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Loafing Along Death Valley Trails

Chapter XIII

Sex in Death Valley Country

Sex, of course, went with the white man to the desert, but because there were no Freuds, no Kinseys stirring the social sewage, it was considered merely as a biologic urge and thus its impact on the lives of the early settlers was a realistic one. It was not good for man to live alone. The husky young adventurer found a water hole and a cottonwood tree and built a cabin. But he found it wasn’t a home. The lonely immensity of space he knew, was no place for a white woman and none were there. He faced the fundamental problem squarely and looked about for a squaw.

He paid Hungry Bill or some other Indian head man $10 for the mate of his choice and that sanctified the relation. She brought a certain degree of orderliness to the cabin, washed his clothes, cooked his meals. A child was born and the cabin became a home. The squaw could sharpen a stick, walk out into the brush and return with herbs and roots and serve a palatable dinner. She worked his fields, groomed his horses and relieved him of responsibility for the children. The progeny followed the rules of breeding. Some good. Some bad.

Said old Jim Baker, who married a Shoshone, pleading for a “squar” deal for his son: “There’s only one creature worse than a genuine Indian and that’s a half breed. He has got two devils in him and is meaner than the meanest Indian I ever saw. That boy of mine is a half-breed and he ain’t accountable.”

Almost all of the first settlers were squaw men and the matings were tolerated because they were understood. It was often a long journey to obtain the sanction of a Chief and the squaw was taken without formality. Many of these matings lasted and the offspring were absorbed without social embarrassment in the life of the community. Dr. Kinsey would have had little joy in his search for perversion or infidelities, 88though there is the instance of a drunken squaw who aroused the owner of a saloon at midnight on the Ash Meadows desert and shouted: “I want a man....”

Once Shoshone faced the desperate need of a school. There were only three children of school age in the little settlement and the nearest school was 28 miles away. Parents complained, but authorities at the county seat nearly 200 miles away, pointed out that the law required 13 children or an average attendance of five and a half to form a school district.

Like other community problems it was taken to Charlie, though none believed that even Charlie could solve it.

The time for the opening of schools was but a few weeks away when one day Brown headed his car out into the desert. “Hunting trip,” he explained.

In a hovel he found Rosie, a Piute squaw with a brood of children. “How old?” Charlie asked.

“Him five ... him six now,” she said. “Him seven. Him eight.”

“How’d you like to live at Shoshone? Plenty work. Good house.”

“Okay. Me come,” Rosie said.

With the half breeds, the school was able to open.

Rosie was a challenging problem. She would have taken no beauty prize among the Piutes, but when along her desert trails she acquired these children of assorted parentage, Fate dealt her an ace.

With the few dollars Rosie wangled from the several fathers for the support of their children, she lived unworried. She liked to get drunk and the only nettling problem in her life was the federal law against selling liquor to Indians. So she established her own medium of exchange—a bottle of liquor. Unfortunately she spread a social disease and that was something to worry about.

“Rosie has Shoshone over a barrel,” Joe Ryan said. “If we run her out, we won’t have enough children for school.”

Then there was the economic angle—the loss of wages by afflicted miners and mines crippled by the absence of the unafflicted who would take time off to go to Las Vegas for the commodity supplied by Rosie.

Charlie arranged for Ann Cowboy to look after Rosie’s children and called up W. H. Brown, deputy sheriff at Death Valley Junction and told him to come for Rosie. Brownie, as he is known all over the desert, came and took Rosie into custody. “What’ll I charge her with?”

“She has a venereal disease,” Charlie said.

“There’s no law I know of against that....”

“All right. Charge her with pollution. She got drunk and fell into 89the spring.” Then Charlie called up the Judge and suggested Rosie have a year’s vacation in the county jail.

The paths that radiated from Rosie’s shack in the brush like spokes from the hub of a wheel, were soon overgrown with salt grass. She served her sentence and returned to Shoshone and the paths were soon beaten smooth again.

Eventually Brown declared Shoshone out of bounds for Rosie and she moved over into Nevada. There she found a lover of her tribe and one night when both were drunk, Rosie decided she’d had enough of him and with a big, sharp knife she calmly disemboweled him—for which unladylike incident she was removed to a Nevada prison where the state cured her syphilis and turned her loose—if not morally reformed, at least physically fit.

One of Rosie’s patrons was a man thought to be in his middle fifties. Always carefully groomed, his white shirts, spotless ties, and tailored suits were conspicuous in a place where levis were the rule. He was also a total abstainer. When he died suddenly and it was learned he was 82 years old, Shoshone gasped. An item in his will read: “To Rosie, $50 to buy whiskey.”

Living in a wickiup in the mesquite was the Indian, Tom Weed, who shared with his squaw a passion for liquor. Sober, Tom was industrious in the Indian way. He knew the country, when and where the mountain sheep were fattest; the herbs that cured and the best grasses for the beautiful baskets woven by his wife. Tom filed on a deposit of non-metallic ore near Shoshone and forgot it. A subsequent locater found a buyer. Considerable capital was to be invested and the purchaser decided that Tom, if so disposed, could at least challenge the title. In order to dispose of Tom he sent the document to Dad Fairbanks together with a check payable to Tom for $1000 and asked Dad to get a quit claim deed from Tom.

