Lester "Buck" Kirn Oral History

Dublin Core

Title

Lester "Buck" Kirn Oral History

Description

Lester "Buck" Kirn Oral History

Creator

Churchill County Museum Association

Publisher

Churchill County Museum Association

Date

December 13th, 1990

Format

Analog Cassette Tape, Text File, Mp3 Audio

Language

English

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Bill Davis

Interviewee

Lester Fredrick "Buck" Kirn

Location

2950 Alcorn Road

Transcription

CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES

ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

an interview with

LESTER FREDRICK "BUCK" KIRN

December 13, 1990

This interview was conducted by Bill Davis; transcribed by Pat Boden; edited by Glenda Price; first draft typed by Pat Boden; final typed by Glenda Price; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum.

PREFACE

"Buck" tells of arriving in Hazen in 1921 at the age of eleven with his aunt and uncle, Jewel and Doc Kirn, and staying at his Uncle Fred's. He tells of attending Harmon School and working for his uncle on the Williams Estate, and in the Sheckler District and eventually working for Charlie Renfro on the Dodge Island Ranch.

He also relates his adventures as a fourteen year old in helping a cowboy drive a herd of U. S. Cavalry horses from Fallon to the railroad in Lovelock.

He tells of catching a freight train in Fernley and riding it to Wells on his way to Twin Falls, Idaho, to pick up potatoes, baled hay and bean straw, and fed cattle all winter. He returned to Dodge Island where he became foreman. He describes the farming activities there. He moved to town when the Dodges took over the ranch and tells of working on the last horse job on Four and Eight-mile flat road construction and of hauling gravel for the Stillwater road.

He then went to work in the meat business as a butcher. He tells of the slaughter house procedures and of eventually getting ownership, with Sam Beeghly, of the Heck's Meat Market. They supplied tallow to grease the ship launching ramps in the Bay area. They also put in the first freezer plant in town.

He remembers the irrigation problems and early problems with water structures. He recalls the C.C.C. camps and how they upgraded these water structures.

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.

INTERVIEW WITH LESTER "BUCK" KIRN

DAVIS:  My name is Bill Davis and today is December the 13th, 1990. I am at 2950 Alcorn Road, and I'm going to be talking to Lester Fredrick "Buck" Kirn. Buck, let's start out with your earliest memories of Fallon, or what your background was?

KIRN:     Well, I was born in Golden Eagle, Illinois, and I came to Fallon when I was eleven years old. We rode out here on a train. I attended the Harmon Schools, graduated. . .

DAVIS:  You say "we". Who did that involve?

KIRN:     My uncle and aunt

DAVIS:  And their name was?

KIRN:     Doc and Jewell Kirn. They're taking me to bring me up, brought me from Illinois out here. We came to Hazen on the train. I thought, at that time, Hazen was the most forlorn looking country I'd ever seen--Illinois being beautiful--landed in Hazen, took the train on to Fallon. Stayed at my Uncle Fred's place until my Uncle Doc got a place to live, and attended the Harmon School. I went into the fifth grade and graduated from the eighth there.

DAVIS:  Who were your teachers then? Do you remember?

KIRN:     My teacher was Justine Hughes, one of the finest teachers, I think, anyone ever had. She taught me for two years and then, Mrs. Sanford who also was a very good teacher. After graduation from the grammar school, or even prior to that, I drove derrick and irrigated and done things on the ranch for my uncle. He got a job at the Danielson ranch--it's called the Stark ranch since then, I think . .

DAVIS:  Where was that located?

KIRN:     Here in Fallon.

DAVIS:  In the Harmon District?

KIRN:     Yes, at that time the Williams Estate was in receivership and Graham Lamb was the Receiver. He appointed my uncle to run the ranch and I worked there during the summers --cut the mowing machine and rake seats off four inches so my feet would touch the frame I attended high school for half a year, and at that time they were makin' two and a half a day on the ranches.

DAVIS:  That was general farm help?

