Tharon Turley Oral History

Dublin Core


Tharon Turley Oral History


Tharon Turley Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


December 20, 1991


Analog Cassette Tape, .Docx File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Eleanor Ahern


Tharon Turley


553 South Maine Street, Fallon, Nevada


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.

Content Warning: This oral history in particular describes in some detail animal death and what would be considered today to be abuse.


Tharon Turley has always had a love of the outdoors. While her other classmates thought of becoming homemakers or teachers, Tharon dreamed about the day when she did not have to be cooped up indoors. She thought about being on the open range riding her horse and helping her father tend the cattle.

This love for the outdoors has given Tharon a chance to live like her pioneer ancestors. She has lived in a beautiful valley miles from "civilization" with no electricity and lots of artesian wells bubbling up fresh, sweet tasting water. The air was free from pollution and filled with the cheery sounds of birds.

Tharon's life has been far from ordinary. She once drove the longest school bus route, raised numerous foster boys, and was a miner. Now in her 70's Tharon still keeps busy with her family and friends and her garden.

[Ed. Note: Although Mrs. Turley's birthdate does not appear in the text, she was born June 15, 1919]

Interview with Tharon Turley

AHERN: This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Tharon Turley. This interview is taking place in the Nevada room of the Churchill County Library, 553 South Maine Street, Fallon, Nevada. The date is Friday, December 20, 1991. This is tape 1 side 1. The time is 1:35 P.M. Hi, Tharon. How are you?

TURLEY:                I'm fine.

AHERN: Could you please give me your full name?

TURLEY:                It's Tharon Loraine Spencer Turley.

AHERN: Where were you born?

TURLEY:                In Stillwater, Nevada.

AHERN: Where would be Stillwater be today?

TURLEY:                It's where it always has been. (laughing) It's there and I'll explain then why I was born in Stillwater. My parents lived in Dixie Valley but I was my mother's first child and although my dad's mother had delivered babies she didn't like to do it for my mother for fear there'd be trouble and there was some trouble. So then when I was six weeks old they went back to Dixie Valley.

AHERN: When you speak of "some trouble", what do you mean?

TURLEY:                Hemorrhaging. My dad had to help deliver me. He said, "No more children after that!" That's why I'm the only one.

AHERN: You said your parents lived in Dixie Valley?

TURLEY:                Yes. My grandparents and my father went there in 1914 and they were the first permanent settlers there. That was the year there was a drastic earthquake and it did more damage toward Winnemucca. Then my mother and her sister came to the Valley in the latter part of 1917. They had relatives that had land there and their descendants now own the .         . well, there's an attorney here by the name of Michael Mackedon and then they have the cement products plant. Those were relatives of my mother's and that's how they came out. She was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and they came out to visit. Both of them met their husbands there in Dixie Valley and that was where they stayed.

AHERN: What were your parents' names?

TURLEY:                My dad's name was Rubert Ray Spencer and my mother's was Josephine Loraine Tavernier. Did you want my dad's real name added to that?

AHERN: Yes, please.

TURLEY:                His last name should have been Russell because he was never adopted by Willoughby Spencer, his stepfather. He was never adopted by him.

AHERN: What happened to your father's real father?

TURLEY:                We don't know for sure. He had a pack train from Placerville to Lake Tahoe and we heard that the man that worked for him killed him but we never did know for sure. I'm in the process now of trying to find out if he was buried in that county. I know that he isn't buried with the rest of the family in Porterville because my dad and I searched the cemetery there and the only ones we found were my dad's grandparents and his sister and brothers that were buried there.

AHERN: You mentioned your mother coming to Dixie Valley with her cousin?

TURLEY:                Yes. That was John Mackedon. My mother and her sister both came with John Mackedon. He was their cousin and they had property in the Valley and later on this property became known as the Ellis Place. Ellis took it over from them, I guess.

AHERN: What was your mother's sister's name?

TURLEY:                Julia and she was the first postmistress in Dixie Valley. Before they got a post office there they had to go clear to Wonder for their mail.

AHERN: She became postmistress after she became a…

TURLEY:                No, she was still a "Miss" when she was the postmistress. Then after she married they moved back up to Wonder where her husband worked. He was a miner. Then some people by the name of Terrel had the post office.

AHERN: Who did your mother's sister marry?

TURLEY:                James Reid.

AHERN: How did your parents meet?

TURLEY:                Well, just there in the Valley. There wasn't very many people there, so it was easy enough for them to meet and they did come to Fallon just to be married. They were married on February 22, 1918.

AHERN: So, after their marriage, they settled in Dixie Valley?

TURLEY:                Yes.

AHERN: Where in Dixie Valley?

TURLEY:                It was known for years as Spencer Lane. Later on some of the newcomers changed that name to Dempsey Lane, but it was Spencer Lane for years and years. My mother filed on a 160 acres there that was known as a school section. My dad had already filed an enlarged homestead across the road from that and he later deeded that to his stepfather.

AHERN: This deed was to Willoughby Spencer?

TURLEY:                Yes, it was 320 acres. That was what they called an enlarged homestead rather than a desert entry. Then he deeded forty acres from that to his half brother who was William Sorrells.

AHERN: When your parents resided in Dixie Valley, how many families lived there?

TURLEY:                Probably a half dozen, I would say, and there was a combination of two families that lived together. That was the Barkleys. At that time there was seventeen children in the school and they were mostly all Barkleys.

AHERN: Do you recall the names of all the families that lived there?

TURLEY:                Well, there was Poole and Terrel and the two Barkley families. Other than those that had children, there was Bill Johnson and the Starks.

AHERN: What was the Starks' first name?

TURLEY:                It was Clyde and his wife [Lily] who later became a school teacher. Bill Johnson was a bachelor. There was a lot of old bachelors in there. One by the name of Peterson and Trout, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan [Bill and Madge], and she was at one time a school teacher there, too. I'm trying to think of the old man that lived south of the settlement. He was later found dead in his cabin. Don’t remember his name right off…

AHERN: Would he have been one of the old bachelors?

TURLEY:                Yes, and he was a spiritualist. (laughing) When he first came to the Valley he camped in a tent in my grandparents' yard. They would hear him talking to the spirits at night (laughing) and his gas lantern lit.

AHERN: Did the people in the Valley call him a spiritualist?

TURLEY:                Well, that's what he was. I can't think what his name was, I haven’t thought about him for a long time, but I do know that Mr. Stark at that time was the mail carrier and he hadn't seen him for awhile so he went over to see and he was dead in his cabin. Then there was Jerry Van DerVetter and he later moved to Fallon and committed suicide. He didn't live out his life, naturally. I remember the old man now that was dead in his cabin. It was Swartz. Then there was another old fellow by the name of Givens. He had club feet. A lot of people like these bachelor-type people and the Barkleys came there because they had come to Fallon with the Socialist movement and when that faded away in Fallon then a lot of them moved out there because they could take up land by the Homestead Act at that time.

AHERN: Was there anything special about Dixie Valley that made these people go out there?

TURLEY:                I think probably the biggest part of it was that they could file on the land plus the fact that there was artesian water there and that meant a lot. That's the reason my grandparents went there. They lived in Stillwater in the beginning and my granddad was a freighter. He freighted supplies to both Fairview and Wonder.

AHERN: This was based in Fallon?

TURLEY:                In Stillwater, actually. When my dad was a youngster he used to go with him on freight teams. In fact, I have some pictures that were made in Wonder of my dad when he was about nineteen years old. That was how old he was when they went to Dixie Valley and they were still going up there for their mail at the time. He played the accordion and played for dances there and his half-brother tended bar there.

AHERN: How old was your father when he was introduced to his stepfather? When his mother remarried?

TURLEY:                She left his father when he was two and a half years old, so he was probably three or four at the time. My grandfather, Willoughby, he helped build the railroad through that part of Arizona. He was always a man that had horses.

AHERN: Which part of Arizona would this be?

TURLEY:                It was somewhere near Yuma. I don't know what railroad goes through there. Probably the Southern Pacific, I'm not sure, but they built the roadbeds with the teams. My grandmother had gone there. Where she landed was forty miles out of Wilcox, Arizona. Her father's sister lived there and had a cow ranch. My grandmother went there and they lived on one of her aunt's ranches for awhile until probably when she was married. He was what you'd call a wagon tramp, I guess, Willoughby was, but he always made a good living with his horses wherever he was. They roamed all over the west. They were in parts of California and parts of Nevada and Oregon, every place where he could find work with his horses.

AHERN: I understand that you have done some family research. Can you tell me briefly about your mother's family? Where they were traced back? I understand they were traced back to England?

TURLEY:                No, they were traced back to France. This is my father's family that came from England. My mother's family came from Canada. They were from France originally. My cousin and I traced them way back from both sides, both her grandmother and grandfather. They came to Canada in a real early date. I believe the first one that was recognized there was a woman by the name of Ann Tavernier. That was back in the 1600's. But we did trace them back farther than that to France. The male members of the family were stonemasons and that seemed to carry on down through the family. My mother's father was a stonemason and a brick layer. They moved for some reason from Canada to upper New York and there was twelve children in the family, all healthy and all handsome people.

