Clifford "Tip" Melendy Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
CLIFFORD "TIP" MELENDY
This is a partial transcript of the original interview. Unfortunately, part of the tape was accidentally erased. Although this interview was not a part of the Museum's Oral History Project it has been included in the collection because of the information provided in it.
This interview was conducted by Cecilly Jacobsen; transcribed by Glenda Price; final by Pat Boden; edited by Norine Arciniega, indexed by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project.
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 Tip Melendy
JACOBSEN: You gotta give me your real name, too, besides Tip, now.
MELENDY: Clifford Melendy.
JACOBSEN: When did you get called Tip? Why did they call you .
MELENDY: Well, about 1908, 1909, an old fellow from Tennessee was a neighbor of ours and that song Tipperary first come out?
JACOBSEN: Okay, hold it for a minute.
MELENDY: He taught me to sing that, and I drove everybody nuts singing that song. (laughing) For a long time they called me Tipperary, then it just wore off and all over the state of Nevada everybody knows me by the name of Tip.
JACOBSEN: Where were you born?
JACOBSEN: And what's your birthday? You know, the month and the day.
MELENDY: March second.
JACOBSEN: Were you born at home?
MELENDY: I must have been.
JACOBSEN: There were no hospitals in Reno?
MELENDY: No. I know them days the women just had the kids at home.
JACOBSEN: Where did you first live when you were born?
MELENDY: There at the race track 'cause Dad was farmin' the race track ground. That was a big area. About a mile and a half, I think, track, and there was not all those buildings in there, then. Just a grandstand and a little part there that was rodeo grounds, and they didn't have rodeos like they do now. It was local people, local stock, and everything else. You never [had] these professionals.
JACOBSEN: You didn't have the Rodeo Cowboys Association.
MELENDY: No way! Not then.
JACOBSEN: When do you think they started riding horses, do you remember at all?
MELENDY: The folks moved to Fernley in 1908. I was four years old then, and before I was six, I was herding cows out in that area back to Fernley.
JACOBSEN: When you say, back to Fernley, what do you mean?
JACOBSEN: North to Fernley?
MELENDY: Where that freeway goes through there. I herded cows all over that country, and I couldn’t go to school 'til Hazel was old enough to go, and she's a year and half younger than I was. I was almost eight when I started to school.
JACOBSEN: Now, this was Hazel Williams, your sister.
MELENDY: Yeah. She was my sister. Just her and I was living with Dad.
JACOBSEN: What happened to your mother?
MELENDY: They had separated.
JACOBSEN: Who was your mother?
MELENDY: She married a fellow by the name of Bill Cramer [?]
JACOBSEN: What was her maiden name?
JACOBSEN: That's a different name.
JACOBSEN: Oh, Scotch… Was she an immigrant, or had her folks lived in . .
MELENDY: No, she was born in I think Illinois somewheres in there, and my dad was born down around New Mexico.
JACOBSEN: Now, I don't understand something. Why did you have to wait until Hazel could go to school?
MELENDY: I couldn't go to school and leave her home.
JACOBSEN: MELENDY: Oh, because your dad was out. Was he cowboying, too?
MELENDY: Right. Yeah, he worked at anything. He worked construction or whatever he could get a hold of, and he homesteaded there in 1907, and we moved down there from Reno, and then's when Mother and Dad split up.
JACOBSEN: Where did he homestead in Fernley?
MELENDY: You know where you come through the underpass? The old road?
JACOBSEN: The underpass for the railroad tracks?
MELENDY: Yeah. Where you go under the railroad track on the old road into Fernley, and the highway department is right there on that corner? His place was the first place.
JACOBSEN: Past the highway department?
MELENDY: Right there past the highway department.
JACOBSEN: I see, and it went west or it went south?
MELENDY: South. It laid a quarter of a mile west and a half south.
JACOBSEN: I see. And where was the school?
MELENDY: The first school was across under the railroad tracks over there on the old Mortensen place.
JACOBSEN: That was the Pete Mortensen place?
MELENDY: I don't know whether it was Pete or who, but…
JACOBSEN: 'Cause I didn't think they came down until much later to Fernley.
MELENDY: You're thinking of. . . Yeah, they were a lot later. Pete Anderson, he'd get in there about the same time we did. Ours was the third place in Fernley.
JACOBSEN: Do you know who the other two were?
MELENDY: Pete's was the next place. Dad's place and that one and the ... a fellow by the name of Bensenson was there and then McCulla bought it.
JACOBSEN: Like the McCullas who used to live here in town, and there was a Father McCulla at the Catholic Church? Were they any relation?
MELENDY: No, no relation.
LUCY MELENDY: That was -ough that lived by Anderson
MELENDY: Oh, right, they were brothers. He raised horses and traded horses and stuff like that mostly.
JACOBSEN: Alright now, did Pete Anderson have a bigger place originally over in Fernley then, because-
MELENDY: It was all 80 acres.
JACOBSEN: Oh, because I was gonna say there is quite a mileage span between their present place and where you say they were. You know, I’m getting sidetracked ‘cause I wanna know more about- Okay, so By the time you were about six years old, you were cowboying?