KIRN:     Um hum. I needed some new clothes and my aunt told me my money was all gone that I'd earned in the summer. I quit high school and took a six-horse plow team. Wages then was two and a half a day and I thought, "What would a man want with more money than that?" (laughing) So, as time went on--I got about fifteen-my uncle bought a little ranch in the Sheckler District I stayed there a little while with him. He called Charlie Renfro on the Dodge Island Ranch, which is the Dodge Island Ranch now, and got me a job in the second crop of haying. I stayed there during the haying which was about thirty days.

DAVIS:  Now, what were you actually doing? What was the work?

KIRN:     Raked hay and mowed hay.

DAVIS:  With horse teams?

KIRN:     Um hum, worked the horses. I know I worked second-crop hay season. After that--his son, Donald, was doing the chores there--milkin' four or five cows and just general chores around the place--Mr. Renfro said, "I think you're a pretty good boy," he said, "Would you do the chores until Donald gets well?" it tickled me to death. After Donald got well, he said, "I think you're a pretty good boy,"--said, "I think I'll keep you around here and give you a plow team this fall." So I stayed and I worked there until I met a kid from Twin Falls, Idaho. He wanted me to go back up there that fall and pick up potatoes. We caught a freight train in Fernley and rode it to Wells. However, might also tell you, we were jumping from car to car between Fernley and Lovelock to get inside one, and I slipped and almost went down between a couple of 'em. (laughing) Well, anyway, we rode that train to Wells, got off there, and bought our way on to Twin Falls. At that time, it was just a gravel road and very rough and it took us a long time to get over there. I stayed there until the next summer and worked for a man on Rock Creek out of Twin, at Hanson. That's about twelve miles, I think, from Twin to Burley. I worked for a fellow by the name of Bill Haines. Then I came back and went right back to the Dodge Island Ranch ...

DAVIS:  You were working potatoes up there--or a little bit of everything?

KIRN:     Oh, yeah. We baled hay in the winter time, baled bean straw and fed cattle. Mr. Haines had about nineteen milk cows. There's a lot of snow up there, in the winter time, and it drifts. In fact, it was the year the first talkin' picture came to Twin Falls. The snow drifts were so high you couldn't see the fence posts on either side of the road. We had to go out through a couple of fields to get to a road to get to Twin to see the picture. (laughing)

DAVIS:  What were you doing when you got back to Dodge Island?

KIRN:     Well, just general things, and, then, Mr. Renfro made me foreman. I ran those hay crews, put up the hay and moved the derrick.

DAVIS:  How big a crew was it, and what kind of crew?

KIRN:     It'd take about forty men for the stackin' crew and the cuttin' crew and everything--at that time . . . all horses.

DAVIS:  How many horses?

KIRN:     We had lotsa horses. Those big candy wagons we'd have eight, nine of them on a run to the stack and the loader--take a team on each of them, and five on the loader and then your cuttin' crew. You'd start five mowin' machines and three dump rakes .

DAVIS:  Big outfit.

KIRN:     . . and a couple of sidewinders to turn the rows ends in and-

DAVIS:  You mentioned candy wagon. What is that?

KIRN:     That's a big box wagon that the loader just dumped the hay in on a net and then we had big round stacks that had about a hundred and fifty ton in a stack. I had three men on a stack, derrick driver and the wagons hauling in.

DAVIS:  And they lifted those nets with the derrick, right?

KIRN:     Um hum, lift them, get one man a load, then the next one a load, then a third one a load and then back to the first one. We had a load goin' up pretty near all the time.

DAVIS:  How many stacks did they have down there at one time?

KIRN:     Well, they had different stack yards scattered around on the thirteen hundred and sixty acres and there would be five or six big stacks, maybe, in each stack yard.

DAVIS:  I can remember the big round stacks.

KIRN:     I stayed there until Dodges took over the ranch and then a year or two after that. Then I moved to town and I worked on the four and eight-mile flat construction.

DAVIS:  About how old were you at that time?

KIRN:     I was about twenty-five.

DAVIS:  You went into construction then?