AHERN: Then it was on your father's side that the ancestry traces back to . . .

TURLEY:                England. And from there back to Normandy. The first one that we had any trace of, his last name was DeRussele and that went on down to become Russell, I guess. It's supposed to mean red and his name was Hugh. His sister was lady-in-waiting to William the Conqueror's wife. Then they were in England for centuries and finally my dad's grandparents came to the United States and they lived for awhile in Freemont, Ohio. Then they moved to California and my dad's grandfather had a stage line that went south from Porterville. I believe, the little town that he stopped in was called either Springville or Springvale, Springfield. They're mentioned in a history book in Porterville that I found and they mentioned what an honest man he was.

AHERN: This would have been the name of the grandfather Russell?

TURLEY:                Yes, this was Phillip James Russell and then his son, John, was my dad's father and John, when they first came to the west coast, was a whaler and they spoke about him when his ships came into Sausalito. I have a silver spoon that's the only thing I have of his. At one time I had a tintype of him and when our house burned we lost that. But this spoon shows the Golden Gate without the bridge. (laughing)

AHERN: How near were your nearest neighbors?

TURLEY:                When I was a little child our nearest ones were across the road, who were my grandparents, and the schoolhouse. My dad had deeded a piece of land from the property that he later gave to my granddad for a school and he moved a building from the old town of what was known as Marvel then but it had been known as Dixie and I can't remember the other names that that place was given. But it was a gold mine and it was north of the settlement. But at the time my granddad and my dad came there it was abandoned and there was some old buildings there so Dad moved one down for a schoolhouse. Then later after my dad and my mother were married she helped him build an anteroom on and then he got the bell that was on the cook house at Fairview and that was the schoolhouse bell. Then when that old school was finally abandoned my dad petitioned the district in Fallon to see if I could have the bell and they said I could. So it's still in the family. My son has it now.

AHERN: Were there a lot of kids for you to play with?

TURLEY:                No. When I started school there was the three Stark boys and myself. Those were the only kids in school and Mrs. Stark was the teacher and I have to say she was wonderful. The best teacher in the country. I did the first and second grade in the first year. I didn't start school until I was seven and those were the only children. Then later on there was a family by the name of Zumwalt moved there and they had quite a few children. Then Mrs. Stark and her family moved to Fallon and Mrs. Morgan became the teacher. But, I didn't go a full year to school after that until I got to the seventh grade. I just hit and missed where ever we happened to be. If we were in the Fallon area, if it was in the Beach District or Harmon District or where ever, I went to school for a little while. And then when my father and my mother went back to the Valley, then in the meantime we had moved to Horse Creek, then I went with them.

AHERN: Where is Horse Creek?

TURLEY:                It's on the east side of Dixie Valley. We used to go there and make a garden and so on. My dad was always intrigued with the place because of the stream, and we'd make a garden and raise some hay. Then we finally went there permanently when I was eleven years old. Then when I was twelve,for some reason they decided I'd better go to school for the whole year (laughing), I guess, so we stayed in Fallon for the school term, both for the seventh and eighth grade. Then when I went to high school I stayed with my mother's mother who in the meantime had come from Milwaukee and she lived on Schurz Highway.

AHERN: What was her name?

TURLEY:                Her name was Barbara Helen Tavernier. Barbara was a German name but I can't pronounce it. I just know that it was translated to Barbara in English and then Helena was her middle name and her maiden name was Reismeier. Her parents were from Bavaria. They were pure German people.

AHERN: What was the reason for you missing the school year?

TURLEY:                We had sheep and we had cattle and they went where ever there was feed. I went, too, and I loved it. When I was a little kid I had the best life that any little kid probably ever had because I was wild about horses and my granddad was a mustanger. They would bring horses in almost everyday and I would always be over there and I'd run out to help my grandmother turn them in to where the corral was. Grandmother had an old Shepherd dog and we would run over--they had a round corral, that's what they called a stockade corral--and we had a trail beat around there where we'd run around and peek in to see what they'd brought. (laughing)

AHERN: You said that your family had livestock there, so as they found grazing areas did they pitch a tent?

TURLEY:                Yes, we certainly did when they had sheep. I can remember being colder than I ever was in my life because we had been on the east side of the Silver Range and then we moved across to Horse Creek and the sheep had been shorn when they were over on the Silver Range. So when we got to Horse Creek we moved them up to about the six thousand foot elevation and we had a nice cozy tent pitched and in the morning when we woke up there was a foot of snow and those sheep were freshly shorn so we had to come back down immediately down to where there was no snow and I was so cold! My dad put me on the horse and sent me ahead of the sheep and my feet were so cold I thought I wasn't going to be able to make the whole trip.

AHERN: Where is the Silver Range?

TURLEY:                That's what a lot of people call the Stillwaters now, but we always called it the Silver Range because Churchill County's county seat was at La Plata which means silver and then north of that almost across from the Dixie Valley settlement there was Silver Hill, there was Alameda, and those were all rich silver strikes. Across the Valley on the Clan Alpine side, Warren Williams had a mine there which was rich in silver.

AHERN: In the time your family was grazing the stock, did they ever have a permanent home?

TURLEY:                We had one in Dixie Valley until I was about seven years old, that's where I started school. Then they started moving back and forth between Fallon and Horse Creek. But in the winter time we'd take the stock to Fallon so I could go to school.

AHERN: Where did they reside in Fallon?

TURLEY:                We lived in the Beach District for awhile and then we lived with my grandmother for awhile. I went to the West End School at that time and I did go to the Stillwater School for a little bit. We lived down there. And the same at the Beach District, part of the year there and that's how it was. Then when they finally decided to put me in school for the full year we lived part of the time with my aunt and her husband and part of the time we'd rent a house.

AHERN: What was your aunt and her husband's name and where were they residing?

TURLEY:                When we lived close to them they were residing on the Stillwater Road and her name was Lillian Baumann. She had married a man by the name of Baumann and there are still Baumanns in the area. When I went to the Harmon School they were living in the Harmon District at that time. My dad went back to the ranch and my mother and I stayed with him until I graduated from the eighth grade except during the summer then we went back out to Horse Creek,

AHERN: Did you eventually finish out the rest of your school year in Fallon?

TURLEY:                The rest of the eighth grade. Yes, I graduated from the Harmon School in the eighth grade. Then I finished all of high school in Fallon.

AHERN: So, after graduating from high school then you resided permanently in Dixie Valley?

TURLEY:                Yeah, at Horse Creek. I lived there until I was married.

AHERN: After graduating from high school, did you have any plans for your future or did you just think that Horse Creek was . . . ?

TURLEY:                That Horse Creek was it. I could barely wait to get out of school every spring to go back. I loved it because I could ride where ever I wanted. I loved to ride and I always did a lot of the riding after the cattle. My uncle offered to pay my way to the university, but I didn't want to go. I don't think I ever missed a lot by not going.

AHERN: Basically you're more of an outdoor person.

TURLEY:                Yeah, I would have made a good veterinarian, I guess, if I'd made up my mind to go to school and be one.

AHERN: Why do you say that?

TURLEY:                I like working with animals and hurt animals and sick ones. I can't stand being around a sick person but I can (laughing) a sick animal.

AHERN: Have you ever had the opportunity of nursing sick animals?

TURLEY:                Oh, yes, lots of it. I raised probably over three hundred head of calves, I would say, on a nurse cow. Injured animals and all kinds of things.

AHERN: So your being a home veterinary on the ranch, what was the most serious that you can recall?

TURLEY:                One thing that happened was terrible and we weren't able to save it. The neighbors were riding horseback past our place. Chet Knittle was one of them and he was riding this little mustang mare. She was scarcely broken and they had left her colt home so Mrs. Knittle and the schoolteacher's son ran past him on his horse. It scared her and she ran slantways into our fence on an angle and it just cut his Levis clear through but it didn't hurt his leg very much but it cut her throat. They came running in to our place and I just thought it was not a bad cut so we grabbed whatever we could find, flour sacks and old sheets and anything to stop the blood. Well, when we went out there the blood was just gushing from this, it was completely cut. You speak about things breaking out in a cold sweat and she did. She had big blobs of sweat here and there on her body. So my husband tied a rope as tight as he could around next to her body and he said, "You'd better take her back home," because there wasn't anything we could do. It was just too much of a slash, so they started home with her and she made it about a half mile and then she was dead. That was the most serious thing we ever had and something that we just couldn't deal with which makes you feel bad.

AHERN: You mentioned your grandfather rounding up mustangs. He was quite successful I gather?

TURLEY:                Yes.

AHERN: What did he do with them?

TURLEY:                He imported what they called Mammoth Jacks which were actually burros and they were larger than what you think about as being what the prospectors used and he raised mules from those jacks and the mustang mares. When he caught them he'd put a horseshoe around their ankle. Not tight, but just so that they couldn't run because when they ran it would bounce up and down and hurt them so they could control them that way. He sold mules to the Army. World War II, was getting in the midst of that and they shipped mules by the carload to Uncle Sam. That was what they always did was raise mules and break the mustangs to ride. They had some cattle too, but that was his first love was horses.

