him. I would say probably a good part of it was from him. And then of course, working through the Co-op education thing through the high school, you know, with the Chevrolet dealer, they sent you to school and one thing and another. Probably that was one of the biggest things there.
PETERSON: And you mentioned that you worked for the County for a short time. What did you do?
GOMES: I took care of the county cars, patrol cars and stuff like that.
PETERSON: How much time do you spend at your shop in one day?
GOMES: On the average thirteen hours a day.
PETERSON: Oh, that's a lot.
GOMES: Yeah, it is. It makes you very tired you know. I am getting tired. I was hoping that I could get somebody to kind of help me run the thing, but it's real hard to find that too.
PETERSON: Does it run pretty well?
GOMES: Real well, yeah.
PETERSON: Well, I've heard and read a lot about your love of flying.
PETERSON: So let's talk about that for a while.
GOMES: Okay (laughing)
PETERSON: When did you first want to fly?
GOMES: Probably since I was six. Six years old.
PETERSON: What is your earliest airplane memory?
GOMES: Actual first airplane ride was, I was already actually out of high school, was Hap Lattin gave me a ride. I'm trying to think, it was a little Taylor Craft airplane. You know, they're a fabric covered airplane, and that was my first ride in an airplane. Second ride in a small airplane was, let's see, it was Les Pearce, he had a restored staggered wing Beech and we flew to Vernal, Utah, and back. That was a search and rescue convention. Well, from that point on, it was just a matter of trying to save the money to get the lessons and one thing and another.
PETERSON: When did you receive your first lesson?
GOMES: Really, truly, the first lesson I really had was with Hap Lattin, the first time we went. 'Cause I had a chance to fly the airplane and do a few things with it.
PETERSON: You said that you pretty much decided that you wanted to fly when you were around six. Did the airplanes over the base have anything to do with that?
GOMES: Yeah, right. At that time most of the airplanes were piston driven airplanes with radial engines that used to do their practice or dog-fights and do all that stuff, you know, they'd do it right over the valley here and you could watch them do it. And from that point on, you know . . .
PETERSON: How many lessons did you have before you flew on your own?
GOMES: Actual with a certified flight instructor I probably had seventeen lessons before I actually was soloed to where I could fly myself. I probably could have done it a lot sooner than that but there's no reason to push something like that. Actually, probably my seventeenth lesson would be the solo time.
PETERSON: How long did it take before you were flying frequently?
GOMES: Actually it didn't take too long, 'cause once you get started you kind of go for it, you know. I would say in two months I probably had soloed out. At that point in time I had actually went ahead and bought my own airplane. It was a little Cessna 150 and was a lot cheaper to be able to use your own airplane instead of rent one, and flight instructor too.
PETERSON: Where did you buy your first airplane?
GOMES: Right here in Fallon. Bought the airplane from a guy named Everett Kissick. Cessna 150 is pretty small and basically what they're made for is training. They say that if you can fly a Cessna 150 you can fly any Cessna that they make. So, and Everett was trying to get something a little bit bigger because he had a family too. So, I was able to get into that airplane pretty cheap. I probably flew it for about seven hundred hours.
PETERSON: Do you recall the year that you bought that?
GOMES: No, I sure don't. I really don't. It's been, it was probably a year or so before I got my pilot's license so, let's see, it was like twenty-five years ago? Something like that.
PETERSON: Can you describe to me the first time that you flew alone how did that feel?
GOMES: The biggest thing that I can remember is the way the airplane performed. By yourself. Less weight, it just performed a whole lot different. And yeah, you always had that thought in the back of your mind, can I really do this? (laughing) But, basically, that was the only thing I really noticed was the way the airplane performed with the extra weight out of it. 'Cause you just constantly practice and with somebody else in there and full fuel tanks and one thing another and the airplane kind of about half sluggish anyhow. You know, they're kind of small. But when you get all of that out of there it just really performed a whole lot different. Your mind is really tuned into that kind of stuff anyhow. They keep hammering that stuff to you and then I really noticed that probably more than anything.
PETERSON: Where did you go that first time?
GOMES: Just around the pattern here, in Fallon. It was just kind of up and down, actually, it was up and down three times though.
PETERSON: Do you still have that airplane?
GOMES: No, I don't. That airplane is still here in Fallon.
PETERSON: When did you buy the plane you have now?
GOMES: It was probably a only year after I got my pilot's license and I already had met Hazel, and hadn't married Hazel yet but the kids were still small enough to fly in the 150 with me, we put two in the one seat. I figured well, we're going to have to have something a little bit bigger. I sold the 150 and bought the 172 then. And I'm thinking I've had it for twenty-five years now.
PETERSON: Where did you buy this one?
GOMES: I bought it here too. It was an airplane that had just been sitting out there forever. And consequently one could buy it pretty cheap. I spent a lot of time on it making it like new again.
PETERSON: And how was it different from the first flight, just bigger?