KIRN:     Yes. I worked in the shop in town and I worked on the Four and Eight-Mile Flats.

DAVIS:  What were you doing in the shop?

KIRN:     I was just assistin' the welder and washing parts. I drove truck. That was the last horse job that Dodges had--the Four and Eight Mile Flats.

DAVIS:  Where are the Four and Eight-Mile Flats?

KIRN:     Out at Salt Wells.

DAVIS:  Towards Salt Wells?

KIRN:     Toward Austin. We widened that road eight feet on each side and, consequently, horses and Fresnoes were diggin' the bar pits out and draggin' the mud up there to eighteen inches of the top and then they hauled the select in.

DAVIS:  That's the gravel and heavy rock.

KIRN:     The gravel and heavier material. I plowed with a thirty Caterpillar for the teams, drove a team a little bit, put the boundary stakes in on both the flats and the right of way, and drove a sixty Caterpillar--oil it--and then drove truck.

DAVIS:  When did they build the causeway out to the salt works?

KIRN:     Oh, that was before that.

DAVIS:  They'd already had that one in?

KIRN:     I don't know I think about--oh, gosh, in the early settlement.

DAVIS:  Was it?

KIRN:     The first salt works was put out there. But that Four-Mile Flat was pretty boggy. It was a lot of mud. Had a drag line on there and you'd have to stay on pontoons to keep from sinkin'.

DAVIS:  Did you have rainy weather out there?

KIRN:     Oh, yes, had rainy weather--all kinds of weather. They had a cook shack out there and some of us ate there. We'd get our noon meals there at the cook shack.

DAVIS:  That was pretty big job out that way then?

KIRN:     Oh, yes. Gosh, I don't know how many of those Fresnoes was workin' there but there was--I'd say--ten or twelve and the trucks . .

DAVIS:  How long did that take on those two flats?

KIRN:     It took from the fall 'til along towards spring. But when it was finished then we moved over and Smiley had a gravel pit out by the caves

DAVIS:  That's Smiley Atkinson?

KIRN:     Smiley Atkinson. And we hauled the gravel to gravel the road from right at Stillwater to the Dan Evans corner which was about four miles out here towards Stillwater. That was in 1936 and '7 [1937] and it got so cold we had to shut it down for two weeks. It got twenty-two below that winter and stayed that way for two weeks. In the spring, when that job was done, I went to work for Ray Albee in the meat business.

DAVIS:  That's Albee, A-L-B-E-E?

KIRN:     Yeah, and, consequently, I was workin' with Virginia's stepdad who was a real good butcher, and he taught me how to butcher.

DAVIS:  What was his name?

KIRN:     Lee Heffner. I liked that meat business better than anything I had ever done.

DAVIS:  How did you start there?

KIRN:     I worked at the slaughter house, just as a helper, in the sausage kitchen twisting wienees and stuffin' them and then smokin' them, curin' hams, and things like that. Then an opening came over at Kent's. Harry Marsh was the boss over there then and I got on there. The first week I worked meat business I only made fifteen dollars, then was raised to twenty-eight and the top butchers were gettin' forty-five then. That was in 1937.

DAVIS:  What were the facilities like out at the slaughter house in those days?

KIRN:     Oh, there was just a killin' floor and most things didn't have no electric saw. You split the beef with a cleaver at that time. You just about had a hoist, a cleaver, your butcher knives, aprons and that was about it.

DAVIS:  Running water?

KIRN:     Running water, yeah.

DAVIS:  That meant most of the meat went here in Fallon or was it shipped out?

KIRN:     Well, Albee had a butcher shop in Truckee and he supplied it, too.

DAVIS:  Then at Kent's you just…

KIRN:     I worked for them for nine years.

DAVIS:  That was not in the slaughtering but in the cutting up

KIRN:     No, I slaughtered for 'em, and at the last I was working in the shop and slaughtering, too. I worked there for nine years. Harry finally left and Mr. Wallace asked me to take over and run the shop. About that time Harry Heck kept talking about selling his little place out there [250 S Maine St], and I and Sam Beeghly bought it.

