Tony Testolin Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Tony Testolin's father, born in Italy, got a job working on a ship. When he arrived on the East Coast of the United States, he defected. After working in the mines of Pennsylvania, he headed West. Hearing about the homestead opportunities during the progression of the Newlands Project, he went to Fallon, Nevada, homesteaded a ranch and sent back to Italy for Italia Binotto. They married and Tony, born February 28, 1918, was the fourth of seven children.
Tony describes their life growing up on the Testolin homestead in a three-room house with no electricity. The children shared in the chores, pumping water for the cattle, packing wood in the house and milking cows. Rural buses drove the children to school in Fallon on dirt and gravel roads. When Tony was a high school student, he drove the school bus earning sixteen dollars a month. Their recreation was swimming in the ditches, ice skating on the canals, fishing and hunting.
Tony describes the water rights and allotment of water from the Newlands Project and the irrigation methods. He tells about the several hundred young CCC men from all over the country who worked on the project, clearing and cementing ditches and says, "The CCC boys done more for this Project than anybody else at that time."
When Tony finished high school, he wanted to go to college to be a lawyer, but as the oldest boy in the family, felt an obligation to help on the ranch. He met Beulah Fowler at an ice-skating party. They married and lived on the Testolin Ranch, later purchasing it from his parents in 1950. They kept improving the house and the land. Tony and Beulah had two daughters, Irene and Rachel. A few years later a widowed friend who owned a ranch in Reese River Valley, Lander County, offered Tony the opportunity to lease the ranch with the option to buy. He always wanted a cattle ranch, and accepted. This started a new way of life for the family. Beulah and the girls stayed at the Testolin Ranch in Fallon so the girls could continue school. They joined Tony at the Reese River Ranch on weekends. When their daughters completed high school, Beulah moved there permanently. One of Tony's major contributions to the Reese River Valley was his leadership in building a first-class 50-mile telephone line throughout that rural area. He tells about the Yomba Indian Reservation and how he worked with them to get them HUD housing.
After thirty-eight years, unable to do all the work, or hire anybody, they had to sell that ranch. They had a new house built on the old Testolin Ranch and moved back there in 1991. During these retirement years, Tony's poetic, creative talents have emerged. He hand carves windmills and animals, writes poetry, grows flower gardens, and reads every night. And he and Beulah frequently take off in their new car to enjoy the wildflowers and scenery and to go fishing.
SYLVIA ARDEN: This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Lander and Churchill Counties Oral History Projects, interviewing Tony Testolin at his home at 4155 Testolin Road, Fallon, Nevada. The date is August 27, 1993. Good morning, Tony. I'm so pleased that you're allowing us to interview you for the Lander [and Churchill] Counties Oral History Projects. Would you tell us your full name?
TONY TESTOLIN: Tony Paul Testolin.
SA: And where were you born and when?
TT: I was born in Fallon, Nevada, February 28, 1918.
SA: Tell us your father's name and where he was born.
TT: My father's name was Antonio Testolin, and he was born in Venice, Italy.
SA: Do you know the date?
TT: No, I can't recall that.
SA: We can look that up. [b. 1876, d. 1949] What was your mother's name?
TT: When she married, her name was Italia Testolin. It was Binotto, I think. I’m not sure.
SA: When did your father come to the United States?
TT: I wouldn't recall the exact date, because I don't know, but he did come to Fallon, Nevada, in 1906 or 1908, and he homesteaded the ranch that we're sitting on right now.
SA: So that road is named after him, Testolin Road?
TT: Yeah, it's named after him, I guess. (chuckles) But I still carry the name--what's the difference?
SA: (chuckles) So now it's your road!
SA: I don't know if your father told you much, but I want to find out what brought him to the United States…
TT: Well, conditions over there, you know, was different from the United States. And I don't know whether I should tell all this or not, but he got a job working on a ship, and when he got to the East Coast, well (chuckles) he defected, let's face it--he left and they didn't catch him, and that's how he got to the United States,
SA: Do you know how old he was?
TT: I don't have no idea. You know, I'm not familiar with the history of the family too much.
SA: I think that's on record from your sister. Okay, so he landed on the East Coast. Did he ever tell you what brought him to Nevada? Did he know anyone here?
TT: Well, he worked in the mines in Pennsylvania for quite a bit--the coal mines. And then he came, as I recall, he came to Utah and was working there, and then broke his leg. And then he went to San Francisco, and he had a little market down there, if l'm right. And then he came to Lake Tahoe, and when the homestead opened here, well, he came to Fallon and homesteaded.
SA: Was that after or during the progression of the Newlands Project?
TT: Well, it was in the progression of it
SA: When they were advertising homesteads available?
TT: They were advertising homesteads when he came. That's why he took up the land.
SA: Did he come himself, or was he married by then?
TT: He wasn't married then. And then he later sent back to Italy for my mother and got her passage over here and they were married.
SA: So they knew each other in Italy?
TT: They did know each other in Italy.
SA: That's romantic! I'll ask more about that, if you know. Did your mother ever talk to you about how she felt when she first arrived?
TT: Yeah. You know, it's coming out to a place with a one-room shack and everything else, and all bushes and everything, and you're coming from a lush country to a desert. You know how she felt! (laughter) It don't take much to tell you that! (laughter)
SA: Too far to run home?
TT: Yeah, that's about right! (laughter)
SA: Now how long after your father settled here, did the children start coming along?
TT: Oh, let's see, my sister's going to be eighty-two, so I guess a year or so--couple of years.
SA: How many brothers and sisters, and where are you in the lineup?
TT: Well, let's see, there was seven of us all together: there was two boys and five sisters--one passed away when she was fifteen--and I'm fourth in the lineup, from the top.
SA: And did you grow up through your teenage years here on this homestead?
TT: Yes, I did. I grew up right here. Well, yeah, no place else to go! (laughter)
SA: Tell me, from your earliest recollections, what your life here on the homestead was. I'm sure you had to start chores very early.
TT: Yes, everybody had their job. You didn't have transportation to run downtown or anything like that. Rich people rode bicycles to school, and that was about it--and the poor walked. But we always had a lot of chores to do, and each one was assigned his special job. And my sister and I, our job was to water the cattle. We had an old hand pump, and we had to pump water by hand. And we'd even count the strokes, so one wouldn't make any more strokes than the other one! You know, you don't want to do any more than your share! (laughter)
SA: Now, which sister was this?
TT: This is Ida, my sister in Sacramento.
SA: Were you older or younger?
TT: I was younger than her, two years.
SA: Did she boss you around?
TT: Oh yeah, they all bossed me around! I had three of 'em older than me, and I got bossed a lot, 'til I was big enough to whip 'em! (laughter)
SA: Now, who gave you these chores in such an organized way--your mother or your father?
TT: They both did. They had it figured out, and that was our stuff to do. Then if I remember right, after I got my water pumped and everything, my chore was to pack wood in the house. So I had to pack the wood in too. Yeah, you got up every morning early, and before you went to school, you done your chores. That's all there was to it.
SA: How old were you when you started, do you remember?
TT: Well, (chuckles) I can't remember, but I had to stand on a box to reach the pump handle.
SA: I wish I had a picture of that!
TT: Well, that's true! I can show you the old pump up there yet. (laughs)
SA: I'll take a picture of you at the pump after, (laughs)
TT: I think, if Jerry ain't taken it out, it's still there.
SA: Tell me a little bit of your early recollections of what your house, the living quarters, were like.
TT: Well, I can remember living in a three-room house. There was one big bedroom, one big living room, and a small kitchen. And we had our bunk beds and everything. The kids slept separate, all of us. My brother and I slept together until we got to fightin' so bad, and then they had to separate us. (laughter) To be truthful, you know what brothers are like!
SA: (laughing) Now, how were the meals handled? Did everyone eat together?
TT: Everyone ate together. I don't care if it was a Depression or what, my mother and sisters would can, and we never had a hungry day.
SA: That's wonderful. I bet your mom worked real, real hard too.
TT: Yeah, baked bread, and then they butchered their own meat and made sausage, and we had chickens and pigs and cows. And they canned all the vegetables. We never had a hungry day in my life. I've never had a hungry day.
SA: That's wonderful. Now, can you recall, did you have electricity during those early years?
TT: We never had any electricity, and we finally got a telephone. Finally, the farmers got together, and they had to work and build their own line, and then that's when people got electricity in the rural areas.
SA: Do you know, approximately, the time period?
TT: It was in the late twenties sometime.
SA: Tell me about the roads. Were they gravel or dirt?
TT: They were all dirt. You never had a paved road in the rural areas. There just wasn't-they were all gravel.
SA: Did you have horses to ride?
TT: We had horses to ride, and we worked horses and horses alone, until about 1937 or 1938, we bought our first tractor.
SA: Hm, that was late. Now, where did you go to school when you first started elementary?
TT: I went to the old high school, as they called it, where the grade schools are now--you know, the preschoolers or whatever. And then I went to the Oats Park School, and then I went to the high school.
SA: How did you get to the elementary school when you were little?
TT: Well, we had rural buses, and they picked you up out here. Well, we had to walk to the corner, because the bus wasn't gonna use any extra gas to go anyplace. You know what I mean? And then when I got in my last two years in high school, I drove bus.
SA: And did you get paid?
TT: Yeah, sixteen dollars a month. Made big money! (laughter)
SA: When you got to be a teenager and starting high school, did you have time for any recreation?
TT: No, we had to milk cows and everything. I wanted to take basketball, I wanted to take football, and it was out--you just had to keep the family a-goin'. That was part of it.
SA: When you were in high school, did you start to make friends with some of the boys and girls from Fallon?
TT: Oh yeah, I had a lot of friends at that time, I think. But the trouble is, you know, I graduated in 1936, and I was looking through my school yearbook the other day, and over half of us are gone.
SA: Oh my!
TT: It's unbelievable, that that many people have died in that time.
SA: Yeah, that does sound like a high percentage. Did you ever have time to go to the dances?
TT: No, I never did learn to dance. I'm "lopsided," being Italian. (chuckles)
SA: Did you have any fun?
TT: Oh yeah, we went swimmin', and ice skatin'--swimmin' in the summer and ice skatin' in the winter--that was our big deal. And then I hunted a lot and fished a lot--I loved to do that.
SA: Who took you out on your first hunting and fishing excursions?
TT: I guess I'd have to say my dad did.
SA: So he occasionally would take a little time to be with you?
TT: Oh yeah, he loved to hunt. I would follow him around when I was a little guy, and he'd shoot somethin', I'd go and retrieve it. In fact, I was a dog for a good many years until I was old enough to shoot my own game! (laughter)
SA: What was the game?
TT: Mostly pheasants, quail, and duck.
SA: Is that the chukar?
TT: We didn't have chukars in them years--them came later. And then every year he'd take a trip and we'd go to the hills and hunt sage hen.
SA: Oh! And what kind of fish, and where did you fish?
TT: Once or twice a year we'd take a trip, go east to the Reese River or someplace, and fish for the little trout.
SA: Is that how you first became acquainted with the Reese River area?
TT: Yes, that's the first time I ever seen it. And then later I deer hunted there, and then I met these people in the process of going out there and everything--and that's the people we bought the ranch from out there.