GOMES: Just bigger. Appearance is identical except for it's just a lot bigger, it's four places instead of two places.
PETERSON: And you keep it out here in your hangar?
PETERSON: For somebody who knows nothing about airplanes do you use a runway here?
GOMES: Yeah, we do. There's two runways here. I have my own runway, it's a short dirt strip here and it's actually only 800 feet usable, which is very short for what I have, but I used it for thirteen years without any problem. And then here the neighbor had a bunch of property that runs north and south here and he parceled it all off and made a runway that run along the whole length of all of that property, and sold property along it and now we've got a runway that's 2300 foot long. We all use it together and it's paved too.
PETERSON: So you don't have any use for the airport here in Fallon?
GOMES: There's always a use for it. We don't have any runway lights or nothing here at this little landing strip and there's been times when I been flying for the Sheriff's Department, come back in the dark, where we've had to use that airport. Because they do have runway lights, they do have fuel out there too. I have fuel of my own here, but if you need a fast fuel up, we stop there and fuel up. Yeah, there's a purpose for that airport out there, you bet.
PETERSON: How crowded are the skies out there?
GOMES: Very crowded. One wants to be very careful when you fly around here on account of the military. We do have restricted areas, and control zones and traffic areas and one thing and another. But you want to keep in mind, basically they're there for the civilian pilot, you know, the private pilot and what not. And the military really can go anywheres. So, even though they're our airspace you have to be careful because they'll be there too, you know. I have never, there's been a couple of times when I've had near misses, but as a rule they're very good to work with. And course technology now is better than it used to be, with the transponders and the mode c transponders and one thing another that air traffic controller can keep you separated with. Actually, there's probably more air traffic around here now, but it's still safer, I think. Because they keep control of it a lot better.
PETERSON: Which air traffic control tower do you have to work with?
GOMES: To land here in the Fallon muni, or in the Fallon Municipal, you don't have to talk to anybody. Really, you don't have to. When you do get in the air around here, it's a very good idea to talk to Fallon Approach Control, to let them know where you're at, get on the transponder so they can watch where you're at and keep the traffic separated.
PETERSON: And they’re from the small airport here?
GOMES: No, they’re from the Naval Air Station.
PETERSON: Oh, okay. How often do you fly now?
GOMES: Probably close to once a week at least and sometimes more than that.
PETERSON: Where is your favorite place to fly?
GOMES: Oh, the whole state of Nevada is a good place, really, you know, no particular place. I do make a trip every once in awhile down to Gold Beach, Oregon, on the coast. And I like to do that every once in a while, but just to fly, you know. There is no, I can't say there's any particular best place.
PETERSON: Do you plan on keeping this airplane?
GOMES: Yes, I do. Yeah I've had it very long time now.
PETERSON: I've heard and read a lot about your participation in Search and Rescue. Are you a Search and Rescue volunteer?
GOMES: I was in Search and Rescue for I think twenty-three years, although I did resign from Search and Rescue a very long time ago. Again, it's, as time changes, politics and one thing and another it gets involved, when you can't enjoy doing that particular thing anymore it's best not be there, you know. I still, I am a Sheriff's Deputy, and I still help them one hundred percent, just like I always did before, but I am not a member of Search and Rescue anymore. I am a member of the Sheriff's Department though.
PETERSON: So Search and Rescue is separate from the Sheriff's Department?
GOMES: Right. Well, let's say they are a branch of it, all right?
GOMES: Yeah, the Sheriff's Department does have control over those people, pretty much so, although they're a little group on their own. Self-funded, pretty much, and all of that.
PETERSON: When did you first become involved in Search and Rescue?
GOMES: Boy, just right after high school, a bunch of us were sitting around and, we thought, well, why don't we do this (laughing). And we just got started that way. Started the group and it's just been going ever since. There was a need for it. You have, you know, we have a lot of people out in the boondocks, knocking around, getting stuck, and getting lost. I think the one thing that really clinched it was, there was, I think it was a Miller boy had moved to a new place over here on Old River Road and he had three little boys, I think, well, it ended real tragic, but they were digging in this gopher hole that washed through a ditch bank and it caved in on them and it covered 'em up. And we looked for those. We did save one of the boys, but we lost two. From that point on it really got strong 'cause there was a need for it.
PETERSON: So, was that your first involvement pretty much?
GOMES: Serious involvement, let's put it that way. You know, we went out and found people that were stuck in the mud, or stuck in the sand. Helped them do that thing, but that was first serious involvement of looking for someone. Tragic involvement, I should say.
PETERSON: Can you tell me about some of the other search and rescues that you've been involved with?