MELENDY: Well, herdin' cows, you know, rode an old mule. Dad used to have to take a buggy whip and make him go out on the lane. After he got him out on the lane, then he'd go, but otherwise he wouldn't know how to go.
JACOBSEN: Did you ride with a saddle?
MELENDY: No, no. He made us ride bareback. Hazel and I both for a long time 'cause he was afraid we'd get hung up in the stirrup, and then old Bill Pierson from Wadsworth gave us a saddle that he had made. It was just a little saddle.
JACOBSEN: Like an English saddle?
MELENDY: Well, it was just like a regular cowboy saddle only made for a child, and my dad put leather covers over the stirrups so you couldn't get your foot through.
JACOBSEN: Oh, so you wouldn't get caught in the stirrup?
MELENDY: Right, right. Then we got a little pinto horse that the doctor had. He run him, Dr. Jocelyn. He rode him to Olinghouse as hard as that horse could run. They'd sent word that somebody was in terrible shape. I don't know what. A woman having a baby or a cow having a calf. (laughing) Didn't make much difference. The doctor went any place, and he run that horse. Well, he was so crippled up for a year or more, and then Dad bought him for us kids. For Hazel and I. And at one time he was the best reined horse on the Indian reservation when Jocelyn bought him. He used to pile us. You know, he'd take after something. He'd just turn out from under us. (laughing) He was good. He'd stop right there. We got back on. Shinny up his legs. (laughing)
JACOBSEN: You’d help each other up?
MELENDY: Yeah. I always helped Hazel first.
JACOBSEN: You had another sister and a brother, right? Or more?
MELENDY: There were five girls and five boys in the family.
JACOBSEN: They were all older than you?
MELENDY: I loused everything up because there was a girl and a boy all down to Charlie and I, and then there was Charlie and then me and then Hazel. So I've been lousing things up ever since. (laughing)
JACOBSEN: (laughing) Okay, did you finish school? Did you go on to school?
MELENDY: We moved to Fallon in 1916.
JACOBSEN: Your father sold his place in Fernley?
MELENDY: No, he had it leased out, but he didn't sell that 'til after I was married.
JACOBSEN: So in 1916 that makes you about twelve. What did you do in the period between 1907 or 1908 and 1912?
MELENDY: Well, we stayed there in Fernley and went to school, and Charlie and Hazel they had to go the east end. They'd established a school down there, and they didn't have enough kids to keep it a running, so they went horseback when we lived up there.
JACOBSEN: Had you moved? Was that it?
MELENDY: Yeah, we had moved up with my mother.
JACOBSEN: Oh, I see. In Reno?
MELENDY: No, in Fernley. She lived on my sister's place. Stella, the oldest girl, homesteaded that place. Mother and stepdad moved up there on that place.
JACOBSEN: What was your sister's name?
JACOBSEN: Any relation to Virgil Cramer?
MELENDY: No, no relation. He was from the East someplace back there. I don't know just where, but he definitely did not believe in work.
JACOBSEN: Oh, really? Did your mother divorce your father in 1906?
MELENDY: No, it was about 1908 or 1909 before they got a divorce.
JACOBSEN: Really? Divorces weren't very common then. That's really…
MELENDY: Well, there'd been a lawsuit over Hazel and I, and the judge said, "Well, the only way to solve this is each of you take the kids six months out of the year." Well, the first six months we went to Los Angeles with Dad. He was working down there for the city of Los Angeles putting in the new streets, it was just roads in them days, and we lived with a woman by the name of Mrs. Catlin. Stayed with her 'til our six months was up, and we came back to Fernley and-
JACOBSEN: You didn't ride down there or anything, did you? You just went to school.
MELENDY: Just went to school, and we come back to Fernley. .
JACOBSEN: Did you get down on the railroad?
MELENDY: We went on the railroad.
JACOBSEN: How did you go? Did you go down through Nevada and then across to Los Angeles, or did you go to San Francisco?
MELENDY: San Francisco.
JACOBSEN: Oh, you went down that way. Southern Pacific.
JACOBSEN: I thought maybe you'd gone down on that Tonopah, Beatty, Goldfield . .
MELENDY: I don't think that was in at that time.
JACOBSEN: Oh, I see.
MELENDY: That road was put in afterwards, but I know we went through Reno and down that way 'cause we stayed there at Reno during the trial and everything. But I know it was 1914, the spring of 1914 when we got out of school, came back to Fernley. I was ten years old. Then I went back to live with Mother and then right away we went over on the Carson River. Fellow by the name of Alvin Granell was with us, and he left to run mustangs. So he went out there and they caught a mare and a little colt and brought her in and it was a black colt, and he give me that colt. Well, the mare got away in the night a few nights later, but the colt we played with him and he wasn't about to leave, so we raised him on a bucket.
JACOBSEN: Oh, gracious! How old was the colt?
MELENDY: Oh, maybe a month, six weeks.
JACOBSEN: Oh, gee whiz!
MELENDY: But that thing got just as gentle as an animal could get. And that was my first horse. Boy, he was fast. He just run. When I got twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old I'd run every kid in the neighborhood, and I never got him beat. He'd get out and run all of them except thoroughbreds. Most kids them days just had mustangs and saddle stock.
JACOBSEN: Now, tell me something. Did you geld him?