DAVIS:  Where was Kent's slaughter house?

KIRN:     Where Tulio Mori is.

DAVIS:  On Allen Road.

KIRN:     Um hum. There was not even a cooler there at that time when I went to work for 'em. I'd kill four beef and hang 'em overnight. Then they'd pick 'em up early the next morning, haul 'em to town and put 'em in the cooler. Later, they built the cooler on. But, in the meantime, I'll have to tell you, April the third of 1937, Virginia and I got married. We had a little house, and Sam had a little house. We put up those two houses for enough collateral to buy the little plant.

DAVIS:  It wasn't a bank then?

KIRN:     No. And then Charlotte Towle loaned us enough money to operate on--three thousand dollars, or thirty-five hundred, I forget which it was. Everybody was good to us. We had a good business and a good clientele. We used to do custom work for people--even cured hogs for people out-of-state. And I still, once in awhile, have someone tell me that they can't get a ham as good as the hams we used to make.

DAVIS:  I can believe that. (laughing)

KIRN:     Up to fourteen, I thought I wanted to be a cowboy. So the last cavalry horses that were ever bought here, a fella come in and bought a half a car load of 'em.

DAVIS:  That was for the U.S. Cavalry, right?

KIRN:     Yes, and, consequently, he had another half a load bought over at Lovelock and he wanted these horses here driven overland to Lovelock to get 'em together so he could ship 'em on the main line. There was a cowboy from Winnemucca and he needed someone else to drive 'em over there. Well, I took the job and we left Fallon early in the morning with the horses.

DAVIS:  About how many did you have?

KIRN:     We had about eighteen head, I think. The first day we made it to eighteen miles this side of Lovelock. Coolidge had a highway job with horses at that time on the main highway. We made it to their horse corral, froze that night and slept in our saddle blankets-didn't sleep much--got up early the next morning and started those horses on toward Lovelock. There's a cook shack up there about six miles from where--I think it was about six miles--seemed like it--to where we spent the night. He said, "Let's go in and get some breakfast." We went in and washed up, just started to sit down to eat and them horses headed back for Fallon. (laughing) Gosh, we went out, jumped on our horses and run them suckers plumb back to that corral and three head kept coming on toward Fallon. But my horse--I was riding a horse he'd bought from Dick McCullough in Fernley--was gettin' sore footed, so I stayed with them at the corral. This other fellow went on and it was about two hours before he come back with those three head. They just cut around ya and keep comin'. When we got up to the cook shack again he went in and got some breakfast and I stayed with the horses. We got into Lovelock about three thirty that next afternoon. The man that hired me gave me five dollars for the trip. It cost me five to haul my saddle and myself back to Hazen on the train. (laughter) I decided maybe cowboyin' wouldn't be very profitable. (laughing)

DAVIS:  (laughing) Doesn't sound like it. About how old were you then?

KIRN:     It was about 1925 or '26. 1924 maybe.

DAVIS:  That seems like a long ways now.

KIRN:     That was about 1926, I think.

DAVIS:  Long ways now, but, I bet it seemed long then?

KIRN:     Yeah. [tape cut] I think we bought our plant in 1941.

DAVIS:  That was during the War?

KIRN:     During the War, yes. Tallow was a good price then. They used that rendered tallow to shove them boats they were building into the ocean. It greases the runway.

DAVIS:  How did you get that to market? Who bought it?

KIRN:     There was a hide buyer in Reno then.

DAVIS:  Okay.

KIRN:     He bought the beef hides and the tallow. And, gosh, we got good money for that tallow.             We just had a good business from the start.

DAVIS:  When did you start having freezer lockers, too--about that time?

KIRN:     Well, no, it was a few years later. We put in the first freezer plant in Fallon and lockers for people. I went out and hustled the money to build those lockers from the individuals that were going to use 'em. So it was pretty quick--maybe couple of years or so after we got the business--we done that. It's hard to remember back all those things.

DAVIS:  Oh, yeah, sure.