AHERN: Did he have to range far and wide to capture the mustangs?

TURLEY:                No, there was hundreds of them in the area at that time and I've often wondered why cattlemen can't live with them now like they did then because there was hundreds of them at that time, too, and nobody worried about it much. The cattle seemed to do all right, too.

AHERN: What was his method for catching mustangs?

TURLEY:                They just chased them into a corral. That was exciting. Very.

AHERN: Have you ever gone with them?

TURLEY:                When I got older, yeah. They used to put me at the corral to pull the gate. They would string a canvas on a wire and push it back out of sight and I would hide in a tree there and when they got in the corral I jerked the canvas across and that was the gate. That was exciting. But I have always loved mustangs and it hurts me a lot to think of them being mistreated even today.

AHERN: The horses you rode, they were all mustangs?

TURLEY:                Yes, up until we started living permanently at Horse Creek. My dad was never a mustang man. He was a large man and he always felt guilty about riding a smaller horse, so he got larger horses then.

AHERN: When you say the mustangs were smaller . . . they measure horses with hands. How tall would you say an average mustang? [end of tape 1 side A]

TURLEY:                A large one would probably be fifteen hands tall. They made wonderful children's horses. People talk about them being vicious but we never had a vicious one. In fact, the meanest horses we ever had on the ranch when we started dealing in other types of horses were two Appaloosas. They were vicious! The mustang when he was once gentle, he was gentle. From then on kids would be safe on him. I always had one, even up until I got pretty good-sized. I think the first thoroughbred horse I had, I was about fifteen years old then.

AHERN: Who gentled the mustangs?

TURLEY:                My grandfather was a magician with horses. He was not a bronc rider but he made them gentle, like he said, from the ground up. He taught them to let him handle their feet, he could crawl under them. He did one thing that my father didn’t agree on, and that was he whip broke them. In other words, if he brought one in that was a likely looking prospect, in no time at all and probably in a half to one hour, he would have that mustang so he could bring it over to the house to show it to my grandmother with nothing but the whip over his shoulder and it would be completely free, no rope or anything on it. But Dad didn’t agree with that method because he always felt that when they realized they were free of you then you couldn’t catch them anywhere because they knew you couldn’t whip them (laughing)

AHERN: This whip method entailed physically whipping them?

TURLEY:                Uh huh, yeah. He had what they called a black snake. He didn’t cut pieces of flesh out of them or anything like that, but he’d just sting them and make them keep their head toward him. The horse, it seems to be their…. Oh, I don’t know what it is. They tend to put their head up in a corner and then you can’t do anything with them. So he would sting their heels and make them face him and then he’d tell them to come here and they would. After awhile, rather than get stung, they would do it. He was an expert with that black snake because he had the jerkline teams and that’s how they controlled them. They had a tongue in the wagon and then from there where the tongue ended they had a big chain that went clear out to the leaders and he was a small man but very athletic and he would run out that tongue and out that chain and if the leaders weren’t doing what he wanted them to he’d snip them with that whip. He could kill a horsefly on them without hurting the horse. He was really… or a lot of times he’d snap a lizard along the road, just something for amusement. He was a very athletic man. He liked to do things to strive against other people, the broad jump and running and all those things.

AHERN: After you became an adult, was your grandfather still active in all these activities, mustanging?

TURLEY:                Yes, he was. My grandmother died in 1938 and sometime after that, maybe a year or so, he sold the place in Dixie Valley. Then my granddad and two other old men – My granddad and the one man were sixty five and the other fellow was sixty – and they all went trapping wild horses. They didn’t chase them anymore, but they made water traps and caught them that way.

AHERN: What are water traps?

TURLEY: If there was only one spring in the area, they would build a corral there and then that's the way they would catch them. They did that for quite a long while. I was always sort of proud of him for that. He was not a good stepfather. He was quite fierce with my dad, but he was a very good grandfather. I didn't know my mother's father all that well, but my mother's father was not as interested in children as my dad's stepfather was. He was a great step-[grand]father.

AHERN: Could it be the fact that you were the only grandchild?

TURLEY:                It might have been. He went away and left a wife and three daughters when he was a young man. Nobody ever knew for sure why. I think maybe he might have missed his daughters growing up. I don't know what it was but he was kind to me and I don't remember him ever speaking a harsh word to me and any achievements I made at school he was always proud of those. Sometimes if my mother was over at their house when I was a baby he'd come riding up and he always said, "Whoa back" to me. When I was about six months old that was the first thing I ever said to anybody was, "Whoa back." (laughing)

AHERN: Do you recall why he said that to you?

TURLEY:                I don't know. He used to call my grandmother Boss and if he had a particular horse that he wanted her to admire, he'd say, "Hey, Boss, come out here," and she would come out and they would discuss the horse. "Whoa back" was something they always said to the teams that they drove. So, I don't know, maybe that's why he did it to me.

AHERN: What did it mean when they said it to the teams?

TURLEY:                Whoa back? I don't know what the "back" part meant there. "Whoa" meant stop, you know, "back" maybe back up, I really don't know about that. I didn't know much about the teams. They didn't do much with them then when I was a kid. I do remember making one trip in particular to Fallon with teams because they bought about six months supply of foodstuffs. They had what they called a storeroom and they had a cellar where they kept these things. Other than going to town twice a year for food, the only other access we had to groceries was a place they called Black's Package Company in Sacramento and that was a catalog store where you could order food rather than clothing.

AHERN: You stated that you just went to town twice a year, so did that mean like living in Horse Creek you were basically self sufficient?

TURLEY:                Just about. My mother raised chickens. I can remember one year in particular she raised one hundred frying chickens and, oh, they were . . . I can hardly eat fried chicken from the store now because those were so much better, so good. Of course, we had milk cows and we had butter and she had a beautiful garden and fruit and berries and we had trout in the stream. Just marvelous. I never missed town one bit. The minute springtime came and they mentioned taking the cattle back to the ranch I begged to let me get out of school and go with them. My dad would say, "Yes, you can, but you have to go back in the fall." And I thought, "Well, then, (laughing) none of that." I didn't want to go back so I had to stay until I finished.

AHERN: After you graduated from high school, did they still keep this procedure of going to town twice a year?

TURLEY:                No, we went more often then. By that time we had automobiles and we'd go probably once a month then.

AHERN: Prior to the automobiles, how did you get to town? How long did it take to get to town?

TURLEY:                It took about two and a half days then.

AHERN: This was a round trip?

TURLEY:                No, one way. We had to plan about a week because there was shopping to do and then, of course, it took a little longer to get home with the load.

AHERN: Did you take a wagon?

TURLEY:                We had a wagon and we always took a tent because there was usually two nights that we had to sleep out and we'd have a tent and were comfortable enough.

AHERN: I would assume that you always made your trip to town in good weather.

TURLEY:                Mmm-hmm, yeah. We didn't go when it was stormy. We would usually go the early part of fall and then again whenever we needed to. Maybe six months later we'd go again.

AHERN: What kind of supplies did you get?

TURLEY:                Flour, macaroni, dried fruit, coffee, just things, sugar, stuff that you wouldn't raise at home. My mother canned meats and vegetables and fruits and everything. We always had a good table She always set a good table and we didn’t have much use for a lot of clothing. (laughing)

AHERN: Did your father build a house in Horse Creek?

TURLEY: No, there was a two-room cabin there and a rock house. We never did live in the rock house, but for a little while we lived in that two-room cabin. Then he moved a house from one of the mining camps over near Wonder and it was a two-bedroom house. It was a five-room house altogether. It was a nice house. Comfortable, anyway.

 AHERN: When he brought that house up to Horse Creek, did he tear down the old cabin?

TURLEY: One part of it. There was a kind of lean-to which had been the kitchen and then they kept the other part because for twenty one years a little Mexican fellow lived with our family. He lived for fourteen years with my grandparents and then after my grandmother died he came to live with us. He lived for seven years with us and that was his place to sleep.

AHERN: He served as a family member?

TURLEY: Definitely. If it was deer season, he brought deer in. He loved to hunt and he’d help with the cattle. Almost anything you asked him to do, he could do it.

AHERN: What did you use the rock house for?

TURLEY:                My mother used to wash her clothing in there. She set up her washtubs and things in the rock house, but we never did stay in it because it was not put together with mortar. It was just laid up. There was a Mexican family there years before we ever went there and they probably built that. It had a pole and willow roof with dirt over the top of it. It was a pretty good-sized building and they evidently used that for something. I don’t know why or what because I wasn’t aquainted with them.

AHERN: How many rooms did it have?

TURLEY: It was just one large room. Later on, my dad tore it down and he made a bridge to cross the canyon with it and we had a cloudburst (laughing) it took it all out.

AHERN: Where did your mother store all your canned items?