JACOBSEN: So he was not a breeding stock?
MELENDY: No, no. He was just mustang and only weighed about . . I don't think he weighed over eight hundred pounds.
JACOBSEN: He must have not been very high.
MELENDY: No, he wasn't. He was low to the ground.
JACOBSEN: Well, did you do cowboy work out there?
MELENDY: Well, yeah. I herded cows and everything else for anybody. Them days people herded their cows along the canal. That was their summer pasture. And a lot of times-
JACOBSEN: Of course the District [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District?] had just been opened, hadn’t it?
MELENDY: Yeah, well, the canals all goin' everywheres, you know, had water in them, and there was feed growin' along there, and a lot of times would be maybe two or three herds of cows together and one kid a herdin', and that's the way we took care of the cows.
JACOBSEN: How much did you get?
MELENDY: Probably fifty cents a week.
JACOBSEN: Did they feed you, though?
MELENDY: No, you fed yourself, but we'd herd them cows and maybe there'd be another kid on down the road a mile and he'd be a herding cows. We'd take turns. He'd watch mine while I'd go and eat, and then I'd watch his while he went and ate.
JACOBSEN: Did you have to bring those cows back to the corral?
MELENDY: Yeah, they were milk cows.
JACOBSEN: Oh, they were milk cows. Okay. That's what I wasn't sure about. Would you go to school in the winter time?
MELENDY: Oh, yeah.
JACOBSEN: The high school, Churchill County High School, or the Northam school house, or what?
MELENDY: No, I went down to the Island.
JACOBSEN: Island school house. Where were you living approximately?
MELENDY: When we moved to Fallon, my stepdad bought that piece of ground where Ralph Davis lived over in Lone Tree, and the house used to set up on top of that hill.
JACOBSEN: Sorensons have it now, don't they?
MELENDY: I think they do. Well, we started that farmstead there, and then Hazel, Charlie, and I drove to Island to school, and then the last grammar school, they built a little school out where the Lone Tree School was when they closed the schools down. Right on the corner. Well, the school house was just a kind of shed they built halfway down on that first piece of property. Douglass' property and he give them a thing that they could . .
JACOBSEN: Now, Douglass' property would be across the road wouldn't it, or did he have property on the west side, too? Isn't Charlie Frey's ranch the old Douglass property? Is the Dodge Island Ranch part of the old Douglass ranch?
MELENDY: That whole section clear up there to where Bass and Hardy . . . Bass had that place. Sittin lived across the road. He was the first one on the west side of that 95, and the rest of that clear down there to the old Noble place was all Douglass property.
JACOBSEN: A big spread there.
MELENDY: Oh, he had acreage. Joe Douglass, his uncle, had left that to Bob. Bob kept selling off places. All of that area down there in the Island was all Douglass ground, on both sides of the road.
JACOBSEN: Did you ever work for him as a cowboy?
MELENDY: Yeah. Even helped shift a load of hogs one time in that. I (laughing) helped drive them in there, a carload of hogs. We rode them in horseback.
JACOBSEN: Where? From that area.
MELENDY: From down there on what's the Dodge Island place now.
JACOBSEN: All the way into where the spur is, where the depot is?
MELENDY: Right. Where the depot used to be there is where they loaded out.
JACOBSEN: Gee, that was a long haul for hogs, wasn't it?
MELENDY: Right. Boy, anyplace where there was water you'd let them (laughing) soak up and get cooled off, and it was cool there in the fall.
JACOBSEN: How old were you at the time?
MELENDY: Well, I was about fourteen, maybe fifteen, but anytime Renfro--Renfro was running the Island Ranch then-anytime they had a load of beef to ship, they always got a hold of me because I always had a horse.
JACOBSEN: Still the mustang?
MELENDY: No, I'd graduated. I got a better horse.
JACOBSEN: With a saddle?
MELENDY: Oh, yeah.
JACOBSEN: And you could use the stirrups.
MELENDY: That’s right For Charlie Renfro and Douglass, see, had moved to Reno.
JACOBSEN: That’s Renfro R-E-N-F-R-O like to the Renfros who are still here?
MELENDY: Well, I think they're relatives. Charlie Renfro was running that outfit for Douglass, and they always fed a corral of cattle, and whenever they had cattle to ship . . . When I was sixteen years old, I had started to high school, and I worked- went to-
JACOBSEN: Now you were sixteen in about 1920, isn't that right?
MELENDY: Right. I stayed half of the year with my mother and stepmother and stepdad, but I had stock and stuff, a couple of horses of my own . . .
JACOBSEN: How'd you get them?
MELENDY: Worked for people.
JACOBSEN: And they'd give you that instead of money?
JACOBSEN: How you'd get money to buy a Saturday night on the town or something like that, or were you too young for that, yet?
MELENDY: Well, I never- we'd go to country dances.
JACOBSEN: At the school houses?
MELENDY: At the different school houses. They used to be down here at the Union. There was a school house there. Wildes, there was a school house there. St. Clair was a school house there. Every district. And everybody knew everybody else. You know there was a third of the ranches that there is now, and you just actually grew up with everybody.
JACOBSEN: Somebody bring a bottle?
MELENDY: Well, very seldom.
JACOBSEN: Wine? Homemade wine? No?