Since $1000 was more than Tom ever expected to see in his life he was eager to sign. “You cash check?” he asked Dad.

“Sure,” Dad told him.

As Dad was getting the money he said, “Tom, long winter ahead. Hard to get work. Don’t you think you’d better leave money with me? Might come in handy.” Dad saw that Tom was impressed and added: “You told me yesterday you were going over to Las Vegas. That’s another good reason. Think it over.”

“Okay. Me think.” Tom stood for a long moment staring at the floor, studying every angle of the problem. Finally he thrust his palm at Dad and said gravely: “Might die....”

Dad gave him the money and Tom went to Las Vegas. In an hour he was drunk. In three he was broke and in jail.

One night he and his squaw got blissfully drunk. They were sleeping in a shed full of combustible junk when it caught fire. Other Indians attracted by their screams rushed to the scene but both were dead. From Tom’s wickiup, a few feet from the shed, they took Tom’s guns and saddles, his squaw’s priceless baskets—all the belongings of both—and tossed them into the flames. Thus the evil spirits were kept away and the souls of Tom and his squaw passed happily to the Piute heaven which is a place where there is a big lake and forests filled with game and the squaws are strong and plentiful.

The Johnnie Mine, an important gold producer, east of Shoshone, was located by John Tecopa, son of Cap Tecopa, Pahrump Chief.

Tecopa found the float; gave Ed Metcalf an interest to help him locate the ledge. Bob and Monte Montgomery bought the claim. They interested Jerry Langford, who induced the Mormon Church to get behind the project.

The Potosi was an early discovery on Timber Mountain between the Johnnie Mine and Good Springs. (It was here that Carole Lombard, wife of Clark Gable, was killed in an airplane accident in 1941.) From this mine came the lead which made the bullets used in the Mountain Meadows massacre. Jeff Grundy, a prospector of early days, said his father molded the bullets and delivered them to John D. Lee, who after 20 years was executed for the murder of the 123 victims of the massacre.

Lee was the owner of Lee’s Ferry, which was the only place where the Colorado River could be crossed in the Grand Canyon area until the present suspension bridge 500 feet high was built.

Near Johnnie are Ash Meadows and the beautiful Pahrump Valley, overlooked by the Charleston Mountains—the summer sleeping porch of Las Vegas, 35 miles south.

At Ash Meadows lived Jack Longstreet, who wore his hair long enough to cover his ears. He claimed kinship with the distinguished South Carolina family of that name. Easier to prove is that Mr. Longstreet came from Texas and as a 14 year old youngster was caught with a band of horse thieves in Colorado. The older ones were hanged but because of his youth Longstreet was released after his ears were cropped to brand him for identification by others. He lived and drank lustily for 96 years and died with a competency.

Near Johnnie also lived Mary Scott, who discovered the Confidence Mine, a landmark in Death Valley. Mary was a squaw who, after consorting with several white men, chose for her mate a half-breed 91named Bob Scott. On a hunting and trapping trip Mary picked up some ore which Scott decided was silver. Since silver could not be profitably handled because of transportation costs, Scott filed no notice.

Years after Scott’s death, Mary showed samples of the ore to her cousin, an Indian named Bob Black and Bob showed it to Frank Cole, a millwright at the Johnnie Mine. Cole and Jimmy Ashdown grubstaked Mary and Bob, who returned to Death Valley and located the property. Samples showed rich gold.

For a wagon with a canopy and a spavined horse Cole and Ashdown secured the interest of Mary and Bob. Cole and Ashdown then sold to the Montgomery brothers, who through Bishop Cannon secured backing for the venture from the Mormon Church.

Dan Driscoll built the road to the mine. Shorty Harris, Bob Warnack, and Rube Graham dug the well and mine shaft. It produced rich ore to a depth of 65 feet, where the vein was broken up.

A Personal Narrative of People and Places
Published by Death Valley Publishing Co.
Ontario, California

A Foretaste of Things to Come
What Caused Death Valley?
Aaron and Rosie Winters
John Searles and His Lake of Ooze
But Where Was God?
Death Valley Geology
Indians of the Area
Desert Gold. Too Many Fractions
Romance Strikes the Parson
Greenwater-Last of the Boom Towns
The Amargosa Country
A Hovel That Ought To Be a Shrine
Sex in Death Valley Country
Shoshone Country. Resting Springs
The Story of Charles Brown
Long Man, Short Man
Shorty Frank Harris
A Million Dollar Poker Game
Death Valley Scotty
Odd But Interesting Characters
Roads. Cracker Box Signs
Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others
Panamint City. Genial Crooks
Indian George. Legend of the Panamint
Ballarat. Ghost Town
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