TURLEY:                We had a cellar. It was built into the hill. It was a lovely cellar. Nothing ever froze in that. She had shelves in there. That's where she kept her canned things. Once we got a rattlesnake in it and then we were afraid to go in (laughing) until about a week later he came out. He was after mice, I guess. There was a lot of rattlesnakes there. One summer we killed thirty of them there around the ranch. They used to come in where the alfalfa was. My dad raised alfalfa and we were always afraid to have him go to change the water for fear there'd be one in the hay and it would strike him, but never had that problem.

AHERN: Besides the deer and the mustangs, what other kinds of wildlife were there in the valley?

TURLEY:                Down in the valley itself there was a lot of coyotes and bobcats. In fact, my grandmother and her niece, which she had raised, trapped. They both liked to paint and that was how they made their money for painting supplies was trapping bobcats and coyotes. They did their own trapping, their own skinning. That was something I could never do is skin one of those things. Ooh. My cousin lived with them until she was about twenty-six years old. Then she married one of the cowboys that used to come in. The big ranches from other parts of the state, like, for instance, in the other valleys would come there twice a year to have a roundup and they usually stayed at my grandparents' place because they had stables and corrals to put their horses in.

AHERN: When you talked roundup, is it cattle or horses?

TURLEY:                Cattle.

AHERN: Living up in the mountains in Horse Creek Canyon, have you ever come across a mountain lion?

TURLEY:                Yes, the first one we saw, my mother and Dad and my little girl and I had been . . . we had gone up the canyon with the wagon to get a load of wood. My husband at that time was in the Army, World War II, and when we were coming back down about a half a mile from the house there was a big field of alfalfa there and this big lion came out just ahead of us. My daughter had little fox terrier dog and he chased him. We thought sure that lion would turn around and smash him, but he didn't. He turned around sideways to us so we could get a good view of him. Later on, probably a week or so later, he was in that same alfalfa field and he had a rabbit at that time. My dad was up there horseback to change the water and he chased him again and the little dog ran him up a juniper tree. My dad went back--it was about a half mile down to the house-and by the time he got back--he came back down and got his rifle--he [the mountain lion] had jumped from the tree. But that was the only time that we saw any there. He was probably an old one, for hanging around catching rabbits and such things.

AHERN: What other wildlife were there in the area?

TURLEY:                The deer and the chukars, they got to be a real nuisance, too. We'd had a drought, oh, I guess, not too long after we moved there permanently, you didn't see a deer, period. They were very scarce and this one day I rode out by myself and I came face to face with a big buck deer. That's the first one I had seen there. Then, from then on we had some more wet years and they really multiplied 'til they ran us crazy. You couldn't keep them out of the alfalfa and my mother in the meantime grew a lot of rose bushes and she had a beautiful climbing rose right by her bedroom window. One morning she woke up--this was inside the yard fence--there was a doe eating off that tame rose. The creek was full of wild roses, but she thought the tame one tasted better, I guess. That was about all. The chukars were terrible, too, because there was hundreds of them in those days and the old hens would bring their flocks down to the alfalfa and they stripped the leaves from the hay just like that.

AHERN: How were your days spent after you graduated from high school and you lived permanently in Dixie Valley. How were your days spent?

TURLEY:                I rode after the cattle almost every day and I read a lot. I've always been a big reader and that was about it. We had, of course, no television in those days, but we did have a radio and we listened to that. My mother crocheted by lamp light. I still have two beautiful afghans that she made, made out of wool, that she crocheted by a kerosene lamp. I never cared anything about that kind of work, (laughing) so I just read and, of course, we had a piano and my dad played the guitar and accordion and we had music quite a lot.

AHERN: Who played the piano?

TURLEY:                Mom. She'd been a piano teacher before she came to Nevada.

AHERN: What did you do for entertainment?

TURLEY:                Nothing (laughing) other than just those things. We sang. I was thinking the other day about us singing carols at Christmas time and when my daughter got big enough to sing, she loved to sing, too, so she, my mother and I would sing Christmas carols and other things, harmonize. Mom was a good alto singer.

AHERN: Did you ever get together with the neighbors for a gathering?

TURLEY:                Not until my husband and I moved back to Dixie Valley. Our closest neighbors were six miles away just by horseback trail and they would come to visit but we never did party together. They were not partying people either. I guess, raised around those boys-there was only one daughter and she was a lot older than I was--so I was friends with the boys and once in awhile we'd visit back and forth, horseback.

AHERN: How did you meet your husband?

TURLEY:                At my aunt's house. He was from West Virginia and he got acquainted with them and that was where I met him in the spring of the year. I was still seventeen and he was just eighteen when we first met. Then we didn't start to go together until I was eighteen and he was nineteen. Times were hard and jobs were scarce so we weren't married until I was twenty and he was twenty one.

AHERN: You said you met at your aunt's house. Which one?

TURLEY:                That was the Mrs. Baumann that I mentioned.

AHERN: How did he happen to be at your aunt's house?

TURLEY:                They used to invite him out for dinner and he happened to be there when I was there.

AHERN: Did they know him prior to this?

TURLEY:                They had known him. They didn't know his family, but they had known him for quite a little while before I ever met him. He had planned to go back to his home but he decided to stay then after we started to go together.

AHERN: Where was his home?

TURLEY:                In West Virginia.

AHERN: How did he come out west?

TURLEY:                He came out with the three C's [Civilian Conservation Corps]. There was a number of boys from that area that came out and he was one of them and that's how he got out here. I don't know how he happened to meet them but that's how I met him.

AHERN: What was he doing in the three C's?

TURLEY:                Oh, they did a lot of things around Fallon. They built cement structures and irrigation ditches and so on. They did a lot of work around the area and then they had another camp. He didn't belong to that one, but they had one out at West Gate and they built a lot of roads.

AHERN: What was the pay from the three C's?

TURLEY:                They got thirty dollars a month and twenty five of that had to go to their families, so what he had to spend was five dollars a month while he was in there. But then as soon as he got out then he got a job.

AHERN: How long was the term for the three C's?

TURLEY:                I don't really know. I think about a year, probably. I didn't meet him when he first came, but I think it was about a year.

AHERN: During that time did they have to provided their own lodging?

TURLEY:                No, they had camps. They had barracks just like army did and they were treated the same way. They had to have their beds made and everything shipshape just like as if they were in the army.

AHERN: So what was your husband's name?

TURLEY:                It was Howard Turley.

AHERN: What did Howard do after the three C's?

TURLEY:                He went to work first at Virginia City in the mines there. Then he came back to Fallon and he went to work at Fairview. Later on he went over to Walker Mine and that was when we were married and we lived over there for awhile. Then after we were married, we were there from spring to fall. He'd been there before that and then I was up there for that long. Then he quit and he went to work at Wonder. There was some leasers there and he worked there with them for quite awhile.

AHERN: Where was Walker Mine?

TURLEY:                It was in California not far from Portola. It was a fantastic . . . it was a copper mine and it was a huge affair.

AHERN: So, basically, Howard was a miner?

TURLEY:                He pursued that almost entirely. He liked it a lot. Then later on when we moved to Dixie Valley again-Howard and I moved down there then--my parents stayed at Horse Creek--we had cattle and he liked to chase horses, too. We never did make the business out of it like my granddad did.

AHERN: This property in Dixie Valley, did you homestead it?

TURLEY:                No, it was what they called an assignment. It was a desert land entry and the people who had it had not made final proof on it, so they assigned it to us and we did the proving up on it. That's how we got title to it.

AHERN: What's considered "proving"?

TURLEY:                You have to do a certain amount of labor on the place, plant crops and irrigate them and so on and they hadn't done that, so we did.

AHERN: Did you have to take a picture of it or have someone from the government come to see you and what you had done?

TURLEY:                They came out to see it and, I think, if I'm not mistaken, Harry Truman signed the deed to it. (laughing) I don't know. I don't even know whatever became of it. I suppose it burned when our house burned, but I know he did sign it. It took quite a long while to get the title to that thing and I don't know what the delay was but it just typical bureaucratic red tape, I guess. Finally Pat McCarren was [United States] Senator at that time and he was the one that proceeded to get it for us. We wrote to him and he speeded it up then.

AHERN: Was Howard ever in the military?

TURLEY:                Oh, yes. Our daughter was born the first of August and he left Christmas Day. He volunteered to go because he had an uncle and three brothers in the service at that time so he volunteered to go and he was in there exactly three years.

AHERN: What year was it?

TURLEY:                This was from 1942 to 1945. He was on the island of Guam and the war ended in August and he didn't get to start home until December. In fact, he got home just about Christmas time three years later. But he had built a chapel on Guam and they furnished him with Japanese prisoners for help. He was fascinated because they were so small. Such good workers. He enjoyed working with them.

AHERN: How did you feel when you heard the news of Pearl Harbor being bombed?