MELENDY: Well, once in a while.
JACOBSEN: But, it was pretty temperate, huh?
MELENDY: Right. If you wanted a jug of wine, you went down to old man Testolin. He always made a lot of wine.
JACOBSEN: This is Marie Guazzini's father, right? Catherine Testolin's father.
MELENDY: Their father. And everybody knew he-
JACOBSEN: What'd he make, red wine, dago red?
MELENDY: Yeah, dago red, and you'd get a jug, a gallon, for a dollar and a half.
JACOBSEN: Not aged or anything, just raw?
MELENDY: (laughing) No, you took it as it come. In the fall, why, it'd be almost sweet wine.
JACOBSEN: Mostly grape juice, huh?
MELENDY: Yeah, just mash some grapes. He’d always get them in from California.
JACOBSEN: So, you had some stock. You had a couple of horses and…
MELENDY: And I had a couple of goats. Milk goats. So, I give the milk goats to my brother-in-law.
JACOBSEN: Who's your brother-in-law?
MELENDY: Sam Taylor. He's dead now and has been several years. But he had a couple of little boys, and they needed milk. It was easier to keep a goat than it was a cow, so I give him this little nanny goat, and she'd give about, well, better than a quart to a milking, so that furnished them with milk for the whole family.
JACOBSEN: Now, this is about 1920?
MELENDY: Yeah. So I went and stayed with my brother-in-law, Sam.
JACOBSEN: Where were they?
MELENDY: They was living on Lem Allen's place back in the back there. He had a bunch of potatoes to sort for seed, pickin' out seed, and after school I'd helped him sort the potatoes. So I stayed with him 'til I got through that first year of high school, and soon as I got out of school I saddled up my horse, and I left for Reese River.
JACOBSEN: Uh huh. Big ranches out there?
MELENDY: Yeah, and first summer I worked for Bells.
JACOBSEN: Which Bells are these? Are these the Bells that live in Churchill County now?
MELENDY: I don't think so. I think those Bells left the country.
JACOBSEN: Oh, I see. Where was the ranch out there in Reese River?
MELENDY: It was south of the ranger station.
JACOBSEN: Was it a big spread?
MELENDY: Yeah, it was a big outfit, and then, in the fall…
JACOBSEN: What did you do? Herd cattle?
MELENDY: I helped gather the cattle off the mountains. Then when we got that all done I went over and-
JACOBSEN: Now, this was early spring and summer, right?
MELENDY: That was fall.
JACOBSEN: Oh, this is fall. You went out right after school was over in about 1920.
MELENDY: Yeah. I went to work there on the Bell Ranch. They were getting ready to put up hay, so I helped them. We hayed there, and Worthington had some alfalfa, and after we got done with the grass hay, I went up and helped him. He had to put that alfalfa up.
JACOBSEN: I want to stop there before we go any further. You lived in a bunk house?
MELENDY: Most of the time.
JACOBSEN: About how many men were there?
MELENDY: Well, sometimes it'd be three or four, maybe sometimes two of us.
JACOBSEN: Were they mostly your age, or were they older?
MELENDY: My age.
JACOBSEN: You'd be about sixteen, then. Most of them were your age. No older so-called cowboys?
MELENDY: Well, there was one or two, and, of course, them older guys, they was always giving us a bad time. (laughing) Trying to get us bucked off or something. That's when we learned to ride, because you better stay on top. You get out in the boondocks fifteen, twenty miles from home, you got bucked off, you had a long walk.
JACOBSEN: How come the horses bucked?
MELENDY: Well, they were only about half broke.
JACOBSEN: Who broke the horses? Did you break your own horses?
MELENDY: We broke our own.
JACOBSEN: You had to come with your own horses, is that right?
JACOBSEN: The owners didn't supply you with a horse?
MELENDY: Well, some places, yeah. Other places I used my own horse. I had a couple of them.
JACOBSEN: What were they, mares or geldings or what?
MELENDY: Most always geldings.
JACOBSEN: How did you get paid in a setup like that?
MELENDY: Well, when I got to working for those outfits, I got thirty dollars a month and board and room.
JACOBSEN: And you worked a seven-day week or a six-day week?
MELENDY: Mostly seven.
JACOBSEN: Once in a while you'd get a day off. Reese River took you a long time to get into town. (laughing)
MELENDY: Riding with horseback was our only means of traveling into town.
JACOBSEN: So you really had no reason to not work seven days a week. So you're actually saying you got a dollar a day in town, aren't you, if you got thirty dollars a month?
MELENDY: Right. And I worked around over in that country on those ranches and saved up enough money that I had 485 dollars in the bank. Them days we hadn't heard of a savings account. You never got any interest. You just put it in there. And I used to loan that to different ranchers. Time and again they'd get stuck. Run too short, and I'd loan it to them. Everyone of them. Dick Bass and them. I loaned it to him. Taylor, I loaned it to them.
JACOBSEN: Did they ever give you any interest on your money?
MELENDY: No, no.
JACOBSEN: Did they give you an extra cow or a horse?
MELENDY: No, you were just lucky to get your money back.
JACOBSEN: Why'd you do it?