GOMES: Boy, there has been many of them. There's many of them that stick out more than others too, obviously, they were more serious than others. There was two mine rescues that we were involved in that was a very serious situation. One of them was a boy by the name of Doug Guard, had walked into a tunnel and stepped down a mine shaft and broke his neck. We had to remove him out of that shaft, which we did, and we got him back alive, but he's still paralyzed, I think from the shoulders down. Another mine rescue was a young lady that basically had done the same thing, walked down a tunnel and stepped into a mine shaft. And had severe head injuries, broke her leg and other things, and again we was able to, actually what we had to do with that person, we had to put those pressure pants on her to stabilize her system, get her in a litter, push her up through all the mine rigging that was still in that shaft, work her through all that, get her up and get her out a tunnel that went probably at a forty-five degree angle, work her up through that, you could just barely crawl through. But we did get her out and saved her life. She's a normal, healthy person today.
PETERSON: How long ago was that?
GOMES: It's been very long ago now. I would bet it's almost twenty years ago now. I used to have all the records of that stuff, I could have got all that stuff out for you, and we could have gone over it.
PETERSON: Can you tell me about the more recent search and rescues?
GOMES: Yeah, there's many of those too. And really all of 'em have turned out real well. So far, those kind. From a few years back, I think the one that sticks out mostly in my mind is, got called that there was a teenager missing, had the family truck, didn't really know for sure where he might be. And we found the vehicle way over north of the valley up in the mountains out there. Consequently he was not with the vehicle and the trackers some distance from the vehicle found where he took his shoes off, and when you find that situation the subject is in real trouble. And you find that the further they go the more clothes they take off and for whatever reason, I don't understand, but they do. And as they kept tracking this individual the more clothes they found, you know, and pretty soon they couldn't track him anymore. I searched in the airplane the first whole day without any luck. The second day we started right at day break and searched until four o'clock that afternoon, or about four o'clock that afternoon. Refueled the airplane again and let the weather, the temperature cool down a little bit so, and that's a real critical thing flying low and slow, temperature has a lot to do with an airplane. So anyhow, we started again after it cooled down a little bit and I was lucky to find him. Just as the sun was going down and probably only had about three hours left, or he'd a been dead.
PETERSON: So he was okay?
GOMES: No, he wasn't. He spent two weeks in the hospital and they still didn't know if he'd make it or not. And with the help of the Navy helicopter they flew him from there to the hospital and put him in intensive care there. I was actually able to track him from the airplane. What he'd done is he'd got down into an old drainage ditch that they'd dug out across the desert out there, and I think that his strength was so bad that he couldn't even get out of it anymore and he was actually walking in the bottom of it which was muddy, you know, pretty muddy, and I could follow his tracks through there. And at one place I found where'd he'd fell and he left just an imprint of himself in the mud, and his glasses were still right there. You know, I could see that, tracked him out to where he came out the end of the ditch and out on a flat which was hard again and couldn't track him anymore. So, I flew over to the edge of the lake bed, you know, off of the flat where it got soft again and was able to pick up his tracks again and we followed him around to where, and he totally was out of it, the tracks were just in circles going all directions. In one place where it was just tracks everywhere so I turned the airplane into the wind and my son was with me at that time, and we was able to slow it down enough that he was able to follow the tracks all the way through into where he had fallen. And that's where he was at. Laying in the brush.
PETERSON: Can you tell me about what it's like to fly for the Sheriff's Department?
GOMES: Yeah, I made several of those. Again, just starting a few years back, on some of those. There was the State Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle over by Trinity and the vehicle was a stolen car. He jumped back in the car and, it was a truck, and took off across the desert, and got tangled up in a barbed wire fence and then they jumped out of the truck and then ran. So we were looking for those, and actually, it didn't take too long, I think an hour and a half, two hours, and we was able to find those. What was bad on that situation was when my son and I found 'em, course they had the state troopers were out looking for 'em too, and one of the suspects was laying about thirty feet from one of the state troopers hiding in a wash, he didn't even know he was there, and I could not communicate with 'em. Had to call back to Churchill Sheriff's Department, they called the state, and they radioed him back. Consequently this takes a lot of time, it's a good thing that guy didn't have a gun or it would have been serious, real serious. And then it was just like two weeks after that is when that same state trooper, he was the one that got shot over there by Lovelock. Sonners had shot him and, you know, I looked for that guy, located the vehicle he was driving and never did locate him but was able to keep him from running just by the presence of being there, you know. And they were able to pretty much keep him in a contained area there. And at night, the National Guard had brought in one of those helicopters with the infrared sensors in it, and was able to find him with the infrared sensors.
PETERSON: Can you give me an approximate date?
GOMES: It was like only two weeks before this Sonner's thing. Again, I could get my log book out of the airplane, I can give you exact dates but just off the top of my head, I can't. Time kind of goes by fast, you know, it's, gosh, it probably five years ago now.
PETERSON: Jane [Pieplow] over at the Museum was telling me that you helped the Sheriff's Department track a drug plane, can you tell me about that?