SA: We'll get to that in more detail in just a little bit. Now, during the war years, were you still here?
TT: Yeah, I was still here. I was to be drafted, and I was to leave the day after Christmas, and Roosevelt--you know, we were in agriculture--and Roosevelt froze us all and they wouldn't take me no more.
SA: Oh, okay, so you were able to stay here and help on the ranch yet.
TT: Yeah. I'd passed all my physicals, had everything ready to go, and wanted to go then, but they wouldn't let us go.
SA: I'll bet you're glad now you didn't?
TT: No, not really.
SA: You missed it?
TT: Well, I don't know. Well, let me put it this way: I don't believe in war in the first place, but if it has to be. . . . I think I would have enjoyed going.
SA: So how did the war years affect your ranching and the economy?
TT: Well, everything was, you know, rationed to us. We had coupons to get our gasoline--they gave us so many coupons. If you had a flat tire, you had to have a coupon to get that. And as far as shoes, I wore more shoes out than they'd allot me, and if it wasn't for other people helping me, I'd have had to go barefooted a lot of times.
SA: So it really affected you. Was there any military base here yet?
TT: No, that came later. That came right at the end of the war.
SA: Now, I want to go back a little bit. Were you old enough to remember, or did your dad talk to you, how when they finally got the Newlands Project and the water started coming in, did he ever talk about the effects of that, when you finally got that irrigation water?
SA: Tell me what you can remember.
TT: Well, see, they were building a dam when my mother and father was here. And he started levelling a little ground at a time, you know, with horses then. You didn't have big equipment--you took a small parcel at a time. And what he did, he started raising vegetables, and before my mother got here, I can remember him tellin' that he'd raise certain vegetables--say radishes or green onions or beets or somethin'--a little plot of 'em--and he would carry 'em to Fallon on his back and sell 'em, buy what he wanted, and come back.
SA: Oh my!
TT: He didn't have a horse and buggy. He just had a work horse, you know. Well, he didn't have a buggy, let's face it.
SA: He still didn't have much money. Did he talk about the water and how they rationed how much you got and who dug the ditches around your property?
TT: Well, the government done all that, but they hired people, and all these ditches, most all of them was dug with a team and a fresno scraper. And I can remember my mother saying this: When they were building the dam up there, they had a big patch of cabbage, and they made, if I recall, over thirty barrels of sauerkraut and sold to the people workin' at the dam.
SA: Oh my!
TT: You can imagine how many cabbages it took to make thirty fifty-five gallons of sauerkraut!
SA: And how many people were working at the dam? Did they ever talk about it?
TT: No, they didn't, but I met people that had worked at the dam, and there was a lot of people there. In fact, one of my best friends was a blacksmith at Lahontan Dam. And I don't know, you can take this for what it's worth, but he said at that time, they'd block the water off so they could work, and he said they'd catch them Lahontan Cut-throats [fish] that could be up to twenty-five, thirty pounds--pick 'em out of there with their hands, out of the Carson River. And that's hard for us to think that they were there now!
SA: Uh-huh. When the water started to come, was there a rationing system, that you each got so much water allotted?
TT: Yeah. When you bought your water right you was allowed, what is it? 3.2 or 3.6 acre feet per acre. Everybody had an allotment, as you have today. And the benchlands got over 4 acre foot per acre. But see, this is bottomland, as they called it--it's not benchland--and I think we were 3.6.
SA: How many acres on this homestead?
TT: Well, when he homesteaded it, he took up a hundred and twenty acres, but Beulah and I have bought eighty acres since that. But we've bought brushland to keep people from building next to us.
SA: Do you get water rights or water allotment for it?
TT: Well, not for a lot of that land we didn't. We've got eighty-five acres of water rights is what we have.
SA: Do you have to buy those water rights?
TT: Oh yes, you buy 'em,
SA: What do you pay for those?
TT: Well, at the time the Project was built, I think it was fifty-five dollars an acre. But now, you can't buy 'em any more, unless you buy somebody else's water right. Let's face it, you know, they're not alloting any new water rights. But say I'm selling this place, well, the water rights go with it. In other words, a water right is a property right, any way you look at it--it has to be.
SA: So if you're buying a ranch, you buy the water rights.
TT: That's right.
SA: And there's no other way to get the ranches now, right, except to buy them from someone.
TT: That's the only way to get it. The Homestead Law has been shut down, you know, for years and years. You cannot homestead any more.
SA: Were there years in those early years when there were problems where there wasn't enough water? Did the Project produce enough water for all the ranchers?
TT: You had drought periods then, just like now. I can remember in, I think it was 1935 and 1936, right in there--or 1931, right in there, when Lahontan Dam went completely dry, and all the fish died up there. My folks had a lot of truck garden, and I can remember we had an acre of celery or something, and other truck garden, and we bought a pump from the neighbors up here--I think their name was Milton--a centrifugal six-inch pump, and our friend Billy Cislini at Ione brought us down a motor, and we pumped water out of the drain ditch to keep our vegetables going. And you know, we still made our crop. But that's the way we survived that year. It'd have been a disaster if we couldn't have irrigated. The water was shut off in July. You know, alfalfa and that, well, it'll revive the next year. But when you got a truck garden, and it's just gettin' ready to produce and you shut the water off, you're dead!
SA: Oh my! I want as much as I can get on the Lahontan Dam Project, because that part I'll share with Churchill County. That's a major project they're doing. Do you remember when the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] fellahs came in to cement the ditches?
TT: Yes, I do.
SA: Tell as much as you can about that.
TT: Well, I remember 'em real well because we were still in the truck garden, and my father was sellin' produce to 'em.
SA: Where did they live, where were they housed?
TT: They were housed in Fallon there, right by the railroad tracks, someplace in there, I don't remember exactly, but it was right in there.
SA: Were they like trailers, or barracks?
TT: They built barracks. I felt sorry for 'em in a lot of ways. They didn't have nothin' for 'em to do. They'd put 'em in these drain ditches, pulling cattails and tules, and they were up to their waists in water. You know, I thought a lot of it wasn't fair, but the CC boys did a lot of good for this Project. I don't care, they built a lot of cement structures, and they cleaned ditches. I'll always say that the CC boys done more for this Project than anybody else at that time,
SA: Do you know about how many there were, in general? Do you know how long they stayed to work on it?
TT: Well, when did the war break out? They were in here in 1936.
SA: That was, I think, in 1941.
TT: Yeah, well, until the war broke out, we had CC boys in here. When did they come in? In 1936, 1937, I think, wasn't it? In 1937 or 1938, I'd say. And all this riprapping you see around these cement boxes here, these drop boxes--they hauled rocks from the hills out there and they riprapped all these boxes.
SA: Do you have any idea of how many? Fifty? A hundred? Five hundred? Do you have any idea?
TT: There's maybe three or four hundred at the most. And they hired people to take a group of 'em--say fifteen or twenty--and they done this job. And another foreman took 'em and done this job. And then they had their. . . . They were just like military: they had their captains and everything else to oversee 'em. They weren't allowed to, you know, run around. They could go downtown and have a good time or anything, but they had to be back at a certain time, just like being in the military. And we became acquainted with quite a few of them, and they were good people. They were hungry, that's all. Let's face it, they couldn't find a job like people today.
SA: It was Depression years.
TT: It was during the Depression. You know, the Depression and whatever in 1936 and that, was terrible. Well, see, it started in 1929, but in 1936, you was still in a Depression, you hadn't got over it.
SA: Were there a mixture of ethnic groups in these? Were there blacks and Mexicans and Caucasian in a mixture?
TT: That's right, there was.
SA: And you said you got acquainted with a few of them. How did you do that? In town? Or while they were working you chatted with them?
TT: While they were workin', and then when we would deliver vegetables over there. You know, some of 'em was cooks. And they'd ask you if they could come out, and they were willing to work for nuthin'. And if you gave 'em a home-cooked meal, boy, that was the biggest thing in their life, you know.
SA: Did you ever have any in for a home-cooked meal?
TT: Yes, we did. In fact, we had one guy that was studying to be a barber, and I can remember he used to cut my hair all the time for nuthin', you know, just for practice.
SA: Where was he from?
TT: He was from Chicago, Illinois.
SA: So they came from all over?
TT: They came from all over: Tennessee, all over. In fact, one of my very best friends I have today was in the CC camp, and he's in Michigan now, and we still visit each other and correspond.
SA: Oh, how nice! So you met him when he was here working?
TT: When he was here.
SA: Now, do you know if any of them liked it and found jobs and stayed in the area?
TT: Lots of 'em stayed, like Cecil Cheek and then the guy that ran Consolidated Warehouse. There's quite a few of 'em stayed. Larry Goon was one of 'em. God, I'd have to sit down and think it out before I could name very many of 'em. And they married here and raised families--and in fact, they were business people, just like anybody else. They did stay. [Tape cuts]
SA: Before we leave the Lahontan Dam and the irrigation, I need to pick your brain as much as I can. From the time of the ditches, did the water allotment change, or did anything change with the way you irrigated?
TT: No, it really didn't, but the people went to using tractors, and then they had mechanical equipment to level their land, and they irrigated in less time. You know, you just went to better equipment. But as far as your water allotment, it's the same today as it was then.
SA: Now, for people like me who have never lived on a farm, when you say the irrigation changed, describe the early method of irrigation, and then the kind of irrigation that it progressed to--the method of irrigation.
TT: Well, at first you was irrigating, you know, if you was lucky, you had redwood boxes, headgates to turn your water out on your checks. Checks were real narrow, you know, and as you got your farm equipment better and everything. . . . We used to level this ground with fresno scrapers and tailboard scrapers, with six, eight, ten, twelve horses, or whatever the size of the equipment. But as the years progressed, they come back with tractors, and then you levelled your land better. So then you extended the width of your checks, so you'd irrigate more land between your levies. And then as time went on, better and better equipment, we come to modern-day laser equipment now, that everything is done mechanically. You set your seeing eye out in the middle of the field, the driver runs around with the tractor, and that mechanically picks up the dirt and dumps it wherever it's gotta be, and you get a beautiful job of levellin'. And now they make checks that are three, four, five hundred feet wide.
SA: What's "checks"?
TT: Well, let's look right out here in this field. See them levies there? In between them, we always called 'em checks, is what we called 'em.
SA: Okay. Is that C-H-E-C-K-S?
TT: Uh-huh, just like you're spending your money. (laughter) But there's a good example right there, you can see it right out of the window. See?
SA: I'll go take a picture. You'll go with me to take some pictures after, to illustrate?
SA: Fine. Alright, so now, did you finish high school?
TT: Yeah, I finished high school. I graduated in 1936. And like I say, looking through the yearbook, it's just amazing how many people are not left. In fact, I went to the fifty-plus reunion here about four or five years ago, and I would never go back again, because everybody there was old people! (laughter) They were!
SA: You didn't recognize them?
TT: Yeah, I recognized them, but everybody's old!
SA: The girls weren't cute any more?
TT: No. A lot of 'em are misshapen and everything. They weren't like they used to look, I'll tell you that! I don't think the men looked like they used to look either, but I ain't gonna say that. I shouldn't say that part.