MELENDY: To help them out. They couldn't borrow it from the bank. They were probably in debt already. (laughing) And they needed it right now, and I'd go to the bank and draw it out.
JACOBSEN: Did you do this with some of the Reese River people, too?
MELENDY: No, I never did do it out there.
JACOBSEN: About how long did it take you to get that 485 dollars?
MELENDY: Oh, a couple, three years.
JACOBSEN: So by that time you were about twenty?
JACOBSEN: What did you do when you worked for these people? You come down in the spring and help put up hay, and then in the summertime what did you do?
MELENDY: Well, out in that country you hayed all summer.
JACOBSEN: Oh, it was rent a pasture.
MELENDY: Right. You'd start in. Maybe they had a little alfalfa. You'd put that up first. Then you'd cut the grass hay. They had big fields, and you’d get a- [end of side A] Then I'd work around them ranches helping them hay, and then I'd go some place in the fall and help gather cattle or do horses or mules or whatever like that. Like the year I worked there for Jack Bryan I stayed there and took care of his place until he got the cattle together, and they were riding on the Reese River side and then I helped him gather the cattle on the west side of the mountains this side of Ione.
JACOBSEN: Jack Bryan was?
MELENDY: He was Canadian, and he was a little guy about my size.
JACOBSEN: You're not so little.
MELENDY: Well, I ain't very damn big.
JACOBSEN: Yeah, you're about five ten. You were at one time.
MELENDY: Five nine and a half, and now I'm five nine. I shrunk.
JACOBSEN: Well we all do, yeah.
MELENDY: When we got done gatherin' Jack's, they'd stop on that side, why Pete Brennan down at Lodi he wanted me to come down there to help him gather some mules and stuff and horses he had running in there and wanted to bring them into Fallon to sell them. You know it was their only cash. Where they got any money was selling something like that.
JACOBSEN: These were mustangs?
MELENDY: About half mustangs. He had a little better stud running with some of them gentle mares, and some were pretty good young horses. In fact, I bought a black horse from him. Beautiful horse. Got him broke. God, he was a nice horse.
JACOBSEN: Did you ever do any rodeoing out there?
MELENDY: Oh, yeah. On Sundays we worked there at Bells there was Clarence Smalley and generally one of the Ferguson boys from here was out there.
JACOBSEN: Was that Ernie [Ferguson]'s, great uncle a grandfather or something?
MELENDY: Great uncle.
JACOBSEN: Great uncle or uncle? Ernie's about fifty-five now.
MELENDY: Latch was his dad. That's what we always called him.
JACOBSEN: Then it would be his uncles or great uncles?
MELENDY: It would be his uncle.
JACOBSEN: They were working out there too?
MELENDY: Well, lot of times they'd help if there was something to do. Otherwise, they just liked it out there and they'd stay there. But I helped old Pete Brennan gather them. Mrs. Archibald had a little kind of a hotel there at the Tanks down Lodi Valley. That's where the water come down off of the mountain there. There's pipes down there and there was two, three tanks there that stock come to water out of. That was the nearest water there for ten, twelve miles.
JACOBSEN: And they called it Tanks.
MELENDY: And old lady Archibald, she was quite a character, and about that time Mary Pickford and Bill Hart were in their prime, and I used to get a kick out of her. She was a typical Irish woman, and she'd say, "Not 'merican, the dirty hoisy yan. [laughing] Old Bill Harrison and his two guns."
JACOBSEN: Did they have rodeos there at Tanks?
MELENDY: No, Pete he did a little mining around there and raised a few mules and few horses, and that country, at that time, they was horses and burros everywhere. They were just herds of them.
JACOBSEN: Really! This was up around Reese River?
MELENDY: Yeah, and over in Lodi Valley. Them old prospectors would turn them burros loose. 'Course they'd reproduce. My God! There was any color of the rainbow you'd want to look at.
JACOBSEN: Is that how they got into Death Valley area, too?
MELENDY: Yeah, They just kept migratin' and gettin' down in there, but them days if you wanted a burro, just go rope him. He was yours. Everybody that wanted a pack burro or somethin', just go rope one.
JACOBSEN: Did you ever herd cattle or horses from Reese River and Lodi?
JACOBSEN: Did you bring in pigs from there, too-
MELENDY: No, they hauled the pigs.
JACOBSEN: I thought for some reason- maybe I was mixing it up with the time from Fallon there.
MELENDY: Yeah, no, those hogs that I bought that time from the O'Tooles, they had hogs running every place. All sizes from little tiny wiener pigs to four or five hundred pound pigs, and they had no market for them. So I went out there and Dick Bass, he had a contract with the creamery to take that buttermilk, and he told me he was going to Austin for a rodeo.
JACOBSEN: What time was this about?
MELENDY: Fourth of July.
JACOBSEN: No, but I mean what year?
MELENDY: That was 1923. 1921 I worked for Litsters. Worked there all summer long until just before Christmas. And the only one of any of them left is, his wife was a McGinnis girl. Old Joe's sister, and I worked there that summer, 1921, for them.
JACOBSEN: Doing what? Cowboying?
MELENDY: Well, everything. Taking care of the cattle and running them and working on the ranch, irrigating, whatever there was to be done. I was the only hired help that they had, and Lou and I worked together.
JACOBSEN: This was Lou Litster.