GOMES: Right. This was years ago, this probably about twenty years ago and I'd only had the Cessna 172 probably two or three years, by that time, maybe not even that long, maybe just a year. The Sheriff's Office called me to help them [end of tape 1]
GOMES: I think what had happened was the military was actually tracking an airplane from Mexico. And they followed it all the way in to this big lake bed over here by Rawhide which the airplane had met, you know, several vehicles. They unloaded the airplane, and these vehicles, but the customs people made a mistake and let the vehicles get away, so they called us and we were to look for the vehicles, which we did, and we did catch those people. But what really got interesting was when I was looking for these vehicles I had another airplane came directly at me, made a pass at me, and I thought, "Well, that was strange in itself," so I thought I'll wait and see what happens after that. So I held the airplane steady and level and sure enough he came from behind me but he tried to hit the strut on my wing. So, obviously, you know, (laughing) he was not a friend. So from that point then his airplane was a lot bigger and faster than mine, but I had the advantage because I could out maneuver him, control him, so I kept him in front of me all the time. And he got disappointed in that after, it seemed like forever, but it probably was three or four minutes. And after he left me, he took a pass at the Sheriff; the Sheriff was on the road below me and I swear I thought he was going to hit that car. I mean he was so close the dust come off the road. But we never ever did find out who that was. My theory was, I'm thinking that he was flying to the flat to pick up something too, you know, and found the chaos and didn't like it and did what he did. There was another time that was sometime after that they called me on a similar thing. The Highway Patrol had reported an airplane landing on a flat which was clear over near Gerlach, and we flew over there, course it takes quite a while to get over there and the airplane was gone, all they wanted was the N-number off the airplane. But I found where they'd landed the airplane by the tracks that was in the flat. But we did find a vehicle that was leaving, and sure enough, it was plumb full of bags of stuff. And we made two passes over the truck trying to get the license number, which we did. And the last pass we went over the truck, the truck slid to a stop and the guy come out with a gun. So, but it was in an area that was good for me because I could go up and down and behind a hill. I'm sure there's a chance that we got shot at the time but we never got hit. From that time on we stayed way out and away from him. They did catch up with that guy too, and the license number on the truck did not match the truck whatsoever, it was stolen, too.
PETERSON: As a pilot you have also played a major role in the discovery of archaeological sites. Can you describe some of these?
PETERSON: Say in particular the pebble mounds out by Hazen.
GOMES: Yeah, I again, when I found those I was flying for the Sheriff's Department and helping them look for something then. And consequently, you train your eye to look, well, for something that's out of place, and I just happened to catch them at the right angle and see all these pebble mounds. You know, they're in perfectly straight lines and little piles of rocks, and I couldn't imagine what in the heck they were. I'm sure they still don't know for sure what they are, but I'm thinking that some old culture had built those pebble mounds.
PETERSON: What year was that?
GOMES: But again that's been a very long time ago. That's probably been twenty years ago now, I think, when I first found them.
PETERSON: Was that around 1980 that you were flying over that area?
GOMES: Might even have been in the late '70's. You know, and I sure that probably there's been people have seen 'em, on the ground. But to be able to see them from the air it really blows you away. It's such a large area and you can't imagine what they had done with it. I know that they have done some testing and work out there and they believe that they were areas that were cleaned up, picked up, and they collected water in cisterns at the end of these areas. And they probably are right, I would imagine, the only thing that makes sense.
PETERSON: At one point in 1981 issue of Nevada Archaeologist, Don Tuohy suggested that area might have been scraped together by railroad workers to grade the railroad, did your dad ever talk to you about anything like that out there?
GOMES: I disagree on that because that section of railroad was built in the early nineteen hundreds. If it was the old 1860's railroad, there's, maybe there's a chance of that, but I'd rather doubt that. The 1860's railroad was completely on the other side of the mountain, over by Brady's Hot Springs and that way. And then they changed in the early nineteen hundreds around and went to Hazen that way. I'd rather doubt that that was used for that because most of that kind of stuff was hauled by railcar anyhow, from a quarry or some place where it was easy to get. I can't imagine anybody out there stacking little piles of rocks in piles to put on a railroad, I mean, time consuming --it wouldn't be practical.
PETERSON: You were in a partnership of kinds with Sharon Edaburn?
GOMES: Not a partner, but I did help her an awful lot. Yeah, very close friend.
PETERSON: Did you still keep in contact with her?
GOMES: I haven't talked to Sharon in a very long time. It may have been a year or so now since I actually talked to her.
PETERSON: In that same article Nevada Archaeologist it said that Sharon was agreeing with you the fact that if the rock had been moved by heavy equipment you would have noticed.
GOMES: Right, right. Yeah, in that type of terrain even a motorcycle track will just stay just forever. I mean it's there for eons of time and there is none of that there, definitely whatever was done there was done by hand. You know, you can look at it, it's in different time periods too. Some of the pebble mounds are more pronounced, a lot taller, a lot better shape than some of 'em, you can just barely make out anymore. So, I'm sure it was built over a long time span.
PETERSON: There's one particular pebble mound, I guess it's the largest discovered by air called "Peg." can you tell me anything about that?