KIRN:     But, you know, sometimes I can remember a lot of things that happened when I was five years old.

DAVIS:  To digress a little bit, what do you remember about your school days in Harmon? Any special incidents or things that were unusual happen?

KIRN:     Oh, yeah, I was an ornery pupil. I'm ashamed of myself when I think back--as ornery as I was to those teachers. I remember one time--it was along toward spring when Mrs. Sanford was teaching. She was going to put on a circus--have kids gettin' hoops and coverings and animals. I decided that they didn't need me around there for that circus, so I took a vacation. One day I was ridin' my horse by the school. I thought I'd go in and see how they were gettin' along. I walked in the room. Mrs. Sanford spied me. She said, "Lester, where you been? Don't you ever want to make a success of yourself?" She come down there and she hit my head against that blackboard with her fist. (laughing) She really worked me over. But, praise the Lord, I had it comin'. (laughing)

DAVIS:  I’m sure you weren't the only one down there.

KIRN:     It was great experiences. But this Justine Hughes-she was a wonderful teacher now. She could read a whole paragraph just lookin' at it at a time. She'd read a book to us at noon, after lunch--she'd read maybe a few pages each day. I think I've become a pretty good speller. I know we'd have spelling matches and I'd maybe didn't win all of 'em, but I would be maybe second at 'em. She taught you how to syllable those words, and if you do, you can come pretty close to spellin’ ‘em, see, and tear 'em down. I did win the first prize of saying the multiplication tables backwards and forwards. And, gosh, I can think of a lot of things, but I was never in that school room a day I didn't look out and want to be out of it.

DAVIS:  How far did you live from school and how did you get to school?

KIRN:     Well, I walked at first until I got a horse. It was about three miles, I think, from the school.

DAVIS:  What do you remember about irrigation problems or anything to do with the farming? Did Dodge Island have plenty of water?

KIRN:     Yes, Dodge Island had plenty of water. They had a reservoir. It's all been filled and farming now. I think Sorenson has it.

DAVIS:  It's right near the Lone Tree School.

KIRN:     Um hum, just beyond and south of…

DAVIS:  It was north of the old Pinger ranch.

KIRN:     Yeah, north and west of the Pinger ranch. That one great big ditch comin' down all through the ranch there, and, at that time, there wasn't much cement around. We used redwood boxes--one by twelve redwoods. They'd dig back in the bank and they'd be maybe three or four feet from the bottom of the ditch down and then way back in the bank. I used to dig four of them a day and I remember one day I was back in the bank diggin' one of those structure holes.         Mr. Renfro rode up on his horse and he said, "Hey, kid, slow down. I got two sonofabitches over here ain't diggin' as much as you are." (laughing) Whitey Harrigan was fifteen when he came there and he became the night irrigator. I didn't know until I run onto Prouty a few years ago that sometimes Whitey'd let that water run too long at night. Prouty finally told me Whitey get that water set and then go over to see Georgia Gray (laughing) at night. They had plenty of water. Mr. Renfro was leveling those fields forty, fifty acres with no levees in 'em at that time with a ditch on 'em at two sides. But, that wasn't very practical. He'd be out there with a shovel, shoveling water in the first irrigation and making levees by hand to get that water all over where he wanted it.

DAVIS:  What were they raising down there, at that time-alfalfa and grain?

KIRN:     Alfalfa and grain and I think about two thousand cattle a year. I took care of the horses there. They had these collars and they'd get sore shoulders. I'd take the padding out and doctor 'em and all those things.

DAVIS:  Taking care of the harnesses and so forth?

KIRN:     Um hum. Oh, the businesses were small but they were good at that time. Nothing like it is today, for sure.

DAVIS:  What was on Maine Street in those days?

KIRN:     The cars were parked in the middle of the street then. There was a big water trough down there between the Court House and just across the street from there. In the years prior to that--when they had the teams running to Fairview and Wonder--that was the turn around point. They'd go down and turn around that big water trough out there in the middle of the street.