MELENDY: Jim, he had the place down at the Vaughn Switch.
JACOBSEN: Jim who?
MELENDY: Jim Litster. That was Lou's brother, and the cattle run all over that country. There was no traffic them days like there is now. If there was, it was a horse and buggy or team and wagon. The automobiles never started coming in 'til around 1920. You wanted to go some place, well, Litsters they did have an old Buick car. Buick four cylinder and wheels about that high. They didn't have low type wheels.
JACOBSEN: I want to know something, though. You had gone to school, and you go out there in the springtime, and then you go back to school for another year.
MELENDY: Well, yeah. After I went one year to high school, that's as far as I went.
JACOBSEN: What'd you do in the wintertime? Did you live out there, or did you come back to Fallon?
MELENDY: I generally come back into Fallon and drove a hay team for Ted Frazier hauling baled hay and carted it there back of Kent's warehouse and put it into cars. I stayed there and worked hauling baled hay all winter long.
JACOBSEN: Did you have to buck it to put it on, too?
MELENDY: You'd better believe it! I'd load that wagon. Take me a day to get a load, and then I'd go in there and unload the next day.
JACOBSEN: How much did you get for that, do you remember?
MELENDY: Thirty dollars a month.
JACOBSEN: But, you didn't get room and board for that, did you?
MELENDY: Yeah I did, 'cause I stayed there.
JACOBSEN: Oh, you were working for Frazier as a ranch hand, is that it? What did they have a ranch?
MELENDY: Down on this side of the Island up this way. Well, fellow by the name of Taylor, Milt Taylor, bought it afterwards. I worked there a couple of winters hauling baled hay, and then the winter of 1923, I worked for Miller and Lux. They shipped a bunch of cattle in there out of Oregon, and they had to have somebody help look after them.
JACOBSEN: Where'd they put them?
MELENDY: Down on the Island.
JACOBSEN: On Douglass' land down there?
MELENDY: There was six, seven thousand head of cattle. They was out of feed up there and no hay to buy. It was all loose hay, and those guys would load them wagons with loose hay and haul it out and scatter it. There was always some that had to be caught and doctored and stuff like that, so I was one of the guys that . . Leon Ellis and I worked for them all winter long. Some of the Ellis kids are still around. All the older ones are all gone. Leon had a ranch out in Dixie [Valley] for a long time. Then he got sick and he passed away. His wife sold the place, but they were oldtimers.
JACOBSEN: I think I've had [taught] some of his grand kids.
MELENDY: I wouldn't doubt it. In fact, one of the kids just recently got married.
JACOBSEN: Uh-huh. Tip, but basically, you weren't like the movies portray just handling cattle.
JACOBSEN: You were a ranch hand.
MELENDY: Right. Whenever there was any riding to be done, I worked for everybody. They wanted to ship a load of cattle or something they'd always get a hold of me.
JACOBSEN: Charlie, too?
MELENDY: No, no. Charlie generally worked in construction, and he didn't care nothing about cowboying.
JACOBSEN: It was just his kids that did.
JACOBSEN: I wanna ask you another question before we move on. Did different people get hold of you when they were doing branding and dehorning and castration and all that?
MELENDY: Stuff like that.
JACOBSEN: Did they pay you for it or did you-?
MELENDY: No, you just went and helped, and they fed you. Always had a good feed, like a lot of them do yet. They'd be a whole bunch get together and go and brand, and they furnish a nice dinner.
JACOBSEN: Right. It was fun, more than anything else. Even though it was work, it was fun. So, you're saying that you did a lot of work that was never paid for. You didn't get cattle or…
MELENDY: You didn't get nothin'. You just helped because they needed help. People don't do that anymore.
JACOBSEN: No, no. Everybody gets paid for everything. I want to ask you another thing that's always gotten me real interested. What happened … did you ever get sick? You did say no? The mic doesn’t your head. (laughing)
MELENDY: No, I never was troubled that way.
JACOBSEN: I was just wondering what happened to you if you Did you know any cowboys that did get sick?
MELENDY: Oh, yeah.
JACOBSEN: What happened?
MELENDY: They'd take them to a hospital.
JACOBSEN: Who paid the bills then?
MELENDY: Well, the outfit they was working for. When I was riding for the TS up out of Dunphy.
JACOBSEN: Where's Dunphy?
MELENDY: It's out of Carlin, and that was the Dunphy estate, and old Bill Mahoney was superintendent, and he run that. There was about three or four ranches up along that river, and George Adams, we was working cattle one time, and a steer broke out, and he went out to head him off. His horse broke through a badger hole and turned over and broke both of his legs, and they had to take him to the hospital in Winnemucca, and he was in there about eight months.
JACOBSEN: Oh, my goodness!
MELENDY: In them days, hell, a veterinary was just as good as a doctor.
JACOBSEN: This was about what? In 19 . .
MELENDY: Well, that was about 1922, I guess.
JACOBSEN: And the Dunphy estate paid for his services. Did they pay him, too, while he was in the hospital? No?
MELENDY: I doubt it.
JACOBSEN: When he was able to ride again and work again, did he go back to his job?
MELENDY: Yeah, he went right back to work for them.