GOMES: No, other than it's just a big pebble mound. Although I have to admit I have found other pebble mounds since that time. As a matter of fact, I have, you know, every time I go out and look around, I do find other locations of pebble mounds. I have found pebble mounds in the Black Rock Desert. And I made a trip to see my father in Brigham City, Utah, here this last summer, coming back along the edge of the Great Salt Lake I have found an area what I feel are pebble mounds too, although I've never been there to look at them. And they're very remote, but I'm thinking, there's pebble mounds there too.
PETERSON: Does it make you feel that these things are out there, and are sacred history?
GOMES: You know, I have seen a lot of that. I don't know what to think about it, it used to upset me real bad. Especially when the flood of 1983, 1984 came about. It was real upsetting because there was so much history there just it was perfectly excavated out, all you had to do is just go look at it, and it was just incredible to try to get anybody to record it, or look at it. The fact is I got some pictures here, if you want to look at them.
PETERSON: Have you noticed any changes in the mounds in the last couple of years?
GOMES: No, I haven't. No, I haven't, I really haven't. The only changes I have seen are man made. Once people know that they're there, get to know that they're there, you know, they have their own theories and ideas. I've found several of them that people have dug all up thinking that maybe they were grave sites or something, I guess, I don't know. But yeah, that's the only changes that I've actually seen.
PETERSON: Is there a particular area that you'd like to explore further and haven't had a chance to?
GOMES: There's always places that I'd like to look at. Buena Vista Valley I think is a very good place to look over real close.
PETERSON: Where's that?
GOMES: Okay, it's northeast off of the sinks area here. It's another valley that's over another little range there, and I believe that there's a lot of culture there, that nobody's even explored at all. I have found petroglyphs and stuff in the hills around that so would make me believe that those people lived all around that too. And it's a lake bed too, so you know there was a lot of water there at one time. Flying that lake bed and what not, the shore lines of that lake bed you can see signs of where those people have lived along the edge of that. I've never been there on the ground though. It would be real interesting to look at it.
PETERSON: Have you flown over Stillwater Marshes?
GOMES: I check that every once in awhile, only because of the sites that we found before and I kind of try to keep track of what's taking place on those. Actually, there's like Site #1, Site #2 are the largest sites out there that we had looked at. Site #2 is actually the biggest site and it's basically all covered up again, the clay particles off the lake bed and what not it's blowing back over that clay mound and it's actually covered everything. There was several burials that had made borders around out there to protect them and they're actually covered now. All that's sticking out is just part of the cross on the top. Now, Site #1 is a different story, the elevated area where that was at was not high enough to actually stop the clay particles from blowing across there, and it's continuing to erode on down. The last time I was out there I counted eight skeletons on the surface out there and they keep uncovering more all the time.
PETERSON: Who's in charge of that area?
GOMES: That's Bureau of Reclamation out there. Site #2 is Churchill County and then pretty much the rest of it is Fish and Wildlife, Federal Fish and Wildlife.
PETERSON: So is there anybody that you call after you've discovered something and it could be a person or ?
GOMES: Well, actually, I had a couple of friends that work for the Fish and Wildlife and they were kind of keeping an eye on things as the water was going down and they told me, they came to me and they says, "Boy, we got a mess down there. We got skeletons everywhere. I don't know what we're going to do." So I contacted Sharon, that was my first contact. I told her, "We really need to talk to Delvin [Lee] and Duff [Eugene Duffney] down there. Big time things happening down in the Stillwater Marsh. You should go check on it, you know." So she did and of course, they only got to see one little part of it and I think there was thirteen burials uncovered then. And they attempted to cover them but then they attempted to hide it all, you know what I mean. And consequently that was not going to work because we had I don't know how many square miles of skeletons laying everywhere and you can't do that, you know what I mean. Actually I had Duff take me out in the airboat and that's where I got these photographs here. And I was pretty much keeping it quiet and this was all summer long but the more the water went down, the more stuff was there. And Duff brought me a thing that came from Portland, Oregon, it was a memo that they'd sent down, and that's where the main office is for the Federal Fish and Wildlife and they said, "We have neither the time nor the money to take care of this situation at Stillwater Marsh." They were just poof let it go. Duff says, "What are we going to do?" I says, "Well, I know what to do but we're going to get in trouble." I did what I did, I took these pictures and I took them to the news people in Reno and, of course, that raised a lot of chaos for a while. The fact is, the negatives for these pictures I had to lock them in the safe because they wanted to take them away from me, but, I didn't break any laws and they couldn't do it. What it did, it forced them into a situation that they had to take care of.
PETERSON: Was that this past summer?
GOMES: Oh, no, that was in 1985.
PETERSON: Oh, after the flood?