TURLEY:                It was really a shock and a surprise. We weren't that much conscious of outside things going on and I can't even remember where I was when we heard it, but we were quite surprised. When I went to school I been around one of the boys that went down on the Arizona. He was from Fallon. When you're young you don't pay too much attention to things like that, I guess, but then it heated up and my husband's family went and so he joined in and then we were pretty anxious about the whole thing. But out of all of them that went, his uncle was the only one killed. He was killed in Normandy beachhead.

AHERN: You lived in Dixie Valley when an earthquake happened there.

TURLEY:                Yes, indeed. Terrible. That was in 1954. It was exactly forty years after the one that they'd had when my grandparents and my dad were there and, I think, if I remember right, they said it was 7.9 on the Richter scale. It was a terrific quake and it left a lot of damage along the foothills, crevices, and places that just literally sank right down into the earth and it did a lot of damage around to the house and everything there. People have different theories about how Sand Mountain came into being and I think there was probably a terrible earthquake that brought it there because the next morning when we were able to get out and around and see things there was little maybe two feet high sand domes. Same kind of sand, that fine white sand had pushed up through the earth.

AHERN: Do you recall what you were doing when the earthquake hit?

TURLEY:                Sleeping. It was at three o'clock in the morning. It was on December 16, and it was cold. We were asleep, but I heard it. I woke up just before it hit us. It was just like a big train, lots of noise, and then the house just literally leaped up and down in the air. It felt like it was going probably three feet high. The dust was just blowing around everywhere and then after a little bit it subsided. My husband got up and my daughter did and I hollered to her to sit down because we'd had some prior to that. The one that hit Fallon and then there was one on top of the Silver Range and they had come in two's, so I yelled for her to sit down and she did and the second one hit just seconds after the first one and it was, I think, even harder than the first shake. My husband managed to get back into bed, but she sat down in a chair there. We had a big upright piano that moved right out into the center of the room. That was some terrific earthquake. It knocked the chimney off the house but it didn't fall into the house. It fell out onto a little patio we have there and if it had fallen in it would have hit her because she was sitting in the chair right there beside the fireplace. We lost a lot of antiques and dishes and lamps and so on.

AHERN: The chimney falling off that was just about all the damage to the house?

TURLEY:                Yeah. The floors got some damage, too, because they were cement floors but that chimney was the worst damage to the house itself. We always felt pretty pleased that our house stood up that well because that was some earthquake. The neighbors had a lot of experiences with it, too, but that was the worst. All the lamps had broken and wherever the kerosene went we did lose the floor covering, but that was a minor thing. We had a wood stove in the kitchen and it kind of skewed that around. One leg bent and it left the stove sort of slanting and a lot of soot came down. I had some eggs sitting in a pan on top of the warmer and I had some soup sitting on the stove that we'd had for dinner the night before and all of this was mixed up on the floor. The school teacher came over to our place and she brought my sister-in-law and her three little children and I said, "Well, I'll go out now and make us some coffee and some breakfast." It took me three hours to get things straightened up (laughing) where I could cook some breakfast.

AHERN: How many children did you have?

TURLEY:                Two. My daughter is almost nine years older than my son.

AHERN: What are their names?

TURLEY:                My daughter's is Lynn Herman and my son is Logan Russell Turley. [End of tape 1]

AHERN: This is tape two, side 1. Tharon, where did Lynn and Russell go to school?

TURLEY:                Lynn went to school in the old schoolhouse that my dad had put on a piece of property there that he had owned. When he first moved the school building there, my mother helped him build and anteroom on it. Lynn finished the eighth grade there and my son started off in the school that was a trailer house at that time because they had abandoned the old school. They had a trailer house and that was where he started school. Then they moved one from Fallon that had been the band room over at Oats Park, I think. They moved it out to Dixie Valley and then he went to school there and finished the eighth grade there.

AHERN: So after Lynn completed the eighth grade in school in Dixie Valley, then she transferred on to Fallon?


AHERN: How did she get to Fallon?

TURLEY:                She lived with my parents. They had sold the ranch at Horse Creek at that time and lived in Fallon. They'd bought some property there and she lived with them and started high school there.

AHERN: Did your son do the same thing?

TURLEY:                He stayed with her the first year. She had been married in the meantime, because she's nearly nine years older than he is. She and her husband had a trailer house parked back of where my parents lived and Russ stayed with her then until we managed to get a bus for Dixie Valley. Then he rode back and forth every day.

AHERN: Who drove the school bus at that time?

TURLEY:                At that time it was Chet Knittle. Let's see, I guess he drove then until, I think, then Mrs. Casey took it over for awhile and she didn't want it any longer and then so I drove it for ten years.

AHERN: Which Mrs. Casey?

TURLEY:                That's Mike Casey's wife. They're divorced now.

AHERN: Did you realize you were running the school bus route that was considered the longest in the U.S?

TURLEY:                Um-hum, I did. In more recent years then, toward the end of when I stopped driving, there was a man who was the principal of the high school in Pioche. There was a new town started up over in the eastern part of the state called Rachel. There was some children rode from an old mining camp there called Tempiute and he thought then that that was the longest route so I never did find out for sure from Tempiute to Rachel and I don't know if that was true or not, but I do know that that was the longest route in the United States and they came out one time and did a . . . couple of different times. I think they did the first article on that when Chet Knittle was driving in the summertime. Then they came out once and we had ten inches of snow on the ground and this reporter came up, I think from L.A. (Los Angeles, California) and stopped us out in the middle of nowhere and took pictures and interviewed us then.

AHERN: How many children rode the school bus when you were driving?

TURLEY:                Anywhere from six to ten usually. There was at least six on there. There was six on it when one of the pilots from the base buzzed the bus. They didn't want to believe that he did that but he did it. (laughing)

AHERN: When the pilot buzzed the bus, did he just fly straight overhead?

TURLEY: No, he came from the southeast corner of Fairview Peak down rather low. When I saw him come around he headed straight for the highway and I told the kids, "Look at this!" and then he went right over the bar pit. We were heading east and he was going west and his right wing was right over that bar pit. Everybody thought I was lying when I said I could look out the bus windows and look straight into his cockpit. But I could. There was no reason for me to lie and he did that. I was furious with him and then I got over my mad spell and thought, "Well, I won't say anything. It won't do any good anyway." But my boss insisted that I call the base commander and I did.

AHERN: When the pilot buzzed the bus, did it really startle you to the point of swerving the bus?

TURLEY: No, I didn’t swerve the bus, but I guess I was so furious (laughing) that I didn’t swerve the bus. I couldn’t in fact. There was a big semi coming toward me from the east and then a van behind him and I glanced over – it was a white van – I glanced over at him and that man had both hands off the steering wheel and over his ears, but nothing happened. We (laughing) got along fine without any problem.

AHERN: When you spoke of the bar pit, what is it?

TURLEY: I guess they call it the barrow pit or whatever now. It’s the drainage ditch alongside the pavement. We hadn’t gotten to the Dixie Valley turn yet. We were still heading east on Highway 50. That was the only incident.

AHERN: With the Pilot?

TURLEY: Um-hum.

AHERN: Were there other incidents in driving the school bus like, say, especially in the winter trying to avoid the cattle on the road?

TURLEY: Definitely. That was the dangerous part of it because the pavement was warm and those cattle would lie down on it and a lot of them would come there to drink. They didn’t get sufficient water hauled to them and they would come and lap the water off the pavement. Oh, I had a couple of pretty near misses with them. One morning – of course, in the wintertime it was still dark when we were going out – and one morning I saw the herd of cattle on the left had side, but I didn’t see the two little calves on the right side and they ran across the front of that bus but there was no way you could put a brake on – Would have turned over probably. But it was rather a miserable situation in the wintertime. The one morning we went out, I had a smaller bus at that time and I was really pushing snow all the way up to the highway where it was cleared, but I knew better than to try to turn around because then I would have been stuck so I just kept going. Made it alright.

AHERN: How early in the morning did you have to leave Dixie Valley to get the kids in school on time?

TURLEY: Ten minutes after six. That’s when I left my house and in order to drive a safe speed – Well, I used to tell the kids, If it's storming, I'll be a little bit early." So they knew then to be ready for me. A few times I was late because I found out that you can't go over twenty miles an hour and not slide around. So I'd rather be late than have them hurt.

AHERN: What time did you bring the kids back into Dixie Valley?

TURLEY:                I don't remember when we got there. I know it was usually dark. It was probably around five o'clock, I would say. The first year I drove we had an old bus. It was "Old Forty". When wintertime came we broke down five times with that bus. The next to the last time we broke down just as we turned off Highway 50 and it was snowing. I told the kids, "Well, I guess we'll have to walk back to the highway and thumb a ride to Frenchman's Station." I was leery of doing that but knew we'd have to do it because when the bus quit there was no heat or anything, no lights. About the time we got ready to get out and walk we saw a dim light coming from the north on the Dixie Valley road and it was the Navy man. He took all of us over to their installation north of Frenchman's Station and they were so good to us. They furnished us with cokes and hot chocolate. We used their phone and so they came out and brought us a station wagon. I drove that home. They said well, they'll have it fixed this time for sure. The next night coming out it gave up at Frenchman's Station and I was mad again. Oh, I was furious over that! So, then, they got me another bus. (laughing) It was really provoking because there's not much you can do with a bus full of kids, especially if it's storming.