JACOBSEN: What happened? Did you ever know any, especially, a younger man who was so badly crippled that he couldn't work from an accident like that?
MELENDY: No, not that I can ever remember of. Oh, somebody get bucked off and they'd be crippled maybe for a week or so, but cowboys wasn't supposed to get hurt or get sick.
JACOBSEN: Yeah, this is true.
MELENDY: And, you know, they were pretty healthy.
JACOBSEN: Maybe there weren’t as many germs to pick them up .
MELENDY: Well that’s right! You was out in the open all the time. It was a clean life. Lots and lots of time you'd throw your tarp back, and there'd be four inches of snow on top of you. Throw that back, you get up, and get dressed, and at it again.
JACOBSEN: You were living outside. The movies over time gives you this idea. Were they a hard drinking, womanizing group?
MELENDY: Very seldom. One time--that's when George [Adams] got hurt--the wrango went into Carlin for some supplies, and on the way back, he found a guy was making whiskey – that was during prohibition – he was making whisky. So Benny--he was the wrango that got the horses in early in the morning, cut wood for the cook and stuff like that.
JACOBSEN: How do you spell that? W-r-a-n-g-o-?
MELENDY: Yeah. They called them the "wrango," derived from the Mexican, I suppose, back in the early days. But he came back with a gallon of whiskey. Well, they was about twenty men there at the camp, representatives from different outfits. Well, they got a few snorts of that whiskey into them, and they sent him back after another gallon. Well, that's when things began to getting wild. Charlie was a working with us then at that time, and Charlie and I and a kid from the DU were the only sober ones on the place.
JACOBSEN: (laughing) But mostly everybody just passed out.
MELENDY: A lot of them, and they got pretty wild working the cattle, and about that time somebody got word to Mahoney, and I mean he straightened that outfit out right quick.
JACOBSEN: So, that big deal about drinking--now, you have to tell me about womanizing. Did they do a lot of that? There weren't that many woman around, were there?
MELENDY: No. School teachers was about the only women around, and they were always around those ranches. They'd be a school house right there on the ranch. They'd hire a school teacher to keep the kids 'cause there was Indian kids and everything that wanted to go to school. People wanted them to get an education. They were nice women, and generally in a year or two, they'd wind up marrying one of the ranch hands or somebody like that.
JACOBSEN: And then they'd have to get a new school teacher. Did they have a lot of houses of prostitution for the cowboys?
MELENDY: Battle Mountain. I'll never forget some man, fellow by the name of Dunson [?]. He got about half drunk, and he had a brand new Stetson hat, and he was going to go over to the house of prostitution, (laughing) and he got in the wrong place. They told him that was not the place. Well, he knew it was.
JACOBSEN: What did he get into? Just a house, somebody’s house.
MELENDY: A home, and they took a shot at him through the door and shot a hole through the back of his hat. With that he left. So they took that over to the sheriff's office in the window there, and the next morning old Dunson sobered up, and "Be Jesus," he said, "there's me hat," and they fined him twenty dollars. (laughing)
JACOBSEN: For disturbing the peace.
MELENDY: To get his hat back. (laughing)
JACOBSEN: That’s funny!
MELENDY: And then he told him, "Hell, you could a went and boughtcha another hat and forgotten that one." Then he got bawled out on top of it.
JACOBSEN: Yes, and embarrassed by the whole thing. So, really, as far as you remember it, it wasn't the way it's portrayed in the movies.
MELENDY: No way! Those cowboys and those people, they respected the women like they were their mothers.
JACOBSEN: I have to tell you this. It's not my story, but I have to tell you this. I've heard it said that a real cowboy doesn't use dirty language in front of women.
JACOBSEN: And I said that to some of these stick cowboys that we have going through school--you know, they think they're real sharp, and they use foul language, and they also keep their hats on, too, and I said, "I don't know any real cowboys," and I said, "I know a couple of them who would keep his hat on while he was talking to me and use the kind of language I've heard you use." They looked at me, and said, "Well, a-a-a-a-a-"
MELENDY: They were polite to women and really respected. But I always did say that the real honest-to-God cowboys were gentlemen. They were. Some of these smart-aleck kids, they want to really be tough.
JACOBSEN: Well, then, I think they call them "stick cowboys."
JACOBSEN: So, then, you were out there working these different ranches around northwestern Nevada. You went into northeastern Nevada, too, though, because Carlin and Battle Mountain.
MELENDY: Oh, yeah, clear up around Rock Creek and in that country. We gathered cattle out of there.
JACOBSEN: Where's Rock Creek?
MELENDY: It's sixty miles north and east of Midas.
JACOBSEN: Now, you'll have to tell where Midas is. (laughing)
MELENDY: Midas is an old mining town about sixty-two miles northeast of Winnemucca. You go up to Golconda, cross the river there, and on the other side of the Humboldt [River], way back up in there, and that little town of Midas, there's, oh, several families still in there doing a little mining and making a few dollars, and a lot of them are retired. Not a lot of them, but a few that are retired up there, and they have a nice home.
JACOBSEN: How far south did you get with your cowboying?
MELENDY: Well, down below Gabbs, down in that country.
JACOBSEN: Fish Lake Valley?