SA: Well, we won't name names. Now, when did you meet Beulah?
TT: Gee whiz!
SA: Was it here in Fallon?
TT: Yeah, it was here in Fallon. She's from New Mexico, and went on an ice skating party, is the way I met her.
SA: When, do you remember? In high school?
TT: She was in high school, and I had graduated. But anyway, I went on an ice skating party, and I met her there, and from there on we hit it off. We runned around together, I don't know, one or two years, and finally decided to get married, and here we are!
SA: I'll be interviewing her, so I'll find out more about it.
TT: She knows dates and I don't, because I don't keep that stuff. Dates don't mean nuthin' to me.
SA: That's fine. So when you finished high school and apparently you were here a couple more years and you married Beulah, did you ranch after high school, working on the ranch here?
TT: Well, to tell you the truth, I wanted to go to college. My father's health was so bad, and I was the oldest boy in the family, and I figured, "Well, I'd better help my folks." So I stayed home instead of going to college. I wanted to be a lawyer, if you want to know the truth, but I'd have probably made a poor one anyway. But anyway, I stayed home, and then after her and I got married, we bought this place from my parents [in April of 1950].
SA: Where did your parents go after you bought it?
TT: They moved to Fallon, in town.
SA: Did they buy a house or rent a house?
TT: Well, my sister bought a house, and they lived. . . . See, Catherine never did get married. They moved to town. I don’t know where the money came from. Maybe my parents were – Well, let’s keep that out. Anyway, my sister lived with 'em, my mother done the cookin' and she worked and my dad was old and he couldn't do anything any more, and then he passed away. And then my mother lived quite a lot longer than that. First they rented a house--that's right--and then they bought a house where Catherine's livin' today. They bought that house.
SA: Okay, so then you and Beulah were running the ranch, and you bought the house too.
TT: We bought everything, yeah.
SA: Now the house that you grew up in, did they ever change it or improve it, or was it the same?
TT: They improved it.
SA: So now, tell me how long did you and Beulah stay here?
TT: Well, we stayed quite a while. I left in 1954 or something. But we did start improving things, you know. As time went on, everybody, their land and everything, you just kept improvin'. I don't remember my years too good.
SA: That's okay. When did you start to have your family of children? How long after you were married?
TT: Well, a year.
SA: And who was your first child?
TT: Irene. Then three years later we had Rachel, and that was it.
SA: Uh-huh, two girls. Did they ranch with you?
TT: Yes, they stayed with us. And then when we moved to Austin--or Reese River, as you call it--well, they were in school here, and the schools out there wasn't too good, and we had no school bus out there. We'd have had to drive about thirty-five miles, one way, and Beulah would have had to go back and forth to school. We leased this place out and kept the house, and she lived here for eleven years while I lived out there.
SA: So the kids could go to school here?
TT: So they got better school.
SA: I've done many interviews, I've heard a lot of stories the same way. Okay, so let's keep you here a little bit. When your children were born--I'll ask Beulah more--but was there medical care here in Fallon?
TT: Yes, there was.
SA: Did you see many changes in Fallon over that time period from the thirties to about the fifties? [End tape 1 side A]
TT: Well, see, your base came in and expanded, and as it went on you got more casinos, and you got Raley's and Safeway finally came to town. At first we didn't--outside of I.H. Kent and a Piggly Wiggly Store is about all we had, you know, and J.C. Penney. And we had the Fallon Mercantile, and that was it. You didn't have these little stores around. And as time went on, well, the more people, more supermarkets, and that's it.
SA: When the military came in, is that what brought the most new people in, with the contractors and military?
TT: Yeah, they brought 'em in. They started it, and when they started it, well then you gotta build more schools, you gotta build more everything. This tourism, they holler about gettin' more people in your tax base will help your tax base--it don't help you a bit! Because the more people you get, the more demands they have: they want this, they want that, they want swimming pools. People vote a library down, they build it anyway. They vote a hospital down, and they build it anyway. So what the hell is the use of votin'?
SA: Now, I want to ask a little about this, because I'm a Californian, out where we have very, very high taxes. I know a lot of Californians are fleeing California, many coming to Nevada. What is the tax structure here in this area, as far as state taxes and property taxes, do you know?
TT: Well, I don't know how it's allotted per dollar, who gets the most of it or anything. But your taxes just continually go up. This year, I don't know. Beulah would know exactly how much they went up. But that's what I say, the more people, the more they demand, and the more of everything.
SA: And the land values go up.
TT: The land values go up. You can sell sagebrush. They're selling a lot of this stupid old alkali ground, an acre at a time, for $20,000, that you can't even raise an umbrella on! (laughter) You know what I mean? What the heck good [is it]? I wouldn't buy it!
SA: Did you notice over the years, where you'd go in town, there'd be a lot of strangers, where before you knew people?
TT: That's right. Now when we go to town. . . Well, see, we were gone for the thirty-eight years, and we came to town--well, we knew the original people here, but now when I go to town, I'm lucky if I know five or six people. But we don't go to town that often. I hate towns, let's face it!
SA: Okay, so you stayed here until around the fifties. I want to go back, you said you first went hunting and fishing. What made you decide to move away from this ranch?
TT: Well, these people were old out there on that ranch out at Reese River, and her husband had died, and she was widowed, and I went out there and helped her quite a bit--I felt sorry for her. And so we negotiated and I bought the ranch from her, and I paid for it a period of time. I had to mortgage this place--I paid my folks off first. So I mortgaged this place to go out there and buy that, but we paid it all off. In fact, we don't owe anybody a dime.
SA: I want to go back a little bit. You said you met these people. Who were they, where did you meet them, and over what period of time were you going out there?
TT: Well, Jim and Irene Hayden. They came down here one time and sold my folks some pigs. They had some pigs they wanted to get rid of, and they stopped here and sold 'em when they came to Fallon, and that's where I met 'em. And they invited me out to go deer hunting', and through that, well, that's where we got acquainted. After Jim passed away, I went out and I'd help Irene do this and that and everything else. She was going to sell the place, and I asked her for a chance at it, and she said, "Okay," and that's the way we bought the place.
SA: Now, was the reason you asked her about the price, because you were liking that area so much?
TT: I loved that area. I still do, but age took care of everything.
SA: I'll be asking Beulah, but was she also getting to like that area more than here?
TT: Well, I can't really answer that.
SA: I'll ask her.
TT: Yeah, you'd better. I might not want to hear the answer, either!
SA: (chuckles) I won't let you listen to it! Okay, so how many years passed between the time you met this couple, her husband died, and you finally decided you were going to buy it?
TT: I would say ten or twelve years.
SA: Oh, so you weren't rushing into something.
TT: No, it wasn't a year or two, it was a long time. I knew 'em for a long time.
SA: When you were going out to help her, did you make acquaintances with neighboring ranchers there? [end of tape 1. Interviewer’s note: “Some missing portions towards end of tape 1, B side, recaptured in second session”]
SA: This is a second interview session with Tony Testolin, March 19, 1995, at his home at 4155 Testolin Road, Fallon, Nevada. Good morning, Tony. I'm glad that we could have a second session to complete the interview. I want to return to your youth briefly. You told us about the fun you had swimming and ice skating, but I forgot to ask you, first of all, where did you swim?
TT: Well, them days, the canals wasn't polluted or anything, and we swam in every canal in the valley, every dam that we could find--everyplace! In fact, we climbed up on top of trees and dove off into the water. Why we didn't kill each other, I don't know, but we didn't.
SA: It sounds like fun! I wonder if there are any pictures of that?
TT: No. We were too poor to have cameras, you know.
SA: Oh yes. Now, when you swam, was that water all from the ditches from the Newlands Project?
TT: That's right, it's all water in the canals, from the Lahontan Dam.
SA: About how many kids would there be doing all this?
TT: Oh, sometimes ten, fifteen--it depended on who could get away.
SA: Now, I've often read, not in Fallon, but other places, where children would drown. Did any kids drown in these ditches?
TT: No, not that I can recall. There was one or two accidents. You know, people got hurt diving in concrete structures and stuff like that. But as far as drowning, no, we never drowned.
SA: You also mentioned ice skating, and you met Beulah ice skating. Tell me about where you went ice skating.
TT: Well, any place we could find ice on ponds, canals, we would walk miles to skate, because we didn't have cars to travel with. I met Beulah there, skating. And I don't know, that was our. . . We didn't have money to go to theaters and that, so that's what we did. We entertained ourselves, that's about it.
SA: That sounds like fun. What kind of skates did you use?
TT: Well, at first we had clamp-on skates that always fell off, and finally we got wealthy enough that we bought shoe skates. One year the theater in Fallon burned down, and for six weeks we skated on Rattlesnake Reservoir every night, and there was old people up into their sixties and seventies, out there ice skating. And people that would never talk to you on the street would talk to you while you was ice skatin'--everybody was your friend.
SA: Oh, that sounds wonderful. Did they build fires?
TT: We had fires, and then we roasted wienies and had marshmallows with it. And everybody--well, we just had a good time.
SA: That sounds wonderful! And all ages, hm?
TT: That's right. I can remember the editor of the Fallon Standard at the time, Claude Smith, he was out there just skatin' away just as hard as he could go. And then the Mills family was quite the ice skaters. And everybody was friendly and had a good time.
SA: That sounds wonderful. It's a shame that kids don't have that kind of experience today.
TT: No. Well, we didn't have no money. We had to entertain ourselves the best we could.
SA: Uh-huh, but in such a wholesome way. You said you met Beulah over a period of time. Was she one of the gang ice skating?
TT: Well, yes, she was. We met (laughs) on this ice skating party. Anyway, I met her over there, and I don't know, we got going out together. In fact, I wrote a poem about her, if you want to know the truth.
SA: Oh, I want to see some of your poems after! Now, another thing I failed to ask you in your first interview, I know that your family came from Italy: Was Italian spoken in your home when you were a child?
TT: Yes, it was. After the kids started to go to school, well, it wasn't spoken any more. Both my parents started speaking English to us, and it was always English. In fact, I know very little Italian that I can speak today.
SA: So they spoke in English to each other, as well, when they learned?
TT: That's right.
SA: That's interesting. And did your parents retain any of the customs from Italy?
TT: Well, not really too much. I can't say as that they did--mostly in what we ate, I would say. They ate their pasta and stuff like that, but they didn't retain too many customs.
SA: They became Americanized very quickly?
TT: Yeah. Well, my father wasn't over here very long and he became an American citizen. And then when my mother came over, well, she automatically, I guess, became an American citizen because she married him.
SA: Were they religious?
TT: Yeah, they were both Catholics, and us kids was told that if we wanted to go to church, to pick out any church we wanted and they wouldn't complain about it. Some of us went to church, and some of us haven't. I'm one that didn't, I guess.
SA: So they were pretty liberal about it.
TT: They were really liberal about religion, and they didn't force it upon us. It was up to us to decide what we wanted.
SA: That's kind of unusual, isn't it, for that period?
TT: Well, maybe they were more open-minded--I don't know what to say.
SA: Sounds like it. Did they maintain communication with the relatives in Italy? Or did any ever visit?