DAVIS:  How big a trough was that?

KIRN:     It was about six or eight feet in diameter.

DAVIS:  Metal, wood, cement?

KIRN:     It was cement, I think.

DAVIS:  The railroad was already into Fallon when you came?

KIRN:     Yes, it was. In fact we rode it when we came out here in 1921 from Hazen to Fallon.

DAVIS:  What do you remember about the Second World War--the effect it had on Fallon?

KIRN:     Well, gosh, I can't say much on that.

DAVIS:  The Navy base?

KIRN:     I know that's when the Navy base came in in its [Second World War] infancy. I know there was a lot of us guys that were married and had families. If we were deemed in an important job that was more beneficial than going to war, why then we were deferred. Which I was in that position.

DAVIS:  Did you have any business with the Navy foodwise or meatwise?

KIRN:     No.

KIRN:     I sold Safeway Stores quite a bit of meat.

DAVIS:  Do you remember any reaction from local people about Navy boys in town, or the influx of the Navy, or did everybody seem to be in favor of it?

KIRN:     About that time there was a bunch of the CC [Civilian Conservation Corps] boys that decided to stay instead of go back home. They didn't resent the Navy. In fact, they thought it was a good thing for Fallon. And I think it has been a good thing for Fallon. I don't think Fallon would have half the population that it has now if it weren't for the Navy. I just hope that nothin' happens to it. I also think that if it's for the benefit of protecting our country, I don't care where those planes need to fly, they should have the right to do it.

DAVIS:  They dismantled the base, too--a couple times?

KIRN:     I don't think entirely. I think it was maybe cut down a time or two, but I don't think it was ever dismantled.

DAVIS:  Were you here when the CCC camps were going?

KIRN:     Yes.

DAVIS:  What do you remember about their activities and the reaction?

KIRN:     They were a great thing. It'd be good if they had a program like that today, I think. You got so much unemployment. Instead of havin' those guys drawin' unemployment checks, put 'em to work, and pay 'em a little. Everybody's spoiled now, though--the wages and the money these baseball players get and the Congressman and Senators--I just can't understand it. I never made over a hundred dollars a week in my life. When you think of that, this makes me sick. [tape cuts out] They put in most of the good cement structures in the ditches around for the TCID and just many things. I know Mr. Wallace was the head of some of those CCC's. They weren't using the material over to Yerington. He went over there and got the material and brought it over here. Cement was in its infancy then around here. There's a lot of these structures now you'll see CCC on 'em. I got a couple of 'em up here at the corner of my place. [end of side A] -Some of the CCC men decided to stay in Fallon, and I can tell you some of their names; Floyd Biggs, Larry Goone, Johnny Shamp. .

DAVIS:  There was Nick Thomas?

KIRN:     Nick Thomas.

DAVIS:  And Johnny Brooker.

KTRN:    Johnny Brooker, Kelso, and, gosh, there's a lot more of 'em. When I want to think of 'em I can't. Anyway, there's many more that I just can't get on the tip of my tongue here, right now. But, there was a lot of the boys, good boys, that chose to stay here. They became real good citizens and raised families here. Newt Lumos was one. He has a son that's an engineer here now. There was several fine boys that were killed in the War from Fallon.

DAVIS:  What do you remember of Pearl Harbor Day?

KIRN:     I remember Pearl Harbor Day [December 7, 1941]. We had a pinochle party the night before, got up the next morning and about eight o'clock somebody told me Pearl Harbor had been attacked. It was just an uproar and a touch and go from then on as to the news that you would receive. But there wasn't much that anyone here could do about it except accept the bad news that we'd get.

DAVIS:  The community had different activities during those years. I was in school at the time and I can remember scrap drives.

KIRN:     Oh, yeah, there was several things that happened about that time. I know they took the king off the top of the Copenhagen cans, and all kinds of materials were really valuable to make war materials…

DAVIS:  Metal.

KIRN:     Yeah, any metal…

DAVIS:  .copper . .

KIRN:     Um, hum.

DAVIS:  Iron.