MELENDY: I never went into Fish Lake, but below Gabbs, in through there, we used to go down in there once in awhile and run mustangs. That was before the BLM. [Bureau of Land Management] [laughing]
JACOBSEN: About in between there and Tonopah?
JACOBSEN: On that big plateau?
MELENDY: Right. Gillis Mountains, and we'd--maybe four or five of us go down there, take a camp outfit and supplies and grain and stuff for our horses and go down there, and we'd run mustangs a few days, maybe a week if we had good luck. Run them in and trade them. Jim Law, and his wife had a grocery and dry goods store right on the corner of Maine and Williams Avenue where that service station is now. That big rock building there? Earthquake wrecked it, and they finally tore it down. Jim, he was . .
JACOBSEN: That was the 1953 earthquake you're talking about?
MELENDY: Yeah. But, a long time before that, Jim Law used to buy cattle. Anything you had, he'd buy it. He was a junk dealer, you know. He had pens that he'd put these cattle in and feed them up a little bit.
JACOBSEN: Right there at that area?
MELENDY: Yeah, around the stockyards there. He always had one corral full of cattle there.
JACOBSEN: Now, where were the stockyards? We still talking about the corner of Maine and Williams?
MELENDY: No, the road goes in behind Williams Avenue.
JACOBSEN: Oh, down on Auction Road there? The old…
MELENDY: The old highway. It used to be the old highway out of Fallon.
JACOBSEN: Just before you get to the Community Center and the Community College there.
MELENDY: Right. Those corrals are the old stockyards. Mackedon has his graders.
JACOBSEN: Yeah, and Musgrave used to have the . . .
MELENDY: Yeah, Musgrave used to be in there. He had auction sales there and stuff.
JACOBSEN: Okay, Jim Law would buy these mustangs from you. What would he do with the mustangs?
MELENDY: Well, he'd get a bunch of them together, and he'd ship them down into California some place. Those guys would buy them and take them down there and break them to ride them, put them into those pack strings.
JACOBSEN: Doing what? For Death Valley or…
MELENDY: Well, all over California to pack back into the mountains, and those mustangs after you got them broke were gentle.
JACOBSEN: What would they pack back into the mountains? Mining, or what?
MELENDY: No, people. Excursions.
JACOBSEN: Well, what was this? When would you say this was?
MELENDY: Back in the early thirties.
JACOBSEN: People had valets, is that it?
MELENDY: I don't know whether they were from Los Angeles or just where, but there used to be outfits come up in here and they'd buy them small horses, and they'd neck them together, you know, tie them together, one to the other one's tail, and then they'd get them gentle and put kids on them.
JACOBSEN: How'd they ship them down into California?
JACOBSEN: Did they truck them down or railroad?
MELENDY: Sol Springer.
JACOBSEN: Oh, is that how he started?
MELENDY: Did you know Sol Springer?
MELENDY: He used to haul stuff all over the country.
JACOBSEN: Oh, really.
MELENDY: Yeah. He moved me up into Eagleville, California in the summer of 1930. I leased a place up there with my brother-in-law, Gordon Barkley. That was supposed to be the most wonderful place you ever saw. I went up there. I had a dairy, and we moved up there. Well, them cows were in that grass. They didn't give enough milk for a calf.
JACOBSEN: In other words, you went from being a cowboy…
MELENDY: Into the dairy business.
JACOBSEN: What brought you from cowboying into the dairy? I can't imagine you as a dairy farmer.
MELENDY: Well, I was for several years. 1926, I got married, and I leased the Gibbs place down there where Anne Berlin lives for three years, and in 1930 I went up there on that place into Surprise Valley.
JACOBSEN: In Oregon.
MELENDY: No, in California. Just this side of Denio [Nevada], and Sol moved my stock up there. I shipped the cows, and he hauled my furniture and stuff like that up there.
JACOBSEN: How'd you ship the cows?
MELENDY: I shipped them by rail to Alturas [California], and then we drove them from Alturas over to Surprise Valley. Pretty country, but it was all grass hay, wild hay. So I pulled out of there that fall and turned the ranch over to my brother-in-law, Gordon. Well, he didn't know the first thing about farming, and he didn't like to work anyway.
JACOBSEN: You really want that to go down in print? (laughing)
MELENDY: Yeah, I don't care. I had a good gentle saddle horse, and he'd get on him and ride up and down the creek up into the hills and around, and he didn't know anything about prospecting or he could have done some of that but just to get away.
JACOBSEN: He was your brother-in-law because he married your sister?
MELENDY: Sister, Flora.
JACOBSEN: The one I always mix up was Hazel. They look almost twinnish.
MELENDY: I think you're thinking of Nita. She's still alive, but Flora's gone, and Nita lives down in California. She was up here not too long ago.
JACOBSEN: Oh, so only Hazel is left up here.
MELENDY: Hazel and Nita are the only two girls left.
JACOBSEN: Hazel's the only one that’s up around here.
MELENDY: Yeah, and Jess and I are the only two boys left. He lives in Willows, California. He's ninety-two this month, and I'm eighty.
JACOBSEN: You have a longevity strain in your family. Well, Tip, I think it’s the end of the tape, so I’m gonna-
[ED: According to the interviewer, a second tape was accidentally erased, so the history ends abruptly.]