AHERN: In your ten years of driving have you ever been in an accident with the school bus?

TURLEY:                No, I never have so much as one dent on that bus. In fact, my boss said that he would put me up against anybody for driving in mud and snow. Bill Oar from the bus sheds drove my bus in Fallon one day and he parked over by the sheriff's building. I guess, he thought he put it in park, but it wasn't in park and it ran back into the sheriff's building and put a big dent in my bus. So then, one time later, I had a new bus and I went to my cousin's funeral over in Austin and the lady that substituted for me slid into a truck that was parked in the road. I don't really know why she did that, but she did. So I had a big ding in the front then. But we managed to go. We never did get stalled for the reason of storm and lots of times we would meet big trucks that were stalled.

AHERN: Were you ever not able to make the school bus run during the years you were driving?

TURLEY:                No, the only time I didn't make a run was once when we had so much snow and they called me and told me the schools were closed that day and just to stay home. I remember hauling your son and he was great. I never had any trouble with him. He was a cute boy.

AHERN: Were there any washouts that would wash the roads out where you had to go around or take a different route?

TURLEY:                Not when I drove the bus to Fallon, but when I drove the bus out in the Valley we had many of those experiences and until they built a new bridge over this one big wash we had lots of washouts there. I remember driving across planks to get across it (laughing). Once I made the people from the road department mad because it went on forever that they hadn't fixed the washouts and they had a sign up that said, "Dangerous, but passable." Well, I took some paint from home and I put "barely" in front (laughing) of passable. I didn't think they'd be angry about it, but they were and they went to the school teacher and wanted to know if she did it and she said, no, she didn't and they said they didn't think anybody else would know how to spell "barely". (laughing)

AHERN: When you lived in Dixie Valley you began to take in foster children. When was this?

TURLEY:                Oh, let's see . . . my son was five . . . 1956, and I kept them almost continuously for twenty-six years.

AHERN: What prompted you and your husband to take in foster children?

TURLEY:                Well, it was mostly my idea, I guess. He always kind of left the thing up to me, but we'd been gone from the valley for awhile and my son had gotten so he was used to playing with other kids in the meantime and his sister was gone to high school at the time, so he was lonesome for somebody to play with. I'd been working at Kent's office for a little while while we were gone and a lady there said, "Why don't you go down and get a foster child?" So I started off with one and then it was then like it is now, they were always short of foster homes, so they added another one or two or three and it went on like that. I think by the end of the twenty-six years--I stopped once--and then one of the boys that had lived with me ran away from the home he was in and came back to our home, so I started up again. I think that they told me once – I don’t know, I didn’t keep track – Over sixty boys had been through our home in the twenty-six years that we were into it

AHERN: Now I understood you only took male foster children.

TURLEY: Only boys because I think they are much easier to deal with than girls, especially teenage girls. I had some experience with my own daughter on that. All in all, we had some good luck with them and even though we kept some that were from the Nevada Youth Training Center. Some of them were pretty rough kids, but we got along with them good.

AHERN: At what age did they leave your home?

TURLEY: It depended on how well they got along. If they could go back to their own home or some of them came out of Elko with what they call “R and R.” That was to see for three weeks how they would do in a home away from Elko. Some of those and I think the one I had kept the longest was the first one I had and I had him for sixteen years. Then I had several of them for five years.

AHERN: The first boy that you had for sixteen years, how old was he when he first came to you?

TURLEY: Eight years old and he didn’t leave until he was old enough to be married (laughs)

AHERN: He stayed there by choice?

TURLEY: Yeah. In fact, I told him, I guess I’ll have to push you out of the nest. He’s still very close to us. Just like another child we had. In fact, my little granddaughter calls him uncle Alvry. He’s a Shoshone Indian boy and he’s been a wonderful person.

AHERN: I understand that another neighbor had taken in foster children and they took in the girls. Did your foster boys ever socialize with them?

TURLEY: Oh, yes, we did. We socialized all the time. In fact, we would take them, as two families together, and go on rick hunting expeditions, bottle hunting, and we’d have a big cook-out when we got where we were going and they got along very well. Then every other Saturday night everybody would gather at the schoolhouse for a square dance and the kids enjoyed that a lot. They were good friends all the way through. In fact, one of her foster daughters married my Indian foster son. It was a pretty enjoyable thing. I didn't think I would like it much because I was the only child and wasn't used to a lot of children, but I did enjoy it after I got into it.

AHERN: When you had the foster boys with you, did they have separate sleeping quarters or did everybody sleep in one house?

TURLEY:                We had one house, bunkhouse, just like they had in old ranch days and they had their bunks in there and it was a pretty safe situation because I had the first foster child that I got--he was very dependable--and he was sorta like the captain. They minded him very well. I never had any sickness among those kids. Never had anything of that nature, no measles, no nothing, and I did feed them very well. They always had enough to eat, clean clothing. The only accident we ever had was one of my neighbor's foster daughters shot one little boy through the arm and this was (laughing) an odd thing to happen. One of the boys' fathers had sent him a .22 rifle and all the kids were going to the swimming hole, but I told him, I said, "Don't go near there with that gun." "Okay, I won't." Well, he did it, and they set up a target and they were shooting at it and this girl got to giggling and pulled the trigger as she turned away from the target. My little boy was putting his arm through his shirt sleeve and the bullet went through his arm. Oh! My husband brought him home and he said, "Ma, we got a wounded soldier." (laughing) I had a fit! But it was clean. It really was no big thing. He wasn't the only gunshot wound in that valley. We had some neighbors that had two sons that are about my daughter's age. They were twelve and they had this old truck and they went up to the mountains with their parents hunting. The parents went off up the canyon and left the two boys down at the mouth of the canyon but they had this .22 rifle. Well, we don't know yet what happened just exactly. They said the gun was a hair trigger. My husband and I were hauling hay from the field and my daughter was at the house and my son was just a little baby--he was on my lap at the time--and she came running out. We saw the old truck come driving in the place and she came running out. She said, "Mom, Mike has been shot." Well, we left everything and ran to the house and he'd been shot. He was evidently above his brother climbing in these rocks when the brother set the gun down or dropped it or something and it shot him through the leg and the bullet lodged in his arm above the elbow. Well, his parents, we didn't know how to get them, so my husband took him to town to the doctor and they kept him overnight. He had long underwear on and a denim shirt and the bullet was a hollow point and it took a lot of that material into his arm. They had to get that all out and then he brought him home the next day. And then once when I was a little girl, there was a quarrel of some sort between two men and this one man shot the other one in the throat. It went between his windpipe and his spine and didn't kill him.

AHERN: What happened to the man who shot him?

TURLEY:                We never knew. We don't know. The old man that got shot--he was an elderly man--walked down to our place. It was two miles down to where my grandparents lived and I remember seeing him yet. He had a flour sack up against his throat and it was bloody. Scared the dickens out of me and there was nobody at the ranch so my cousin ran across through the field over to--it was over a mile where that man lived--and he had a Ford car and he took the old man into town and they couldn't remove the bullet because it lodged against his spine in the back of his neck. He had a son who raised silver foxes in Alaska and he went up there to live with him. We never did know exactly what the quarrel was about or anything.

AHERN: And I assume no charges were pressed?

TURLEY:                Evidently not because we never heard of anything happening to (laughing) him. They didn't do much of anything like that in those days, I guess.

AHERN: There were quite a few artesians in Dixie Valley and also some hot springs. Did anybody ever develop the hot springs?

TURLEY:                No, only to the extent that my dad fixed up one for his mother to bathe in. They were perfectly round just like a bowl and he built stair steps down into one of them and a railing on the steps. They had lived in Oregon and she had arthritis in her knees very bad. Had to walk with a cane. So they would take her down there and after a time she was cured. Whether it was the dry climate or the bathing, a combination of two, I guess, and she even got so she could ride horseback then for long years until she died. But that was all. The Indians used to come out from Fallon and bathe there but they never did any developing either. Then my husband and I always went down in the winter time in particular and bathed. It was marvelous. It could be snowing and you stayed in that water for as long as you were able to stay. Then you could get out and dress and you didn't feel the cold. It was just wonderful. The water was very soft, kinda of sulphury. Certainly was good for bones that ached.

AHERN: Wasn't the water a bit too hot to even stick your finger in it?

TURLEY:                Some of them. Just was one here and there. In fact, probably within ten feet of the one we bathed in there was one that was boiling and that was amazing to think that they came from under the ground probably. I don't know if they were together under the ground or what but the one you could bathe in and the other one was so hot that there was duck bones in the bottom of it where the ducks had come in and when they landed that was it. They were done for. Those weren't the only ones. They were about six miles, probably, straight north of us and then on the north end of the valley was what they called the Seven Devils. Actually there was eleven springs in there and that was the same case. Some of them were boiling and some of them were quite cool. Down in the ones that were near our place there was some of them cool enough to drink and all in the same area.