GOMES: Yeah, right. Cause it just kind of deteriorated from there down. What's really sad is most of the pictures I have are the only real pictures of it, the way it was. They didn't even get out there to take pictures of it. Finally, by fall came around, they did get everything together enough to where the state and everybody got together and they did take care of good part it. But an incredible amount of it was lost already. I had seen people hauling off, in a wheel barrow, skeletons. What do you do with a skeleton? But they were packing them off in a wheel barrow. Actually caught them with the airplane doing it one time. I knew who they were. I tried, I worked through the Sheriff's Office they tried to get a hold of the right people to go out there and take care of it, but you know, these guys got away with that. It was an incredible situation. That's why we had to force them into a situation where they had to take care of it.
PETERSON: Can you say it was actually dragging things away? Not names but . .
GOMES: One was an attorney, and the other one was a dentist.
PETERSON: What possible reason would they have to do that?
GOMES: I have no idea at all. Except that I know the attorney is a collector. But they tell me, and I don't know if this is true or not, but Native American skeletons are worth a lot of money in Europe. And they may have been doing that with them.
PETERSON: What can I say?
GOMES: Yeah, yeah, it kind of blew me away too. What was really frustrating is the more I tried to let the people know what was there, the worse things got because, you know, obviously I was making waves everywhere and then when you do that other people know about it. The general public pretty soon knows about it and then it compounds into a problem where the archaeologists have got problem because the general public's out there hauling the stuff off. It was the only way that I could see that we could get something done.
PETERSON: What kind of animals have you seen from the air?
GOMES: Boy, just about every kind you can think of really, that's in this part of the country. I've seen mountain lion, I've seen big horn sheep, I've seen deer, I've seen elk, coyotes, antelope, badgers. Especially when you're flying low and slow looking for, you know, if your really concentrating looking for like a youngster or something on the ground. You see rabbits and chipmunks, I mean everything that moves.
PETERSON: I'm sure you've flown over Grimes Point?
GOMES: Yeah. Fact is I helped Sharon a whole lot. Years ago there's some stone sites out there. She thought they might be of ancient culture, Indian stone dwellings. But come to find out it was not it was military exercise that happened years ago then they made barriers and protection for themselves. It turned out to be that. It was a military exercise. But, yeah, all of this country around here I've flown it real well. I've helped Bob Kelley from Louisville, Kentucky, he's a professor from there. I've helped him a whole lot. The archaeology and stuff around the valley. Well, all of them. Mr. Raven is gone now, I've helped him a lot and what not.
PETERSON: How well can you see the Emigrant Trail from above?
GOMES: Very well. You can see it very well. It's just like a road in from the air. Although I'll have to admit when you get on the ground in some of those places are real hard to see because, from the air and from a different angle, you can tell by the way the brush grows and stuff, it's greener and different, probably from where the ground had been furrowed and filled back in it's more fertile and the brush had grown better. But, yeah, you can follow it very well all the way. Actually on the Emigrant Trail you can even find the locations where they left the trail. To the river and back to the trail. A lot of places, especially between Rye Patch and Lovelock, that clay out there--you can still see the furrows from wagon wheels in the ground. It looks like a corn field. I guess they moved over and over and over because of the ground getting soft and whatnot. You can actually still see that, from the air anyhow you can.
PETERSON: So when you fly nowadays, how much of your time is spent for pleasure and how much of its spent for the Sheriff's Department?
GOMES: You know, you can almost split it up, I'll bet 50/50 really anymore, you know. Depending on different times and different years actually there was one year that I flew probably eighty per cent for the Sheriff's Department. And that varies a whole lot. I think that maybe cellular telephones have changed a lot of that too. Now so many people getting lost are able to call home and say, "Hey, come get me." That's helped that in that respect you know. But we still help the Sheriff's Department a lot of other things.
PETERSON: Are you satisfied with that breakdown of flight time?
GOMES: I just love to fly. I do love to fly search and rescue though. That's fun especially when you can find a youngster and help him. I've done that many and many a time. There was time, well, actually, real close to our place here, there was a little youngster that was missing, him and his dogs both. This was in the spring time when all the canals and stuff are full, and he lived over there by lot of them. We were really afraid that he might have fallen in a canal. But I flew over there and in about fifteen minutes I was able to find him. But it was real strange. I think probably the little guy was crying, I actually seen him about a mile away and it looked like this mass moving through the brush and what it was was those dogs were all just right around him. You couldn't even see him, just see the dogs, you know.
GOMES: And of course, consequently, when I found him the dogs split but we was able to get the Sheriff's Department over there to pick him up. But those dogs were definitely taking care of that little guy.
PETERSON: They wouldn't have left him.
GOMES: Yeah. They wouldn't have.
PETERSON: You obviously have a great interest in Churchill County history.
PETERSON: I think that's so wonderful. What else about the area are you interested in?