TT: Very little. My father did, with his one sister. I just can't recall that they did very much. He used to send money over there to his sister--she was a cripple or something. And they'd receive news once in a while, back and forth, about the relatives.
SA: Now, did you ever get over to Italy?
TT: No. The only foreign country I've been to was Canada last fall.
SA: I know when I wanted to get the second interview, you were going on up to Alaska,
TT: Yeah, well, we didn't get there. Maybe this year--who knows! We don't know what we're doin'!
SA: Now, I want to go back now to the early years of your marriage in 1943, until you bought the ranch and house from your folks in 1950. So first I want to ask you when you married, where did you and Beulah live?
TT: Well, we lived in a three-room cabin right here on the place in Fallon.
SA: Okay, so you came to your family's ranch?
TT: Yes, and then we bought the ranch and they moved to town. And then we moved over in the big house, until we moved away. And then when I bought the place in Reese River, I moved out there, but Beulah remained in Fallon for eleven years. She didn't actually move out--she just came out at weekends and in summer. We kept the kids in Fallon schools.
SA: I want to stay in the early years when you were first married, before you bought the place from your folks--those earliest years-because I want to find out what the ranch was like and what your work here on the ranch was, before 1950, before you bought it, while your dad was still alive, when you both lived in the smaller house here on the ranch. What was the ranch like then?
TT: Well, what we did, it was diversified. We raised, oh, chickens and turkeys and pigs and we had a few sheep. We had a dairy where we milked cows. In fact, I even leased more land so there would be enough income for all of us.
SA: Did you have specific areas of responsibility? How many of you were working the ranch? in those years when you were first married, before you bought it and it was yours. How many workers were there?
TT: Well, it would be me and Beulah and my mother, probably.
SA: While your dad was still alive?
TT: Yes, but my dad was in poor health, and he couldn't work anymore.
SA: Did you hire any workers when you needed more? Did you hire any Indians or workers?
TT: Well, what we did, we traded work. Like I'd go help somebody hay, and they'd help us. That's the way the whole neighborhood or the valley worked that way. We would pool our machinery with somebody else. But we always had to go out and hire a certain amount of people to get the haying done.
SA: Uh-huh, and who would you. hire?
TT: Well, them times, you know, there was transients coming through, and we'd go downtown, and heck, in nothin' flat you could pick up a hay crew. (laughter)
SA: And they would just come be day workers?
TT: That's right, they were just day workers. And they would travel through the country. They'd hit it here for hayin', and then they'd go to another place for a different harvest. And the same people would come back every year, and they'd call us and say, "Well, we're in town," or somethin', "could I see you?" They might want ten dollars to get 'em by until we were ready to start hayin', and we would give 'em the money, and they would come until the job was done.
SA: So you worked real hard.
TT: That's right.
SA: I think we've pretty well covered the years here in Fallon, so now I want to find out from you about your decision to get the ranch in Reese River Valley in Lander County. Tell me in detail about that dramatic move.
TT: Well, I don't know, all my life all I wanted was to own a cow ranch, and I got a chance to buy this ranch from this widowed woman. And so we went out and tried it out, and I took a lease on it for three years, and then with the option to buy, and then we bought the place. Whatever the place was, we paid it off at a yearly rate, is the way we did it. And we finally got it all paid off.
SA: Describe what it was like when you first leased it. What was the valley like, and the ranch?
TT: There was about two hundred and some acres of grass hay out there, and a hundred and fifty head of Hereford cattle, and a couple of horses was thrown in on the lease. Let me see here, I gotta think a minute. And some farm machinery to put the hay up, and that kind of stuff. And that's about all there was, but there was fourteen hundred deeded acres of ground out there, that was second- and third-class pasture that we used. Plus, they had a BLM [Bureau of Land Management] permit and a Forest permit for three hundred head of cattle.
SA: And how many head of cattle was there when you got it?
TT: There was about a hundred and fifty head of cows there, and we built it up to a full permit of three hundred head,
SA: Oh my goodness! And was there a house there that went with it?
TT: There was a house and barn and some buildings, a chicken house and a few buildings: blacksmith shop and a two-car garage.
SA: A lot.
TT: The old house was made of adobe. The walls were, oh, maybe fourteen to sixteen inches thick, and it was easy to heat. It was a big house: it had six rooms. It was easy to heat, and it was cool in the summertime.
SA: Where were the nearest neighbors?
TT: The nearest neighbor was about two-and-a-half miles to the south of the ranch, and it was a couple of old bachelors that lived there-real nice people.
SA: About how many people lived there in that valley when you were there? About how many families or ranches?
TT: Oh, there was an Indian reservation above this area--Yomba Indian Reservation, and they had twenty-one families if I recall right. Then as far as the whites, as far down to Austin there was about, oh, four families was all.
SA: How far were you from Austin?
TT: Thirty-four miles south of Austin.
SA: That's quite a distance. Was there any electricity?
TT: There was no electricity. We had a one-wire telephone line that worked sometimes, and sometimes it didn't work--most of the time it didn't work. Most of the time if you had an important call to make, you had to drive to Austin or to Gabbs--one way or the other.
SA: Now, how were the roads out of there?
TT: The roads were all gravel roads, and they were washboard, you know. And in the summer they were pretty good, but in the wintertime the snow would hit 'em and then. . . Well, the roads weren't good.
SA: So you were kind of isolated.
TT: Yeah, but it was nice to be isolated, away from everybody. In fact, I didn't care if we ever had a phone, but you know, I was second in command.
SA: What did you do for irrigation? Where'd the water come from?
TT: We had a permit out of Tierney Creek that dated back to 1864. And we had a permit out of Cottonwood and San Juan that dated back to 1868. And we had the first water rights on both creeks, so water was no problem.
SA: There weren't a lot of neighbors, but again, did you help each other?
TT: Yeah, somewhat, when Brandin' come along, or you know, some big job to do, well, we helped each other. But as far as haying, we all done our own haying. It was all done with tractors and buckrakes, and the hay was stacked loose until later years we went to baling' hay with bale wagons. You know, we modernized a little bit.
SA: Now, you mentioned, and Beulah in her interview also mentioned that when you made the move, because of the schools and being so isolated, she and the children stayed here, except for
weekends. Did you get back here to Fallon at all? Or was it mainly they came to you?
TT: Well, I'd come back. We'd haul our own gasoline and stuff like that. I'd come to Fallon every so often. I needed a haircut once in a while, you know! I didn't want to look like a cave man or something like that.
SA: Now, did you get into Austin very much?
TT: Not too much. Austin didn't have anything as far as buying parts, or grocery store. Well, there was no reason to go there, hardly, unless you had a reason--then you went.
SA: So then Beulah and the children came weekends. Would they bring you supplies that you needed?
TT: Oh yeah, they'd bring the groceries out, and then I'd call in if I needed something, and they'd bring it out.
SA: But basically you were there alone?
TT: Yeah, I was there most of the time all by myself. I consider myself one of the best cooks there are, because I lived eleven years cookin' for myself and I didn't poison myself.
SA: And you didn't just open a can, obviously.
TT: And I didn't die, so I must be a pretty good cook! (laughter)
SA: Now, I want to find out--describe to me when you were out there, what your days were like. What took up most of your time on that kind of a place?
TT: Well, most of time was taken up by takin' care of cattle, because in the wintertime, in the spring, fall, you had to feed cattle. I fed cattle all by myself. Then in the spring you went into calving, and it occupied all your--you didn't have time to goof off. And if I had extra time, I would go trappin' coyotes and bobcats and beaver and stuff for extra money.
SA: Oh my goodness!
TT: In fact, I trapped enough bobcats and coyotes one winter to buy me a gooseneck, all-aluminum cow trailer--believe that or not.
SA: Oh my gosh! Now, what did you do, skin and sell. . .
TT: Yeah, we'd skin and sell the hides.
SA: Who would you sell it to?
TT:. Well, I'd sell to wherever I thought I was going to get the most money. I'd ship 'em to different places.
SA: So you were innovative and found out where the markets were?
TT: Yeah, I watched the markets. We always got. . . Oh, they'd send us their market quotations and everything, and I'd just watch and whatever I thought was the best, I'd ship to them.
SA: You were pretty smart! I bet it was hard to get to a post office! (chuckles)
TT: Yeah, but you could wrap your hides up tight and everything, and ship 'em and there were no problems. You always insured 'em, because you didn't want 'em to get lost or stolen.
SA: That was innovative--I hadn't heard that.
TT: But the first bobcats I trapped, I got eight dollars a piece; and the last ones I trapped, I got three hundred and thirty-three dollars a piece--so you figure it out!
SA: Now, had you done trapping before you went to Reese River?
TT: No, I never had. I just had to do something to make extra money, I thought.
SA: So you just kind of. . .
TT: Just picked it up on my own.
SA: Kind of a smartie! Now, did you do any hunting or fishing?
TT: Oh yeah. We done a lot of hunting: deer hunting, and then we had a lot of friends that would want to go huntin' and fishin', and they'd come out and spend a few days. It'd look like forever we were takin' people huntin' or fishing'. And that's part of my life, anyway, is the huntin' and fishin'. But now I got so damn old, the huntin' is about over with. But the fishin' is still going' strong.
SA: Good! You're still fishing! Where do you fish?
TT: Oh, Pyramid Lake or creeks or anyplace. Gotta go once or twice a week fishin', you know.
SA: That's wonderful.
TT: That's my time off.
SA: That's wonderful. And is that eatin' fish?
SA: What kind?
TT: Just trout mostly. I don't care about fishin' for bass. Trout fishermen is what we are.
SA: That's wonderful. Does Beulah fish too?
TT: Oh yeah. Yeah, if I tell her I'm gain' fishin', she'll go out and dig the worms so I don't have to worry about it.
SA: (laughs) And when you were in Reese River, where did you fish there?
TT: Oh, we fished mostly Reese River. Reese River's got some giant German browns in it. The biggest one I ever caught was a little over six pounds. Beulah caught one over five-and-a-half. We've caught a lot of fish four and five pounds out of Reese River.
SA: Oh, gosh! Was that kind of main food, or did you give some away?
TT: No, we'd give 'em away.
SA: You didn't have any freezers then, did you?
TT: No, we didn't have freezers, we didn't have electricity until later on, we got electricity.
SA: Now I want you to tell me, because I know that you were very instrumental in getting the phone lines out into the valley. Do you want to describe that contribution in detail?
TT: Well, we had a one-wire phone line, as I said before. And it worked when it wanted to work, and most of the time it was just like me--it never did want to work, or somethin'. Finally, it got so bad the repair on it was too tough. So we had an extension agent out there, Archie Albright, and I went and talked to him. He was from the University of Nevada, and I told him, "Archie, I'm gonna build a phone line." He said, "You are?!" and I said, "Yeah, I'm gonna build it if I have to do it alone." And he said, "Well, I'm gonna help ya'." So we kind of organized, between him and I, what could be done and what couldn't be done, and we got to talkin' with Bell Telephone, and they said they wouldn't do it. They wanted $140,000 to put a phone line in there, plus every phone call would be a toll call, even if we called our neighbor! So they were taking a line out in Elko, so I got ahold of a trucker, and I told him I had a bunch of poles up at Elko if he would haul 'em for me, and I'd pay him for it and everything. So Beulah and I went to Elko and spent three days and loaded the poles. I think we got over seven hundred poles for nothin', and oh, we got an immense amount of wire.