AHERN: Your husband was a miner and that was more or less his profession throughout his life and I understood that he did have a mine in Dixie Valley.

TURLEY:                Yes, we still have it. My son and I have it now. We have it leased to some people from Salt Lake but we've had it always in the family since 1960. We shipped a lot of ore from there, my husband did, but my son and I never have since my husband passed away. We haven't shipped any, but these people have had it nearly four years now.

AHERN: It was an antimony mine?


AHERN: Could you tell me exactly what antimony was used for?

TURLEY:                I don't know what they use it for now, but when we shipped a lot of it it was used for hardening the nose cones on the rockets. When they came back through the atmosphere it was so hot that they used antimony for that and they used it for fireproofing clothing and they used to use it in batteries. When they made good batteries they used antimony in them. The very first use for it, I guess, was in Cleopatra's day they used it for eye makeup. It was like coal. They use it in paints, just a lot of things that they use it for.

AHERN: When your husband was mining, was he the only one doing the work or did he have any helpers?

TURLEY:                His brothers helped him at different times and his son and grandson, even. He didn't hire anybody. A lot of them came there as leasers, because when you hired people you ran into all kinds of difficulties with insurance and all these things, so they worked as leasers usually.

AHERN: Besides finding the antimony in the mines, did your husband ever find any interesting items, say, for example, like a fossil bone or something?

TURLEY:                Yes. There's lots of fossils in that area in fact. We owned some silver property in the canyon north of where he mined the antimony which we sold later to a man from Fallon, but in that canyon there's fossils, worlds of them, lots of them. In the Bernice Canyon where the antimony mine is there was lots of arrowheads up on the ridges away from the bottom of the canyon and also even a big fire circle that the Indians had made up at the head of the canyon. Very interesting. We thought they were Indian writings on some rocks in Bernice Canyon but one of the mine inspectors that had come from New Mexico said, "No, they were made by the Spaniards with a metal punch." A whole bluff of rock was covered with these pictures and after you knew about the punch you could see them. They were like little pock marks where they'd made the drawing and there was pictures of pine trees and turtles and all these things on those rocks. We never actually found out what they were there for. They were in rather an unusual place. This mine inspector told us that usually the Spaniards left those there for the peons who couldn't read and they left the pictures for them when they followed. He said almost always a picture of a turtle or some of those things meant that there was something buried there. He had investigated one in New Mexico and he said he found several clay pots full of black beans when he dug in there (laughing). But we never did dig and so I don't really know what's there or why they were in that particular location. It was a little bit off the beaten path.

AHERN: Would these pictures still be there today?

TURLEY:                Yes. In fact, I have some pictures of them at home where my son-in-law outlined them with chalk and then photographed them. I had a number of people there from the University and they don't seem to know what they would mean either. The closest we came to discovering anything about them was what this mine inspector said and then we had a friend that brought a book up from the library in L.A. and it said about the same thing what the symbols meant. But why they were there we never did know.

AHERN: There used to be a rumor about hidden treasure in one of the canyons. It was supposedly from a robbery. Could you tell me about that?

TURLEY:                Yes. That was supposed to be hidden in the canyon that has the fossils. The story was that the robbery took place down in Goldfield, I think it was, and they were catching up with them when they got over in that area and supposedly they dropped the stuff or ran it in. I guess they were in a wagon or something. They were supposed to have driven it into a shaft and then, it's like all these stories, nobody ever found it. That was the story. The only shaft that we ever knew about was way up on top of a ridge where it would be impossible to get a buggy or any kind of a vehicle up there.

AHERN: Did anyone ever try to follow through with that story?

TURLEY:                No. Not that I know of anyway. I think some of those old bachelors around there might have investigated a little bit because I know that where this one shaft was two of them had filed a claim on it. So I think they might have thought that there was something there. There's all these stories about gold. Now we have a little gold on our property which is why these leasers are interested in it. There used to be a stage line that ran between Lovelock and Austin and supposedly the old fellow that ran the stage said this old Indian man met him with some gold nuggets and asked him if he would buy him some food in Austin. So everybody was wondering where he got his nuggets. I think that was another fable probably. [End of tape 2 side A]

AHERN: This is tape 2, side 2. When you got your foster children, how did you manage their time for them?

TURLEY:                They just followed me around the ranch just like they were my kids and we'd go out to milk the cows or whatever and they went along. Then, especially in the summer time, I never had a kid there that didn't like to make a fire. All kids seem to be fascinated by fire. So I would let them go out and there was a lot of bushes and things on our property and they could go almost anywhere they wanted to go except to other people's property. We told them never to go there. So they would go out and burn bushes and we never had any accidents whatever. I don't know how that happened now but, in those days we didn't have any trouble. They burned bushes until they were tired of it. In the winter time if the ice got thick enough they would go and play on the ice. They'd take an old tin can and some sticks and they'd play hockey with that. Then in the summer time we had a place for them to swim and we had horses for any of them that liked to ride horses and we also had some young cattle like a year old and two years old and if they wanted to be rodeo people they could ride those. We had some hilarious times over that.

AHERN: Did you assign any specific chores to them?

TURLEY:                Yeah. The one boy didn't like to go out around the milking or anything like that so he washed the dishes and the rest of them helped. They would feed the calves or the cows or whatever and no problem there. Some of them were quite particular about their clothing. This one little Indian boy in particular-they got, like kids are nowadays, they wanted to change their clothes every single day. So I said, "All right, but you're going to have to iron." So he did, this one in particular. I bought him a big can of spray starch and he starched his shirts and ironed them and did a good job. He was a marvelous little boy. He was a half-brother to the one that I got first. He'd never been around livestock but he could ride and just was a natural for it. He was a very slender little boy. We had this big stallion that bucked and he was determined he was going to ride him and he managed to do it. He would start to get on. The horse'd start to buck and he'd get off and he kept doing that until he could get on and rode him. I always thought he was wonderful. He was a nice little boy. I guess he was about eleven the first time we got him. Then he went back to his mother in Reno. Then he got back in Elko again, so we got him again, (laughing) back and forth, but we were always very fond of him.

AHERN: Did you have any discipline problems with these boys?

TURLEY:                No, I was so mean, I guess (laughing). No, I never did. I just told them what was what and made them understand that that was it.

AHERN: What were your house rules?

TURLEY:                No rough housing. That was the main thing. My husband didn't go for that because he said it usually winds up in quarrels. Which it does. Somebody gets hurt and then the trouble is on. The only time he ever did any disciplining, he spanked my son and his cousin and the first foster kid we had, the three of them. We had some old vehicles out in back and they threw clods and broke the windows. Well, he gave them a spanking for that. That's the only time he ever touched any of them that I know. But I would sometimes. I would take a stick to them. I had a rather unusual way of doing that, I guess. Whatever they did that they knew they weren't supposed to do, I'd ask them how many hits they thought they had coming. Usually they said one and I would argue with them about that so we'd settle on a number. Then I'd tell them to bend over and "Hold your hands in front of you. I don't want to hit your hands." So I'd give them whatever licks we'd settled on. (laughing) That worked pretty well because they had the anticipation and they had to help settle the amount of punishment they got. But I never did do anything like sending them to bed without their food or anything like that. They were always well fed and that was three good meals a day. I'd like to have a dollar for every hotcake I made.

AHERN: Did their natural parents come out to Dixie Valley to visit them or did you have to take them to town for visitation?

TURLEY:                No, I didn't have to take them in. That was an arrangement. Most of them had parents who could not have cared less. I did finally keep some girls, three girls, and their brother. I rued that the minute I did it. They came from Washington state and the father had had custody of them. He didn't have legal custody of them but the mother didn't want to be bothered with them because the little girl was a year old when the father took them. They were like nine, ten, twelve, and thirteen when I got them. There was three girls and a boy. They ran away from Washington and came to Fallon because the mother was going to get them back. They were big enough to help her then, so she wanted them back. The father didn't want her to have them, so he ran away and brought them to Fallon. He had relatives here and the welfare department took them away from him and they sent them out to us so that he wouldn't know where they were. I don't know how that came about but pretty quick he found out where they were so he came out and wanted to take them on a picnic, so we let them go. It was resolved peaceably I guess. But I was sorry I got those three girls. Oh! They were kind of nice kids, though. They'd make me mad and I'd scold them so then they would realize they'd done what I didn't like them to do so they'd go gather some flowers and bring them in and tell me they were sorry. (laughing)

AHERN: The horses that you had on your ranches, were they all wild mustangs or were they purchased?