GOMES: I'm interested in the whole area, I mean the whole area. The whole area has history even this area out here has a lot of history to it. Some of the old wagon trails and stage routes go right through here, and they go to Hootin' Wells. Which is over there, you got the Pony Express trail at the end of the valley and of course you got the Emigrant Trail that comes through the valley. Actually the Emigrant Trail on most of the maps that I've seen aren't completely one hundred percent true, with where the trail was actually at. And maybe those trails were gone down at a very early time when they really didn't know where they were at themselves. You know what I'm trying to say. There's a stretch of the trail that goes from Iron Point to beyond Battle Mountain. On the old maps they have the trail on the north side of the river. Well, it's plain as plain can be that it's on the south side of the river. Now maybe the very early ones, maybe a couple of trains went that way and made the map, but I'm thinking that later they found it better to be on the south side of the river and that's where the main trail actually is.
PETERSON: So where do you go to collect your other information?
GOMES: Actually when we're out and about we're looking for it all the time. I like the diary histories, you know, the diary entries of some of the people that have actually come across. That is the best information, I've spent a lot of fun locating the places that they actually talk about. And we have found some of those places. That's been real interesting.
PETERSON: I remember reading the paper that a meteor had landed somewhere in this area. Do you remember hearing about that?
GOMES: No, you know, I'm sorry I didn't hear about that.
PETERSON: I was interested in it because they were saying that there was a couple of eye witnesses either in Fallon or somewhere east. Or had anybody called you to find the meteor?
GOMES: No. I have found things that I think are meteors though. Out in the sinks area out here to the north there is a huge, a meteor is really slick from being burnt I'm sure, there is one huge rock out there that's just under the surface that I would think some meteor, that's the only way I could think it would get out there, because there's no rocks around, that's the only rock there, you know. But, no, that meteor I didn't know anything about that one.
PETERSON: I haven't heard any more about it since that group was looking for it (laughing).
PETERSON: How about craters? Have you seen any meteor craters?
GOMES: There's a lot of things that I think are meteor craters all right. From looking at it above. The fact is there's several of them down here by Stillwater, and they're large enough that they could be. Although it's kind of hard to tell the difference between a blow hole and a meteor. It's one of the two and I can't tell you that for sure. I'm thinking Soda Lake and Hog back over there are from a meteor but they keep telling me it's a blow hole, so I don't know. I'm not so sure. (laughing) Looking at it from the air. If you look at it from the air small Soda Lake and large Soda Lake both sides are pushed up this way [pointing at an angle]. This side there is nothing. It's like something came in at an angle like that, pushed all this . . .
PETERSON: It would make sense.
GOMES: I'm sure they are. There are people who are smarter than me at that. (laughing)
PETERSON: Has anything unexplainable ever happened to you while you were in the plane?
PETERSON: Can you tell me about some of these things?
GOMES: Yeah, I never talk about it (laughing). I had two, two of my friends and I had flown to Gold Beach, Oregon, salmon fishing and we were on our way back home and we were over top of Herlong Ammunition Depot, and I looked out in front of us and probably ten miles I seen this object which I thought was a helicopter 'cause it was pretty much stationery right in front of us. And a few seconds later I realized that it was not and it was coming very, very fast. And it was coming directly at us. So, like I say I have two people in the airplane was watching this, and I pointed to Ted Smitten and I said, "Ted, what is that?" We kept going so finally it was coming fast enough and directly at us that I had to roll out of the road for it to miss us. And it was a round cylinder object and I couldn't tell you how big it was but it didn't look like it was more then four or five foot in diameter going very fast. All three of us seen that, and Ted asked me he says, "What was that?" and I says, "I don't know what that was but it's probably something you don't want to talk about." And we've never said anything about it. But there was all three of us seen that, and it was very close. I had to move the airplane out of its road. We tried to figure out how fast it was probably going, it's pretty hard to tell, we were going over a hundred miles an hour ourself. But we figured it probably was going four or five hundred miles an hour. The distance that it closed. And we can only hope it was some people from Herlong Military base that were doing something, you know what I mean (laughing), but we haven't got the foggiest idea, that's probably one of the strangest things I've ever seen. It's just one of those things you don't talk about.
PETERSON: Do you talk about amongst yourselves?
GOMES: No, I don't. I've talked to my wife about it. Have you seen the picture of, was it the Concorde they were test flying, you've seen the picture they have--that white ball that's flying around that airplane.
PETERSON: I've heard about it, but I've never seen any pictures.
GOMES: That's just what it looked like. It was a round cylinder and of course the military says it was reflections off the lens of the camera causing that, but we didn't have no camera, (laughing) you know what I mean. We had a camera, I wish we had taken a picture of it but it happened so fast you couldn't do it. We had to actually steer out of its road.
PETERSON: Any other strange things that have happened?
GOMES: That's probably the strangest thing that I think.
PETERSON: Does your wife share your enthusiasm for flying?
GOMES: Yeah, pretty much so. She does get air sick if the weather's rough. She doesn't like it then. But, we like to take trips. I've taught her to fly the airplane well enough she can land it by herself. Which is just another good option.
PETERSON: And your son, you mentioned he had been with you on several different occasions?