SA: Just the two of you loaded it?!
TT: No, the trucker loaded it. We went up and supervised it, and kept the thing a-goin'.
SA: And they gave it to you free?
TT: Yeah, the thing was free. All I had was the truckin' bill, which Beulah and I absorbed.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
TT: So then, anyway, one Thanksgiving Day, me and Stan Pierce, and I think Alfred Danberg, went down and put a telephone pole down there by the Hess place. And I don't know, it shook the rest of 'em up, and they come around and said, "Are you gonna build a phone line?" and I said, "You bet I am!" So they wanted in. So we organized the thing, and we figured out that it would be $1,750 per phone, that I could build the line in there for that, if everybody would do their share in the work.
SA: How many were there then, involved in this project?
TT: Well, let's see, we came up with three party lines and four. . . . We had ten phones to begin with. So anyway, we got the darned thing started, and we built a two-wire line, and we worked in the winter, and it was ten and fifteen [degrees] below zero. We dug holes, we blasted holes with dynamite that we couldn't dig, and the whole valley was just the friendliest bunch of people you ever seen! Everybody was happy and everything, and we hired one man to supervise the job.
SA: Who was that?
TT: That was Jerry Alberson. We paid him six dollars an hour.
SA: In those days, that was good money!
TT: That's right. And he lived right with us there at the ranch, and we fed and gave him shelter and everything, and we didn't charge that to the phone company or anything. And I made a lot of phone calls around, but you know, I didn't charge to the phone company, and we kept the thing a-goin'. And then Bell came out and looked at it one day and they said we were doin' a good job. And I said, "Yeah, a hell of a lot better than you guys can do!" And then the guy wanted to hire me to build telephone lines, and I told him I wasn't interested--cows was in my head. And we did get a protest from Bell. After we got it started they said that was their franchise. But to get that franchise, there was a Reese River Telephone Company in there that was the oldest telephone company in Nevada. And it belonged to the ranchers. So there was three of the original people left. So I got ahold of two of 'em and I said, "I want to buy your franchise." And they said they didn't know whether they wanted to sell it, and I said, "Well, I'm gonna make you an offer for it. There's three of you here, and I'll give you three dollars a piece, That's nine dollars for your whole telephone line. If you want to sell it, sell it." Well, two of 'em came across, but the one held out. But they outvoted him, so we bought a whole telephone company for nine dollars!
SA: Oh my goodness!
TT: So then we got the franchise. Then Bell protested that. After we got the phone line done is when we got the protest, and I had to go to Carson to a meeting up there with Bell and the Public Service Commission. So I told Bell, "We'll sell you the phone line for $140,000, which you said it would cost to put in there. And we want free phones, no bills for ten years. Any long distance phone calls or anything we made, we didn't want to be billed for it." And they refused to do it. So we kept the line.
SA: Now, do you know, just a general time period that all this was happening? Was this in the seventies?
TT: It was in the seventies. And it ran into the eighties, I think.
SA: Had the population grown in Reese River? Or was it the same?
TT: Yeah, well, we'll have to say the population grew, because there was a lot of desert land entries come in down there by Highway 50, by the university station. There was families that moved in there. In fact, we put phones down there. And then we got in trouble with the phone line. People didn't have the money to extend it or something, and then they'd all go over to this one guy's place and call, and it became a nuisance. So I'll tell you what really happened with the phone line, It was a party line, see-four parties to a line. Well some of 'em was ornery--if somebody was on the phone, they'd cuss 'em and tell 'em to get off, "I want to use the phone," and all that kind of stuff. And it got to be really a battle. It wasn't on our line--[the people that were on the line] with Beulah and I were real good. If somebody had an urgent phone call, you'd just hang up and tell 'em to go ahead, and you wouldn't listen in, and everything went swell. Well, we had two parties out there that was really terrible. So Steve Rose and I went to the Public Service Commission, and we heard about these satellite phones. So we went and talked to Bell about it first, and they wanted to put it in. The first satellite phones ever put in was in Canada. So we got to talkin' to 'em about it, and the Public Service Commission refused to let 'em do it, because there wasn't enough subscribers. So we went back to the Public Service Commission again, and Bell Telephone's engineers were there, and they said they wanted to do it as a project to find out if it would work good, where they could extend it into their utility company at other areas. And the Public Service Commission said, "Yes, we're gonna let you do it." So then we had to sell our phone line to Bell. Here we go again!
SA: Oh dear! Were you the leader in this, doing the negotiations?
TT: Well, Steve Rose and I were. I'm always mixed up in something when I shouldn't be. Well, anyway, we sold 'em the phone line for a dollar, after all our work. Then we were required to take the old phone line out, see. We sold 'em the phone line, but we retained the material--it all belonged to us. And that's been, I don't know, seven or eight years ago, and we still haven't received the dollar--I don't know why. Anyway, we proportioned the line out, and everybody went and took out a certain amount of miles, and then the material was distributed among the subscribers, which worked out good. And that phone system out there works. It works! You can't believe, it's just like if you was sitting across the table talking to somebody. And the rates are no higher than we are paying right here at the house in Fallon. We have the same rate. And now I see where C.P. National is puffin' one in, in Ruby Valley, and I think you're gonna see a lot of satellite phones going in.
SA: Oh my! Now, how many people are served now in that region by Bell Telephone?
TT: Well, they went to each family, each house, anybody that wanted a phone. All they had to do was say. There was no cost if you came in at the time. But if you came in later, you said no [originally], and you wanted to come in later, they wanted $10,000 a phone.
SA: Oh my goodness!
TT: But each Indian family, everybody in Reese River has got telephone.
SA: Oh my goodness! And that Indian reservation?
TT: Yeah, the Indian reservation. Then they went over the hill to lone. The guy in lone didn't want a phone. They bypassed him, they put a satellite in, in lone Valley, and they ran a phone up to the lcthyosaur Park at Grantsville. So they got a phone, too, out of it-the state of Nevada got a phone out of it. It was one of the best things that ever happened to Reese River.
SA: Oh, what a contribution you made! And what a lot of time and energy!
SA: But what a lot of satisfaction, of your contribution.
TT: Well, you feel satisfied you done somethin' good once in a while, you know.
SA: (laughs) That's wonderful!
TT: But when we moved out there, we didn't have a bathroom in the house, we didn't have runnin' water. We put all that in. We had a generator for electricity. I went to work and got busy with Sierra Pacific about getting' electricity in there.
SA: When did you get that?
TT: Oh, Beulah knows the dates.
SA: Okay, she may have given me that.
TT: But anyway, we had a lot of meetings, and spent a lot of time runnin' around. Sierra Pacific had borrowed the money from the REA [Rural Electrification Administration] to put the power line. You borrow the money from the government at five percent interest, and then you pay it back. Well anyway, they were goin' by, and they were just gonna put the power part-ways up the valley. So the Indians were left out. So the Indians come down to me, and they said, "Well, we're gettin' left out," and this and that. So here we go again! We had to go to Reno and [End of tape 2 side A]
SA: Okay, so you had to go to Reno?
TT: We had to go to Reno and meet with Sierra Pacific and back and forth. And they didn't say nuthin', and the Indians was still fightin' over it. They said they were bein' left out. And they were having a meeting at the Yomba Reservation, and Sierra Pacific called me up and they said, "We want you to be there," They told me, "We're going to give the Indians electricity, We're going all the way, but don't say a word about it."' The Indians had hired an attorney about it, and we were up there at this meeting, anyway, and this is something never forget: there was a gal there, I don't know, I was sittin' by her, that was an attorney. Her first name was Susan, but I can't remember...
SA: An attorney for the Indians?
TT: Yeah. They were gonna sue Sierra Pacific, because they were being left out of power. And I already knew that they were gonna get it that day, they were gonna be told. And she stood up and said, "That's grounds for a lawsuit!" And I grabbed her by the skirt and sat her down, and I said, "You shut your goddam mouth!" That's the exact words I used. And she didn't know what to say, and I told her to, "Sit there!" And then they came up and told the Indians that they were gonna get their power up there. Now if she'd have kept talkin', they'd have got mad, and they'd have walked out, and the Indians wouldn't have got it, right?
SA: Oh, my goodness. She didn't know they were gonna get it?
TT: No, they hadn't told anybody but me, see,
SA: I see! It's a good thing you were sitting next to her!
TT: I was the only one that'd been told before the meeting that they were going up there.
SA: Now, they get it free as part of the Indian rights?
TT: No, Sierra Pacific built the lines up there, but they have to pay for their power, just like you and I do. And if they don't pay for it, they're shut off, just like you and I. They're not treated any better or any worse than you and I are.
SA: And so by the time, then, you had the electricity, you had your plumbing inside? You took care of that?
TT: Oh yeah, took care of everything.
SA: You're very talented!
TT: We'll we're just like "livin' uptown," I guess.
SA: And you had standards. You didn't want to just keep the outhouse all the time.
SA: Now, how long did you stay on that ranch? When did you come back to Fallon?
TT: We came back four years ago, whenever that is. What's this, 1995? We were out there thirty-eight years.
SA: So afterward, I know Beulah and the children joined you, so life changed. The kids were finished with school when she came?
TT: Well, yeah, when they got out of high school. . . Well, Irene went on to college. She was three years older than Rachel. She went to Las Vegas to the University of [Nevada at] Las Vegas to school. And then when Rachel got out, she went to UNR [University of Nevada, Reno]. And they both got their college education, and Beulah and I were by ourselves out there.
SA: So she came when the kids were on their own by then?
TT: That's right. When they went on to college and everything, well, then she stayed out there full-time.
SA: What did you do with the house here?
TT: We leased this ranch out.
SA: Okay, the ranch and the old house.
TT: Yeah, we leased it all--just like it is today, it's leased out again.
SA: Oh, it is? The farm and the house?
SA: So when she came, tell me, by the time she came, and all of the years that you were there, the changes in the ranch itself.
TT: Well, we done a lot of improvement: we built new corrals, we fixed the house up, we built a great big galvanized shop there for the machinery, and we bought modern machinery to hay with. I went to work and I levelled a bunch of sagebrush ground, put in ninety-one acres of alfalfa under wheel lines [a sprinkler system for irrigation (Ed.)] and a deep well. And there you go, with a deep well, again, Sierra Pacific wanted $12,000 before they would put power to the well, and they came by in the fall and I wouldn't pump until the spring, and I said, "Yeah, I'll give you the $12,000, but I want twelve percent interest on it," and they refused to give me the interest, and I refused to give 'em the money. (laughter) And so I'm the only one in the valley that had a well hooked up and never had to put a down payment on it! Well, I had a right to have interest on my $12,000. They wouldn't give me interest, I wouldn't give 'em the money, but I got the well in and they hooked it up, and everything is fine.
SA: Oh my! So you stayed pretty much in the cattle and hay?
TT: Yeah, we were just strictly cattle, you know. We had a few sheep, just for ranch use. It was all cattle.