KIRN:     Iron and just pert near any kind of metal.

DAVIS:  They stockpiled that somewhere?

KIRN:     Well, they used it to build those ships, I think, down there, didn't they?

DAVIS:  But, locally, they stockpiled it somewhere, and then it went on by train?

KIRN:     I think they shipped it to Reno. [tape cuts] When I first came out here in 1921 a lot of people didn't even have a dairy barn. You'd have a milk stool strapped on ya, and you'd milk one cow right out in the corral--and the cows were broke to stand. You'd take your stool and go milk another one.

DAVIS:  How did they handle the milk in those days?

KIRN:     Well, there was a creamery here in Fallon that used a lot of the milk--or, I guess, most of it. Everyone had a separator and you'd sell your cream--usually had some hogs or somethin' to feed the skim milk to. Pert near all the small ranchers had a few dairy cows and that was their livin'--to sell what little cream [they could]

DAVIS:  How often did they take that cream into town?

KIRN:     Probably once a week.

DAVIS:  Just keep it in a cool place.

KIRN:     Uh huh--buy groceries. A lot of people--that was their existence about that time.            My own uncle, Fred, had a little forty-acre ranch and a few milk cows. That little forty-acre ranch, as I remember, and those dairy cows and that cream and milk was the main thing that he brought a large family up with.

DAVIS:  Some of 'em raised a few chickens, too.

KIRN:     Yeah, chickens and turkeys.

DAVIS:  Turkeys, right.

KIRN:     This was a great turkey raisin' place at one time

DAVIS:  Who were the big turkey raisers?

KIRN:     Mrs. Blair was about the biggest that I can remember. There was different ones, though.

DAVIS:  Would they contract with Kent's and around or was it kind of individual? Do you know?

KIRN:     Well, there were individual and some of 'em were contracted. There was one guy out here had seven or eight hundred turkeys at one time and they were stealin' them turkeys.          A guy was shot out there, think.

DAVIS:  Somebody was poachin' turkeys then?

KIRN:     Uh huh.

DAVIS:  They caught him?

KIRN:     No, never did catch him. There was a guy'd come to town--he'd have three or four hundred turkeys--go home and they'd be gone. Take a long time to come to town if you lived out in the boonies then--horses and buggies and things.

DAVIS:  They were pretty expensive things in those days.

KIRN:     Uh huh, but Fallon turkeys were noted for their prime at that time. That was before your double breasted turkeys came along.

DAVIS:  Where did they ship 'em?

KIRN:     By gosh, I really don't know. I imagine they shipped 'em to Sacramento and different places--big cities. But, they used to contend then--they'd have a flat, four by four, for them turkeys to roost on--that if they set on a round pole they would make their breasts crooked. (laughing) I don't know how much truth there is in that, but I know a lot of 'em done that.

DAVIS:  How about the people that raised cattle?

KIRN:     Out at the ranch there, we'd feed those cattle, and H. Moffitt was a big buyer of beef. He had a slaughtering plant in San Francisco and he bought a lot of the cattle. Then there was another plant in Dixon and different places and their buyers would periodically come in.

DAVIS:  Did they have an auction yard here at that time?

KIRN:     No. No auction yard here then.

DAVIS:  It was just personal contact?

KIRN:     Yeah, Allen Road was just a sandy trail These buyers'd come in and they'd buy a couple of load of cattle, maybe, out of a corral which had two hundred fifty head. He'd cut out the fattest ones. We'd drive 'em to town and ship 'em on the train the next day. I remember when Cushman came to the ranch out there. It had always been a cattle feedin' deal in the winter time until he came. He was a sheep man. I ran the things around the ranch there and built the corrals, put the water lines in . .

DAVIS:  That was Cushman?

KIRN:     Yeah and take care of the sheep when he was out buyin' 'em. We fed ten thousand sheep that first year.

DAVIS:  Where did he get his sheep from?

KIRN:     All over--wherever these sheep were--in the mountains-mostly north of here--Elko, and I don't know if he got any out of Utah or not.