PETERSON: Does he fly with you regularly?
GOMES: I'd rather have him as anybody cause he's so good at it. And yeah, the last time we went, he went with me again which was just a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, he does very well. Actually, he's probably saved some lives, well, I know he has. Especially the one out north of town that I was telling you about took us sixteen hours finding that kid. He's the one that actually seen him. So, he can fly the airplane real well too. He hasn't got his pilot's license but he can really fly the airplane.
PETERSON: Is it your hope that he passes it?
GOMES: Well, I would hope so, but he has no, I don't know whether it was too easy for him, he grew up in an airplane you know. And he can really fly it, but he has no interest it seems like, getting his pilot's license. Just really too bad, he really has a good option and a good chance to do that now. But . .
PETERSON: Almost like you getting your driver's license after having driven since you were six years old.
GOMES: Yeah, right (laughing) that's right. [end of tape 2 side A] Yeah, there's been a lot of searches we've done with the airplane some of them, well, nearly all of them turn out real well, and then there's other search you're just looking for a body and that's kind of hard and tough. We have done that too, you know. But the best ones are if you can find a youngster lost or--they're real uplifting.
PETERSON: What are your future plans?
GOMES: I would hope that I can someday retire, sell my business. We do have property that we bought in Smoky Valley, east of here, I would hope that I could maybe make some sort of a retirement out there and still keep this place here to where I'm in both places. But to retire--I don't know if one could ever really retire. I would hope to keep active as long as I can go.
PETERSON: Can you ever imagine yourself not flying?
GOMES: I can imagine the day that I can't do it myself, but not flying. That's why I was hoping my son would get his pilot's license (laughing). There's things can keep you from flying. The FAA's, you got flight physicals and you got all kinds of things and boy, you're truly under their control and at their mercy. All they've got to say is, "No, you can't do it." And you're done. I would hope that would never happen but, there's always that possibility.
PETERSON: I hope that won't be any time soon. It looks like you've done quite a lot for this area.
GOMES: Yeah, over the years I have. If one could just--it would have been real neat if a guy could have kept a diary of everything we've done. I could a wrote a book, I really could have.
PETERSON: Could you?
GOMES: Yeah. I wish I would have kept better track of it though, you know. Some of the banditos we chased down and boy, there's been bunches of those. There hasn't been really too many of the banditos that you actually find yourself, although I have found them. Most of the time what the airplane does is keep them from moving anywhere. They don't dare move. And it gives the Sheriff's Office the opportunity to just track them down. And that's happened many, many times. Basically that's what happened to Sonner's in Dixie Valley. We was there and over the area so much he didn't dare even move or we would have seen him. And of course night fell and that's when they brought in the infra-red sensors with the helicopter to be able to see him in the dark. That's when he would be moving.
PETERSON: I thinking about how, when it turns dark, and how the world looks so different when you try to drive at night or something, and I'm just wondering, I imagine it's the same way when you're flying, the world just looks so different. Does that feeling of discovery ever wear off after all these years?
GOMES: I don't think so. It doesn't to me anyhow. It really doesn't. Of course if you had the opportunity to do what I've done, you could find out yourself. You can look at a place to where you could give every chipmunk a name. But still go back and see something new. So yeah, there's discovery every time you go. And then too this country changes so much with the wind and whatnot. It seems like every time you go it's like a new place again anyhow. Some of the major sites down in Stillwater that I found I learned a technique to find them and what it was was those people years ago they collected fresh water mussels. Okay, they had piles of them where they ate them. Those mussels decomposed but the pearl essence in the shell themselves got into the soil and when that soil was damp it would make the prettiest purple color you've ever seen.
PETERSON: Oh, wow.
GOMES: And I could actually see that from the air and every one of those sites that I found was by that, except for Site #1 and there's so many artifacts on the ground I could actually see them. The grinding stones and the platters and all the different kind of stone tools that they had. You can actually see them, you could have measured that site by the ton of artifacts and at sometime somebody took a truck went out and got em, they made about sixteen trips. I counted sets of tracks, and hauled it all off and I'm thinking it was the attorney person that done that. 'Cause he was a collector. Actually, as far as artifacts goes in that one site alone there were more than what the museum in town has right now, altogether. And I do have a lot of pictures of that. You know I flew out there with a helicopter before the water completely left there, and took a lot of video pictures and thirty five millimeters pictures of the artifacts that were on the ground. And I'm the only one that's got those, what a shame, you know.
PETERSON: It is a treasure.
GOMES: It is, truly, it surely is, yeah.
PETERSON: The reason for this oral history it'll be written down forever.
PETERSON: I really appreciate your allowing us to do this.
GOMES: Well, I hope, you know, I don't know what else to tell you. (laughing).
PETERSON: You've been wonderful and I really enjoyed doing the research and the oral interview, so on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History we'd like to thank you.
GOMES: Thank you.
PETERSON: This is the end of the interview.
GOMES: Okay, thanks