SA: Were there any years when you had a bad drought or a terrible winter where you had losses or hardships?
TT: Oh, we had a lot of drought out there. One year we shipped cattle to Fallon, even, for hay and everything. And we bought quite a bit of hay until I got the alfalfa goin'. Then I raised enough extra hay that I could store it, so if we had a drought, I never had to worry about it. And it worked beautiful. It was a good investment. I should have done it sooner, but I don't know, you have to wait until you've got the money to do things. We had to pay the place off first, and make sure it was ours before we sunk a lot of money in it.
SA: Uh-huh. Well, it seems like you gave a lot of wise thought to all of the things that you did. It wasn't anything haphazard.
TT: Well, you have to figure out your investments, what the return is going to be. You can't just invest money and have no return. That's the way I look at it.
SA: You were wise. Through your adult years, did you do any prospecting or mining?
TT: I don't know. I sat on a pile of rock one day and ate my lunch, and a guy come along and claimed it and said it was full of mercury, and then I don't know. I don't know anything about rock.
SA: That's not your area?
TT: No. Rock is rock as far as I'm concerned.
SA: Okay. You gotta be with living cows. So those were very busy years! I mean, night and day. Were they happy years?
TT: Yeah, we were happy out there, you know. You worked hard and everything else, but. . . Well, in later years we even got a satellite dish, the last few years we were out there, and had TV. Before that, you couldn't get nuthin'. But we always had something to do. If it wasn't cows, somebody'd come along and want to go huntin' or fishin'. And then there was always somethin' to do. You didn't lay around.
SA: Did your girls come out to visit?
TT: Yeah, they come out quite a bit.
SA: Did they like it there? Did they do any ranching?
TT: Oh yeah, they both liked it. But Irene loved the horses and the cattle. Rachel didn't care too much for the horses, but she did like the cattle too, and she'd go out and help feed. Whenever they came out, they worked. Were there any mustang horses out there?
TT: Well, we didn't call 'em mustangs. They were just ranch horses that people couldn't catch or anything else. And I caught a few of 'em, but that's like having small pox or some kind of fever--you never get over it. So I had to tell myself not to do it, because I knew I'd be chasing' horses all the time and not doing' my work.
SA: You mean you liked to do it?
TT: There isn't anything better than chasing' wild horses.
SA: Describe it!
TT: I don't know, it can beat the forty [degrees] below zero and the north wind blowin', and heck, you're after this horse, "I'm gonna get him! I'm gonna get him! Or ain't I gonna get him?" And the sweat is just a-pourin' off, and you don't feel cold at all, until you catch him.
SA: (laughs) For goodness sakes! How do you catch 'em?
TT: We roped 'em.
SA: Who's "we"? Who did you go with?
TT: Well, usually I had somebody with me to herd 'em around so I could get a rope on him.
SA: Like one of the neighbors?
TT: Oh, the kids, or somebody like that.
SA: How many did you ever catch?
TT: Well, we caught quite a few of 'em. I don't like to talk about that. They might put me in jail yet!
SA: No, no, no. (laughter)
TT: I can tell you some experiences catchin' wild horses that you won't believe! This friend of ours wanted a filly out there. "I'd sure like to have that horse." Well, she didn't have a brand on her. I knew it belonged to the neighbor, and I said, "Sure, we'll go catch her." So Irene, my daughter, and I and Stan, this fella that wanted the horse, I said, "We'll go out." I got done shoeing horses and I said, "We'll go catch that horse up there." So I told him where to go, and I'd go up and round her up, and they put her through the gate. Well, the stupid thing took up the hill. So I took after her as hard as I could go, and I had a brand new lariat in my hand. And just as I reached the top of the hill, I roped her and started taking my dallies' [ed- "Dally" is from the Spanish dar la vuelta, literally, "give the turn," and it refers to throwing a half hitch (knot) around the horn of the saddle the rider is riding. This secures the rope] and there's a big pile of rocks, and I knew that was the end of me. I knew my horse was gonna spill, so I threw the rope away, and here I sat up on the hill and here goes a ten-dollar horse and a ten-dollar rope--brand new rope, goin' like the devil. She made a turn, and I figured, "I'll head her off," and I took after her. This could never happen again. I was ridin', comin' up behind her, and the rope hit a sagebrush and come right up in my hand, and I took my dallies and stopped her there. By the time Irene and Stan got there, I had her choked down. She was layin' on the ground, and they had a halter, and I put the halter on her and let her up, and I had her halter broke by the time we got to the house--we had about four miles to go. Then he took her to Tonopah and he tried to ride her, and he come back and he said, "I'm takin' that horse back to you." I said, "What happened?" He said, "I don't mind gettin' bucked off in the corral, but she bucked me clear over the fence, and I don't want to ride her again!"
SA: Oh my gosh! Did you keep her?
TT: Yeah, we kept her, and then some hunter come along and shot her--I can't believe it. She was down in the pasture there, and [he] shot her.
SA: Aw. Did you know Bill Givens? He used to run with the wild horses. He describes that.
TT: Yeah, Bill Givens, I know him.
SA: He got hurt a lot: I think his lung and his back, hunting those.
TT: A horse has never hurt me.
SA: Oh, good!
TT: I've spilled with 'em, I've rolled with 'em, but I've
SA: How old were you when you were doing all this?
TT: Well, in my forties, I guess, and fifties.
SA: You were a wild one! (laughs)
TT: Well, chasing' wild horses is a lot of fun!
SA: That's a wonderful story, a wonderful description of it, Tony. Now, is there anything else on that Reese River Valley period, when you were there taking care of everything? Because I don't know enough to ask you. . .
TT: Well, I got along good with our Indian friends.
SA: Oh, tell me about the reservation.
TT: I was a brand inspector, a fee inspector for about eighteen years until I got mad and quit.
SA: Where did you do the brand inspecting?
TT: All that area out there. I inspected all the cattle that left, and then I got mad at the new guy at the Department of Agriculture, and I told him I was quittin', and he told me I couldn't quit, and I said, "You can't tell me I can't do anything! I'm gonna do it." And I quit.
SA: Where did you do this inspecting? What region?
TT: Well, it was mostly in Nye and Lander Counties, in that region. Sometimes they'd send me into Churchill County. Sometimes they'd want me to go clear to Tonopah. Yeah, I done Churchill County.
SA But in Lander County, which we're interested in, did you do some of the big ranches? Did you do the Inchauspes?
TT: No, I didn't do Inchauspes.
SA: Which ones did you do? Can you remember any?
TT: Oh, I done Gandolfos and Toiyabe Cattle Company, and went to Alpine and Churchill Counties, and all up the valley there.
SA: When did you do all that? How did you have time to do all that?
TT Well, I done it in between workin'.
SA Slow seasons of the hay?
TT: Well, the shipping was mostly in the fall, see. Some in the spring, if they had their cattle ready. And then I went to Monitor Valley a lot. Oh, I travelled quite a bit.
SA: You were a busy main!
TT: Well, you gotta have somethin' to do. You can't sit down all the time.
SA: (laughs) You must have been very energetic--with your mind and your. . .
TT: The Indians come down one day. . . .
SA: First, how big was that reservation? About how many lived on it?
TT: There was about twenty-one families up there, or more,
SA: Mainly families?
TT: Yeah, well, there's some single people too--you know, men. Well, anyway, an Indian come down, Leroy Brady, come down to Beulah's one day--I wasn't home--and she said he said, "You know, Tony got the most votes for the housing authority, on the board." She said, "What?!" I come home and she told me about it. I said, "How can you win an election when you don't even have your name in?!" So anyway, I went up there and I worked with the Indians, and we got a housing. . . .
SA: Oh my! Describe that in great detail. You're the only one that's ever told me this.
TT: A housing board, you know, where you get a HUD [Housing and Urban Development] grant to build houses with. Okay, we wanted money to build twenty-two houses, and it took us a period--we fought and fought--it was about four years before we got the money, and we went ahead and built twenty-two houses out there for the Indians on the reservation, and all I gotta say about them Indians, they have taken care of their houses. I've heard a lot of bad stories about this HUD housing, but those Indians out there, I admire 'em for it, they have taken care of their houses.
SA: Now why was it so hard to get approval from HUD?
TT: Because there wasn't enough Indians. They wanted a big project of a hundred houses, and it's always the same way--wherever you have just a few, well then you have a hard time getting' a grant.
SA: Now how does that HUD work?
TT: Well, we're not on a turnkey, we were on a low-rent basis. On a turnkey, people that have turnkey housing, people have a right to buy them houses.
SA: I see.
TT: But on a low rent, it's a forty-year loan anyway, and you know damn well at the end of the forty years, the government is gonna write it off. And what happens, at the end of forty years, whichever Indian is livin' in that house, will get that house free of cost.
SA: Did the HUD have standard housing that they just put up? Do they all look alike? Pretty standard?
TT: Well, we went to two-, three-, and four-bedroom homes. We try to get 'ern. . . . Well, they more or less look alike, but we had 'em painted different, and stuff like that.
SA: Okay, so the board had some say in this.
SA: Did the Indians have any say in this?
TT: The Indians really didn't have any say. They put in for whether they wanted two-, three-, or four-bedroom house. And then all the utilities was put in that house. They had a refrigerator and that, and stoves and the propane tanks, and the sewage was all put in and everything. And then we had to hire a secretary and a maintenance man. Now, the maintenance man, he looked after anything that went wrong. But if there was something that the Indian destroyed in that house, we took care of it, as a board. He paid for it. They thought they could get away with it, but they couldn't. As long as I was on the board, they never got away with it. But since I left, I've wondered what happened. I'll give you a "for instance." This one Indian got mad at his wife. He was drunk and he was gonna kill her, and he couldn't find no bullets for his rifle, so he threw the gun through a picture window and broke the window out of it. Then he didn't want to pay for that window. Well, we got him up before the board, and he paid for that window, I'll tell you that.
SA: Well, you have to have a control, sure.
TT: And then any damage that they done to a house--a door or anything--if they didn't want to pay it, we'd just take 'em to the authorities there in Gabbs, and they paid it--they paid it.
SP: What was the rent like?
TT: Well, it depended upon the person's income. Some of them, if they worked, you know, like over in lone in the mines and they were making a big income, some of 'em paid up to prit near three hundred dollars a month rent.
SA: Which at that time was a lot of money.
TT: But then you come down where there's an elderly couple or somethin', and all they had was a little old pension or somethin', we actually paid them to live in them houses. We paid the utilities and everything for 'em, you know. They didn't get no cash money for livin' in it, but we took care of the utilities and the propane and heating of it and the power and the telephone. So actually, we paid them to live in that house. But see, when you do a HUD housing project, you can't. . . . Well, how do I want say it? Anybody that applies for a house out there, say even if it's a black person or a Mexican or somethin', you have to leave 'em in if there's a house available. And we never had that problem. We just had the Indians all the time. And then, you know, we had a couple of instances where there'd be a white man livin' with an Indian woman, and they would do more damage to a house than anybody else. And they wouldn't take care of the yard. The first thing you know, you had a bunch of old cars and everything. Well, we'd remove the cars, and they'd pay the bill. When I was there, they paid, but I don't know what's happened since.