DAVIS:  But, he sold the wool besides the…

KIRN:     They'd sell the fat and the sheep and fatten the lambs themselves. We'd lose two or three lambs a day. 'Course you can expect a loss out of that many, but we came to find out that that salt from Salt Wells was killin’ ‘em. There was too much salt peter in it.

DAVIS:  Was there any conflict between the cattle men and the sheep men?

KIRN:     (laughing) Not that I know of.

DAVIS:  Oh, no, that's the old western…

KIRN:     The old western deal, uh huh. Most of the ranchers-the big ones--I think had both cattle and sheep.

DAVIS:  When you loaded the cattle onto the train, that was off of Auction Road, wasn't it?

KIRN:     Yeah We'd come up Allen…

DAVIS:  That was known as the cattle road then.

KIRN:     Um hum. There's a big sand hill in there between the Reno Highway and Sheckler Road.

DAVIS:  They'd put those cattle on the train then, and ship them East and West?

KIRN:     All west. Old man Renfro'd leave it up to me in the fall. He'd go to Elko County and Challis, Idaho-that's where the best cattle was comin' from--Idaho--and buy about two thousand head each fall. Douglass was supposed to put up the money each fall. This fall he wouldn't put up the money to buy the cattle. So we got Dodges, and went in partners with them. They bought the cattle.

DAVIS:  Douglass had the bank?

KIRN:     No.

DAVIS:  He had the ranch?

KIRN:     Douglass had the ranch out there--the Charlie Frey ranch. Dodges and Renfro made thirty-six thousand dollars that year on the cattle. They bought 'em for around nine cents and they got contracted for eleven or eleven and a half, I think. Renfro was going to take his thirty-six thousand and give Douglass back the ranch. He'd lost it three times, or twice, prior to that. Then Dodges and Renfro got together and they bought it from Douglass. I think they paid ninety thousand dollars for the thirteen hundred and sixty acres.

DAVIS:  Big outfit.

KIRN:     A few years went by and Dodges come out one day and told Renfro they had somebody to replace him. His equity was eatin' up.

DAVIS:  What did Renfro do after that?

KIRN:     I don't want to tell you that.

DAVIS:  Okay. I want to thank Buck for sharing his memories with me and we'll be signing this recording off as of now.


 

ED: Mr. Kirn passed away not long after this interview, and his obituary was included with the transcript:

Funeral services for long-time Fallon resident Lester F. (Buck) Kirn, 79, will be conducted Saturday, 10:30 a.m., at the Parkside Bible Fellowship, 485 Tedford Lane.

Graveside services will follow at the Fallon Cemetery.

Kim died March 13, 1991 at his residence following a lengthy bout with cancer.

Born March 29, 1911 in Golden Eagle, Ill., Kim came to Fallon in 1921 with his uncle following the death of both of his parents.

He graduated from Hannon* School in 1924. He worked for various ranches in the area and became a butcher for the Kent Company. Later, he and partner Sam Beeghley purchased Heck's Market and K-Pack Meat Packing Company which he sold in 1968.

Kirn was a member of the Parkside Bible Fellowship, Churchill Lodge 26 F & AM, past commander of Lahontan Commandry No. 4, past Master of the Council, and a life member of Kerak Temple of the Shrine. He was a Rainbow DAD and received the Grand Cross of Honor from the girls' organization.

Survivors include his wife, Virginia of Fallon; son, Ron of Anchorage, Alaska; daughters, Kay Glanzmann of Carson City, Ramona Peterson of Reno; brother, Carl of Golden Eagle, Ill.; sisters, Grace Wolfe of Chicago and Kathryn Quick of Danville, Ill; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Buck Kirn Memorial,Fund at Parkside Bible Fellowship, 485 Tedford Lane, Fallon, Nev., 89406 or the American Cancer Research Institute.

Original Format

Audio Cassette

Duration

42:33

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Citation

Churchill County Museum Association, “Lester "Buck" Kirn Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed January 17, 2021, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/608.