TURLEY:                No, they were some that we raised, actually, and we had enough of them. I remember one night and my husband was gone. It was a moonlight night. It was in summer time and the neighbors invited all of us down for a wiener roast. I had my youngest grandson at the time. He was about three. I had two of my grandsons and then we had enough horses for three boys besides that. We had three boys that stayed with us and then my two grandsons. So we went horseback down to the wiener roast which was great and it was so pretty. The moon was big and full and we stayed down there for quite awhile and I thought, "Well, my little grandson would go to sleep on the way back." I had him sitting on a pillow behind me. Well, he had no idea of sleeping. He asked me more questions about the moon and things (laughing) that went on and he'd slide over to one side so I'd get him by the leg and pull him back on and he had a marvelous time. I had a lot of the boys, well, several of them, anyway, learn to ride bucking animals like cows at our place. Now, they did all of this themselves. They came over to our place and there was a lot of old scrap lumber around and they made a chute and we would get the cattle in and they would ride them. That's how two or three of them got to be pretty good rodeo hands from that. But I always enjoyed that because I was raised around animals all my life. I went out to supervise it to be sure that there wasn't any broken bones (laughing) or anything.

AHERN: The Navy eventually took over most of Dixie Valley. Have you had any other adverse incidents concerning the Navy other than the pilot buzzing the school bus?

TURLEY:                Oh, yes. I don't know what to say about that. I always felt that maybe it was an arrogance from those young pilots. Someone said to me one time, "Well, putting one of those boys in a high speed aircraft would be just like giving the keys to a high powered car to your child at age sixteen. They're going to see what that machinery can do." I always felt that that was kind of the case because they're still doing it over around East Gate and in that area. Fred was talking about it this morning.

AHERN: Did you ever have the planes come over the house?

TURLEY:                Oh, yes, and low. That was our big complaint is that they flew so low and then, of course, when they started flying the F-18's they were making sonic booms all the time which was very nerve wracking for me. They had some controversy about what those booms would do to the animals, but my animals never seemed to pay much attention to it. The dogs would bark and my horse would whirl around, but what actually drove him through the barbed wire fence was a helicopter. They flew real low on one of the big helicopters and he tore the fence down. But I dreaded having them make those sonic booms. About the time you thought they'd be coming out in the morning you'd start tensing up waiting for the boom. It was real nerve wracking for me. Some of the people over around East Gate, now they have some real complaints. They're on the telephone all the time. Especially when they fly low and give sonic booms because they are devastating then. The man that lives at Middle Gate has a little ranch there, he called them the other morning and said, "Do your pilots have to fly low enough to see the directions on the highway?" (laughing)

AHERN: When the pilots had flown close to the house, was any damage done to the windows or anything?

TURLEY:                No, not to our place, but they did knock some things down at the neighbors' places and break them. They were gone and they found them on the floor when they got back and they were broken, like some little antique bottles and things that she had in the window. No, I never had any damage except my nerves. (laughing) And then the one did crash over there. I don't know if you were still there? You were still there, yeah. Another thing--well, I didn't witness that but my neighbor did. He saw one fly under that high tension wire on the south end of the valley. I couldn't believe that.

AHERN: The bookmobile from Fallon used to come out and used your place as a stopping point.

TURLEY:                Yes, we had shade there and a lot of place for them to park. I think they were supposed to park over at the schoolhouse but there was no shade over there so we didn't mind if they stopped there. It didn't matter to us and so that's where they stopped and we borrowed a lot of books. I thought it was a marvelous thing. That bookmobile was wonderful. I was really sorry when they didn't have it anymore because some of those kids that didn't go to school that was a big advantage for them. There was two different families that didn't send their kids to school. Outside of the bookmobile I don't know what they did for reading material.

AHERN: If these children didn't go to school, were they home schoolers?

TURLEY:                Yes, supposedly, and they were supposed to come to Fallon and take, I think it was, monthly exams. But I don't know how that went. I know the one family that lived north of us didn't do that because the superintendent of the schools in Fallon asked me about that, if they were still out there and I said, "Yes," and he said, "Well, they're supposed to be in to take their exams, but they didn't do it." I don’t know I- People are prone to criticize, but some of the people that lived next to the one family said that the kids in town go to school for six hours and those kids didn't go to school for any six hours. They were out in the field playing or changing the water or whatever. I don't how much they learned.

AHERN: As the years went by more people started settling into Dixie Valley. How did you feel about that?

TURLEY:                Well, we were pretty pleased about it. Always enjoyed having people come in and I used to go and welcome them when they came. I finally got so I didn't do that because there was people that didn't seem to welcome you coming to their house so I finally stopped doing that.

AHERN: Did you more or less feel that the valley was becoming a bit crowded?

TURLEY:                No, that never did bother me because over the years that we had lived there people came and then they left and I often thought that not very many women like to stay out like that. So I always figured well, it isn't going to get overcrowded because (laughing) they'll be gone pretty quick. I never did mind it. I made some good friends among them. I never was one who missed company but I always enjoyed it when I did have it. My children and I both were I guess what you'd call loners. We got along with what we had for company. Are still that way pretty much.

AHERN: Years ago the government had evacuated the valley for military purposes.

TURLEY:                For the Navy, again.

AHERN: Do you recall that incident?

TURLEY:                Very much so, yes. My husband was gone. He joined the Air Force and was gone. He was gone for three years in that and we stayed with my parents up at the ranch in the mountains where I was raised and we were the only ones that were not moved. The rest of the people were moved out of the valley and they were compensated for that and they didn't come back. Most of them were older people and after they once left they stayed gone because in the meantime the trees and everything on their property had died pretty much. So we stayed up at the ranch in the mountains and we had the same problems almost as we did in this last incident. They, in those days, had the prop planes, of course, and they had one who trailed this big piece of nylon like a big screen. Trailed that and the other planes dove down and shot holes in it. Seemed like they had different tracers that left a color in that screen. Some of them were pink and I guess by that they could tell who was hitting it. They took our winter range away from us-for the cattle, and they said, "We won't fly over your ranch." Well, that was just like it was this last go-round. They flew over the ranch. In fact, they didn't fly anywhere else. They came right over that and they would be shooting! Some of the officers would come up there to fish. We had fish in the stream, and we told them that they were shooting over us. Well, this one evening it was dusk and they were getting ready to go home--the fisherman were--and they were standing in the yard when they flew over and you could see the tracers, the flash, so that sort of fixed that pretty well.

AHERN: So they evacuated the Valley, basically, for training purposes?

TURLEY:                Uh huh.

AHERN: And they left your family alone because you were up in the mountains"

TURLEY:                Yes, we were just on the foothill. We were in the foothill there and they said, "Well, we don't need to fly over that. We won't come within three miles of your home." A lot of times, in fact, you could still find them out in the Valley where the empties had ejected. We'd find the little clips and the empty shells and even some live ones sometimes and we have found those between the house and the chicken house.

AHERN: How did you feel about the Navy evacuating the Valley this time?

TURLEY:                Well, it wasn't a happy idea, I know that. I think if we'd been compensated a little more for it we wouldn't have minded quite so much but actually none of us felt that we got what we should have gotten for having to move out. It was a place that I'd lived for seventy years and it was hard. It was a wrench to leave it because I had a pretty yard and my animals. But it worked out probably for the best because my husband died and I couldn't stay there forever by myself anyway. But it was a bad thing to move away. It was hard to do.

AHERN: Do you think if the Navy had not stepped in that you would still be out there today?

TURLEY:                No, I don't think so because it was too much trouble for my kids. They were all working in this area, and Reno. It was too much trouble for them to keep checking on me and coming out and helping me and so on. If I had been younger I would have been still there. But you get seventy years old you don't (laughing) do as many things as you did when you were forty.

AHERN: Looking back in your life, is there anything you would have liked to do that hadn't done?

TURLEY:                No, I would just wish that what I had been doing I could have kept doing. (laughing) No, we both, my husband and I, were well satisfied there. He wasn't so much when he was younger. He always yearned to see other parts of the world like Alaska, Brazil, and so on, but then after he got involved in the mining he forgot about traveling. He was really keen on that mining and I never did have any desire to go anywhere else other than for a short trip maybe. We were well satisfied. In fact, some of the times when we had the square dances and so on were some of the best times in our whole lives. Even today I can't of anything that I really want to do other than maybe seeing a little more of the country. But that gets pretty hazardous too.

AHERN: Is there anything else you can think of that I may have missed?

TURLEY:                No, I think I mentioned the fact that when they first came to the Valley they had to go to Wonder to get their mail, I think I told that. The post office was in the Valley in different places for a long time and we had some very good mail carriers. Mr. Lehman from Fallon carried the mail and he was so accommodating. He would even buy lipsticks for the ladies out there and shop for food for them and Mr. Stark was very good, too. He was so punctual you could almost set your clock by him. We had some good mail carriers but then that got like a lot of things that go on nowadays. The last mail carrier we had was anything but reliable. (laughing) No, I guess that's about all that I can think of that I might have told you.

AHERN: On behalf of the oral history project of the Churchill Museum I'd like to thank you for having this interview with us.

TURLEY:                Thank you, too, Eleanor, and I hope someone gets some pleasure out of reading about it and I'll bring the pictures in then give you some copies.

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Tharon Spencer Turley Oral History Transcript.docx
Turley, Tharon recording 1 of 2.mp3
Turley, Tharon recording 2 of 2.mp3


Churchill County Museum Association, “Tharon Turley Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed July 1, 2022,