SA: How many years were you on that board, about?
TT: Oh, ten or twelve.
SA: Oh, a long time!
TT: Until I left there.
SA: You never had a minute where you just sat around, I can tell that! (laughs)
TT: No, I had to have something to do. If I sat around the house, you know, Beulah'd find a lot of stuff for me to do. I've learned this quick! When you're second in command, you know how to handle stuff.
SA: Now, how much time did you give thought to leaving there to come back to Fallon?
TT: Well, the work got to where we were unable to do it. Well, you couldn't hire anybody to do that kind of work any more. So the only solution was, that if we couldn't do the work, we had to sell. And that was it. So we thought about it for a couple of years, and we put the place up for sale, and it took a while to get it sold. And we kept working at it until it sold.
SA: Who bought it?
TT: Well, Wayman and Judy Rosclund bought it. They were cattle people, they had cows of their own. So we decided we had a good herd of Hereford cattle--we were Hereford people--we decided that their cattle was used to winter range, where ours were used to being fed in the winter, so we decided we'd sell our cows and they would keep their cows--it'd work out better for both of us.
SA: Was that a hard decision?
TT: It was.
SA: It must have been so difficult.
TT: And when we moved here, for six months it was horrible. There wasn't a cow to look at, there wasn't a calf, a sheep--nuthin'!
SA: Oh, you could just cry!
TT: Well, I'll tell you the truth: I moved to Fallon, I gave all my horses away but one horse. We had some real good horses--as good as you ever get cow horses. I didn't want 'em to go to chicken feed, and I gave the horses away, all except one old horse that all the kids rode, I rode him and everybody rode him, and he was broke to rope--you could do anything on him. We pensioned him off. We had one old dog when we moved to Fallon. Well, I'll put it this way: When we came to Fallon, I had one old horse, one old dog, and one old wife. (laughter) And you know, my dog just died, so I got an old horse and an old wife left. (laughter)
SA: You're funny! (laughing) So when you came back, what did you do, take the lease away from the people living in the old house?
TT: No, we built this new home here.
SA: Now, when you were moving back, was that the plan, to build a new home?
TT: Well, we went around town, looking for a house to buy. Well, what they wanted for a house--and Beulah was dissatisfied, "I gotta do this, I gotta do that, I gotta do something else." We looked at quite a few houses, and I finally got to the point one day, we were riding along, and I said, "You know what, I'm going to build a new house." And she said, "Where you gonna build it?" I said, "Well, we got a sand hill out there on the place. We got land of our own, we're buildin' a new house there." So we seen a couple of contractors and asked 'em about price and everything, and got a floor plan that Beulah liked. And I said, "Now you build this house the way you want it. Don't you ever complain to me about somethin' that isn't right. I don't want to hear you ever say another word about it."
SA: Now where did you live while they were building this house?
TT: Well, we didn't move in until the house was finished.
SA: So where did you live?
TT: We lived at Reese River.
SA: Oh, I see what you mean. In other words, you came up here, made that decision. . . .
TT: Yeah, we had the house built before we moved.
SA: So how was it supervised? Or did Beulah stay here a lot?
TT: Well, we had a friend that would come over that was a carpenter,
and he'd come over every other day and lust watch--not supervise--just watch that they were building it right.
SA: Make sure they were working.
TT: You know, building it right. And like he told me--he passed away here a while back--he said, "You know, I taught them boys quite a few things. I've been a carpenter for many years, and you know, they taught me a few things too. So it all worked out good."
SA: Would you come in sometimes on a weekend just to see the progress?
TT: Well, we'd come in, they'd call us when they had somethin' they wanted. So we'd drive in. Like drillin' a well, we had to come in, get the well a-goin'. Had to go see the Churchill County Fire Department about the bridge, the width of the bridge and the length of the bridge. [A bridge across the irrigation ditch to enter their property. (Ed.)] And we had to see Sierra Pacific about the power, and we had to see the telephone company. . . .
SA: There's a lot of detail! Now, did you keep any land for any ranching?
TT: Well, we have two hundred acres of land here and we still own it all.
SA: Uh-huh, but you lease out?
TT: Yeah, we lease it out.
SA: You're not doing ranching now.
TT: No, just here on this hill.
SA: When you say "here on this hill," what do you mean?
TT: Well, I got the low ground, and Beulah's got the high ground. See, where I raise my flowers and my vegetables? That's our big ranch, right here on this hill!
SA: I did take pictures last time, but I want to get a few more this time.
TT: This is our big farm, right on this hill, see?
SA: You know, this is a beautiful area and beautiful house.
TT: There's electric fence right out there that keeps the cattle out of here.
SA: It's a beautiful area here.
TT: And then I've got about three hundred quail I feed.
SA: I saw two cross the road this morning.
TT: Yeah, they're part of my quail.
SA: Oh, I've got to get some more pictures! So now, you came back here. Do you remember approximately when you came back? Was it in the early nineties? Four years ago, you said.
TT: We came back in May of. . . .
SA: In 1991?
TT: It'd be 1991. May 6 or 12, we moved in here.
SA: How long did it take you to finally feel at home here?
TT: Oh, just about a year.
SA: Yeah, I would think.
TT: It was different.
SA: It's hard. You didn't know what to do with yourself, right?
TT: No, we didn't raise a garden, we didn't plant anything.
SA: What do you do now to fill in your time? I know you're doing a lot of carving.
TT: Well, I do carving, I do poetry, I do gardening, I do flowers. I trap gophers and I go fishin'. I help the neighbors whenever they leave--I'm the choreboy of the neighborhood.
SA: (chuckles) I bet you're loved by everyone.
TT: Well, I don't know, some of the chores they give me, I don't think they love me too much.
SA: So do you find now that you're settled in and you found areas that you never had time for before. . . .
TT: We've seen a lot of Nevada that we had never seen before.
SA: Oh, you're travelling now?
TT: Oh yeah.
SA: Tell me about that.
TT: Well, if there's places in Nevada we want to go see, we go see. We've been to New Mexico and down there once. We went to Canada, and we were in Washington here last spring. We do quite a bit of travelling. We gotta travel as long as we can go.
SA: Yes, that's smart.
TT: Because the day is coming' where they're gonna say they ain't gonna give us no more driver's license.
SA: Do you both drive?
TT: Uh-huh. I'm the better driver, though. (laughter)
SA: Now, you said you're seeing a lot of Nevada that you hadn't seen. What parts?
TT: Well, we went clear down through Hiko, Caliente. We spent four days lookin' at wildflowers. Can you imagine an old fool like me looking'. . . .
SA: And where was that?
TT: Well, we went down through Death Valley and Tonopah and then Beatty, and then we crossed over and went down through Warm Springs and went clear down to Hiko, Caliente, Pioche. Oh, we've been all over.
SA: That's wonderful!
TT: Just to look at wildflowers! (chuckles)
SA: Well, now you can see the part of you that didn't have time in all those years--your artistic and poetic side.
TT: Oh, I have no talent at all!
SA: You have a lot of talent! When did you start carving these beautiful. . . Of course you love cows. You don't have the real thing, and that's obviously why you do so many of the cattle and the calves. When did you start all that?
TT: Well, that was caused by one of my daughters. She loves windmills. She's got more windmills than you've ever seen. If you build a windmill for one, you gotta build a windmill for the other one, you know. She asked me to build her a windmill, and I told her, "Rachel, it's impossible, I don't know how, and I can't do it."
SA: You had never done that before, is that it?
- No. So I built a windmill. So then I built two of 'em: one for her and one for Irene. Well, when they got the windmill, "Well, where's the animals?" So then I had to make animals."
SA: That's wonderful!
TT: So I started doin' animals. And I've given away I don't know how many of them.
SA: I've got some that I adore!
TT: And then the Newlands Water Protective Association wanted me to donate to them. So I donated the animals to them. One pair of Herefords I think brought eight-five dollars.
SA: Did they auction them off for fund raising?
TT: They auctioned them off for fund raising, and my longhorns brought a hundred and five, and I think my pigs brought ninety-five, a pair of 'em.
SA: Oh my! See that? You're talented.
TT: And then the other day the high school rodeo association wanted some, So I give 'em a pair of… Well, I started a new breed of cattle: polled longhorns.
SA: What does polled mean?
TT: No horns. Longhorns without horns. (laughter) I took 'em down to that auction sale down there at the Harmon Schoolhouse and put 'em up for sale, and I wrote a poem to go with 'em. They brought eighty dollars for the kids. It was for a good purpose, I donated. And then I had a little burro, about two or three inches high, and I put him in a surprise package, put it in a box, styrofoam around it. Then I put it in another box and taped it all good together, and then Beulah took and put it in beautiful wrapping paper and big ribbon on it, and it was a surprise box. It brought ninety-five bucks for that little old donkey, but nobody knew what was in the box! [End of tape 2]
SA: Well, I think they're wonderful, and you're so talented. Did you first start doing those here in your retirement? Is that when you first started? You didn't have time before!
TT: I never carved anything in my life until I moved here. I never wrote a poem until here last fall.
SA: See, all that talent, you didn't have time.
TT: I don't call it talent.
SA: Oh, that's talent, that's artistic creativity! And you hand carved, and you had the concept for it. It isn't like it's cut out from a stencil or anything.
TT: Well, I've been around animals all my life. If I don't know what an animal looks like, I'll never learn, right? That's been my life, is animals.
SA: But most people can't interpret what they see in a live animal into a carving--so that's wonderful. So that's one hobby. Now tell me about the poetry. When did you start that? When did you learn that you could do that?
TT: I have doubts whether I can do it or not--write poetry--but we were gain' up through the Redwoods last fall--we were going' to Canada, and that oldest daughter [Irene] and her husband and Beulah and I. . . . Well, we both got good cars and everything, but theirs is kind of a medium-size car, so we decided, well, to be comfortable, we rented a big Lincoln Towncar--you know, one of them big old buggers about a half-mile long.
SA: Where does your daughter live, Tony?
TT: In Bakersfield, California.
SA: What did you do, drive there to meet them?
TT: No, they drove up here. So we left here and we rented a car for two weeks. We were goin’ up through the Redwoods – We’d been through there before, Beulah ad I, when the girls were small. And Irene couldn’t remember the Redwoods, so we went up along the coast, just to see the Redwoods, and then we went on into Canada.
SA: How long a trip was that?
TT: Well, we were gone two weeks. We came back through Montana, Yellowstone National Park, and Charlie Russel’s Museum, and Edmonton. Oh, we seen a lot of things. I couldn’t describe everything we’d seen, it’d take all day.
SA: So did this create the thought for poetry?
TT: While we were ridin’ along in the back of the car, I don’t know, somethin’ come to my mind, and I told Beulah, “have you got a pencil and a piece of paper?” and she had a bitty old notebook about three-by-three, and a pencil and I started writin’ and that’s the first poem I ever wrote in my life.
SA: You’re kidding! And that was kind of neat, huh?
TT: Well, I don’t know. They said it was good, and I didn’t know whether it was good or not.
SA: So how many have you done now? How often do you spend time with that?
TT: I don’t write, but when I get a desire, I get a thought in my mind, I can come down in and set down and write it out in a half hour.
SA: Oh my goodness.
TT: But then I might not write for two or three days or a week until I get another thought in my mind.
SA: I hope you’ll share some with me.
TT: I've got a lot of 'em. I'll let you read 'em. I'll let you read the first one I wrote, too.
SA: I'd love that! I know in the first interview you told me how much you liked to read, and that you'd wanted to be an attorney. You had to be a rancher, and you have a lot of books around. Do you have time to read now?
TT: I read every night when I go to bed. In fact, I'm readin' about the history of California right now.
SA: Which book is that?
TT: The Californians is the name of it.
SA: That's wonderful.
TT: I don't know, I just love to read. I read everything--good or bad. Some of 'em ain't too good, and I shouldn't read 'em.
SA: Yeah, but then you appreciate the good ones more.
TT: Yeah, well, I like good western stories, or somethin' to do with history or stuff like that. I don't like these modern books. I don't know, I don't even like your modern movies, if you want to know the truth.
SA: I agree with you.
TT: I don't even waste my time watching them. We get a lot of newspapers, and I read all them.
SA: Keep up to date.
TT: And you watch news on TV, it's the same reruns with different names, isn't it? Just about all it is.
SA: Uh-huh. So now your life is quite rich, it seems, in your quote, unquote, "retirement," being able to pursue these wonderful areas that you didn't know about before.
TT: Well, I don't know. Before we were too damned busy. Now we ain't busy enough, I guess! (laughter) Gotta do somethin'.
SA: Yeah, well, that's great, because so many just plop in front of TV and whither.
TT: Well, I like sports on TV and all that. I like [the TV game show] Jeopardy and stuff like that. I like an old movie, or a good movie.
SA: Well, it sounds like a balance in your life.
TT: I just don't go for these movies that all it is, is destruction and bombing. . . .
TT: I just don't like 'em and I don't watch 'em.
SA: Well, it sounds like you're in control of your life, and that you have certainly contributed so much in your life and to so many people. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you want to add to the tape before we close the interview?
TT: Well, I don't know, that's the story of my life. That's about it, I guess. Some things I don't want to put on tape, you know, that I done. (laughter)
SA: I know what I want to ask you, because it affected California when Miramar Top Gun made the decision to move them up here to the Fallon base. Have there been changes in the base from your personal observation and knowledge?
TT: Well, you know, when the base first started it was during World War II, and all they had here was gas-motored planes--the little guys, you know. And we were livin' in Fallon at that time. And I've seen more crashes, you know, where they were trainin' the boys and everything. They would fly so low they'd even take the limbs off the trees sometimes.
SA: Oh my goodness!
TT: They've never bothered me. I've always liked airplanes, and as long as they're our airplanes and not Russians, I'm not going to complain about it. Then after the war, they shut the base down, you know, for a period of years there. And then they revitalized it, and the base, from what it was to what it is today--in fact, it's unbelievable to me, you know, that they, out here in this old desert, would want anything. They got Top Gun comin' in now. And right back here on our far east property line, I understand they're building two hundred and eight-three new houses right there. So the base is gonna continue. And then what I read in the newspaper the other day, they're closin' some more bases, but Fallon will not be closed. And the economy of Fallon, it's amazing how many civilians are workin' at this base. If the base was shut clown, Fallon would be somethin' else.
SA: Is that right?
TT: It would go back to what it used to be.
SA: Now, have the Miramar people moved here yet, do you know? The Top Gun from Miramar?
TT: No, they're not done with the barracks and that. They're workin' on the barracks.
SA: So they're preparing for that move?
TT: Yeah, they're preparing for it, they're workin' on it.
SA: When you say a lot of private people who aren't military, are those the contracts that handle. . .
TT: Well, there's a lot of 'em in civil service, you know, that do maintenance and a lot of that stuff, and mechanics and stuff like that. There's a lot of people workin' down there.
SA: I know that when I was here a year or two ago, I was privileged to be among a group from the museum that went into their computer-controlled battle training, where they do it all on computer. And they were all contract people, running that system. Do you know much about that?
TT: No, I'm not too familiar with that kind of stuff.
SA: Very sophisticated, where they train them for battle in Iraq, and through computer, and to the ones in the planes.
TT: I know what you mean.
SA: So Fallon is really moving forward economically and increased population?
TT: As far as the base is, but then we have this battle about the water--they don't want 'em to have the water, but that is another story.
SA: Did you get a lot of rain this winter? We did.
TT: We did. We got more rain in Fallon than I've seen in years and years.
SA: So did that fill the reservoirs and the lake?
TT: Well, the lake will fill. It is coming up fast right now, and it's going to fill. And I'm sure that the wildlife will get water and everything else, and then everybody will shut up until we have another drought.
SA: Will it fill the ditches, will they be able to irrigate?
TT: It would, the people will get 100 percent of their allocated water.
SA: That's the first time in over seven years, isn't it?
TT: Well, 1993, didn't they get it in 1993, a hundred percent? Yeah.
TT: But this is the eighth year--we had six years of drought. This would be your eighth one. You know, it's like Lake Tahoe hit the rim the other day--and that hasn't happened since 1993. They're gonna put the splash boards in there and raise it up.
SA: I know we've had flooding in California, and we had that drought, too, for over seven years.
TT: Well, they're gonna store the water in Lake Tahoe.
SA: Good. So that means things may be thriving for a little while.
TT: Yeah, well, you know, in the western states here, we're pretty arid. We don't have the water like they do up in British Columbia or someplace, but what are you gonna do?
SA: Sure, sure.
TT: And then Nevada's growing too fast anyway.
SA: Is the heavy growth here in Fallon, is that pretty obvious? Do you go into the town much?
TT: Oh yeah, it's unbelievable, your traffic and everything, and the people in the stores. Heck, when we first lived here, I knew everybody in the store--now I can go through a store and never see a person I know.
SA: And the traffic, because the trucks have to go through town, there's no bypass.
TT: Yeah, well, there's a Scheckler bypass, but then they come up the Lovelock Highway, going south, and off the freeway, the shortcut, and then they gotta go through town. It isn't as bad as Reno or California yet.
SA: Oh no. And also, you don't have to go there much. You're out in a nice, wonderful, peaceful area here. Close to town, but. . . .
TT: Yeah. We don't go to town unless we have to.
SA: What about the medical care? Does Fallon have pretty good medical care if you need it?
TT: Well, if there's something real serious, you know, or somethin', they'll fly a doctor in from Reno, you know, a specialist or somethin', I guess. And they've got that hospital there now, arid they're building a new one right at the present time. And now they're worried--the county dads and city dads--what they're gonna do with the old one. But all they'll do is put more government offices in there. We need more bureaucrats in here, is all we need. (Arden laughs) Let's not get into politics.
SA: No, we're not gonna do that. In fact. . . .
TT: Because you might be amazed at what you'll hear! (chuckles)
SA: So is there anything more on your life, or your observations, that you want to add before we close?
TT: No, I don't think so. I've lived a full life—if I die tomorrow, I'm dead, and what's the difference? I've done what I wanted to do in my life.
SA: I think it's wonderful. It's been a real delight. I'm glad we finally were able to get together to finish this interview, and on behalf of both the Lander County and Churchill County Oral History Projects--because we've shared history in both counties--I want to thank you so much for your contribution. And now I want to look at some of your poetry.
TT: Okay, we shall do.
SA: Thank you. This is the end of the interview.
Beulah and Tony Testolin sent the following information about their two daughters and grandchildren to add to their interviews.
Irene Doris Testolin (Merritt) was born July 3, 1944 in Fallon, Nevada. She went to an X-ray college in Las Vegas where she met David Merritt. They were married April 18, 1964 in Las Vegas. David was transferred to Lynnwood, California, then to Bakersfield where he works for the sheriff department of Kern County, California. Dianna Marie was born October 23, 1962. Eric Alan was born June 29, 1965. Irene works at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, California. After getting additional training, she went into nuclear medicine and is sent to different parts of the United States to check out new equipment.
Rachel Fae Testolin (Wright) was born January 28, 1947 in Fallon, Nevada. After graduating high school, Senator Alan Bible and Corgressman Walter Baring advised her how to get a job in the Pentagon where she and a friend spent the summer working. In the fall Rachel enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno. In her sophomore year she and a friend went to Europe for eight months. When she returned she went back to college, received her teaching degree and started teaching first grade in a rural school in Beowawe, Nevada. There she met Gary Wright and they were married in Fallon, Nevada August 3, 1974. Their daughter, Gina Marie Wright, was born January 25, 1978 and their son, Joseph Testolin Wright, was born March 3, 1980. After taking time out to raise her family in Carlin, Nevada, Rachel went back to teaching first grade there and is still teaching. Gary Wright works at Dee-Gold Mine.
It’s bright moonlight
There will be a skating party tonight
I met a gal from Fallon Town
Five foot seven and her hair was brown
This gal didn't like to skate
So I asked her fora date
If you will go with me I must know
With me will you go to the picture show
She said very happy she would be
To go to the picture show with me
That is how our romance started
The more we were together the less we wanted
to be parted
We went out together for a year or more One night sitting by the lake shore
I asked her to marry me
She said your wife I am happy to be
Before she could have a second thought I got a preacher to tie the knot
Now I have her tied up and she must stay
I know the knot is tied so she can't get away
More than fifty years have gone past But the knot is still holding fast
© 1995 by Tony Testolin
THE MILKER OF COWS
I grew up being a gardener and milker of cows
Many a day I drove horses pulling plows
As the years go by this load alone is too much to carry
I will have to find me a good woman, a wife to marry
To you my dreams may be very strange
I always wanted to run Hereford cattle out on a range
Then one day, may I say only by chance
I was given the opportunity to buy a ranch
There has been a great change in my life
two children I have and also a wife
These two children drink a lot of milk
Faster than a silkworm making silk
I have been racking my brain for sometime now
The only solution is to get us a milk cow
Milking a cow on one side, I would take my place
The calf on the other always thought he was in a race
The calf on the other side came around and looked in my eye
Looking at him all I could do was let out a big sigh
Right then and there, I made a vow
Never again would I take milk from a cow
Now, a milker of cows, even if it is a lady
Is just a thief stealing milk from a baby
© 1995 by Tony Testolin
THE GOLDEN YEARS
When we are senior citizens I've been told
That the years will turn to gold
I don't know why these are called the golden years
My aches and pains to my eyes bring tears
My eyes must not be as good as they used to be
For at close without glasses I can hardly see
My hair is short my ears it doesn't shade
But I can hardly hear without a hearing aid
Up those mountains fast I used to go
Now they are hard to climb even going slow
Up into the saddle I used to spring
Now I find it hard to climb up into the darn thing
The hay bales have doubled in weight
It's even hard for me to shut a gate
I used to walk not close but far
Now I won't go unless I go by car
My height has started to shrink
My brain now refuses to think
It's a good thing I get medicare
For my body is in constant need of repair
The little boy sat on the curb with tears in each eye
I asked the little boy for why he did cry
He said he could not do what the big boys do
So I sat down beside him and cried too
© 1995 by Tony Testolin