Related to me by cousin Bob...
About the year 1933 or 34, life in the desert for a 7 or 8 year old is a series of
experiences and discoveries. At this age, all things are taken for granted as normal. The
hardships of life are usually not realized until one becomes older and has some yardstick
The small tar paper covered shack under the athol trees is home. The constant clank of
the windmill is noticed only by the occasional visitor. Dad is away at work for WPA with
Uncle Bill. They work with shovels and iron tired wheel barrows, making bridges over the
washes on highway 91. Sometimes they come home at night but mostly they stay at the WPA
camp and come home for the weekend. The weekdays are busy. Chores in the morning. Fill
wood box in kitchen. Carry water up the ladder and fill the steel drum in the tree that
drips over the burlap covered desert cooler. Empty the drain tray that's under the icebox.
Refill the water buckets in the kitchen. Empty the trash. Then there were the normal
errands to run before the sand got too hot for bare feet. Like returning some borrowed
sugar to Uncle Bills' over the quarter mile long, well beaten path through the sand dunes.
The return trip was usually interrupted by the necessary detours essential for lizard
hunting. The remainder of the day was spent playing with my brother Roy and the dog under
the athols or in the small concrete water tank next to the windmill.
We all looked forward to Friday night. That was when Dad and Uncle Bill would come
home. Dad would clean up in the water tank and we would bring him clean clothes to put on.
Mom would have spent a hot afternoon preparing special things for dinner on the wood
stove. About sundown, Uncle Bill would come over all shaved and smelling of Aqua Velva.
After a dinner of young jackrabbit or cottontail, green beans from the garden and corn
bread, Dad and Uncle Bill would sit back and tattle on each other while sharing a jug of
Uncle Bills' home made corn squeezins.
That's right, I said tattle on each other. I remember my Dad tattling on Uncle Bill
about giving a lazy wheel barrower a flat by picking his barrow up over his head and
dropping it down wheel first on a big rock. For the rest of the week that lazy guy had to
work with a barrow that almost jerked his arms out of the sockets with every step.
Saturdays even had Friday nights beat. We would get all dressed up. Dad would check his
pocket watch and on his signal we would hop in the car. Roy and I in the rumble seat, Mom
up front with Dad. We would usually make it to the tracks, all get out, stand in a line,
just in time to wave at the engineer of the Santa Fe Eastbound. The black engine would be
billowing smoke and steam as it gained speed after stopping for watering at the Newberry
section house tank. Counting the cars became more difficult as speed increased. Then came
the usual argument with Roy as to the correct count on the cars. That lasted until we
would pull off the road at the Cliff House Store. Dad and Mom would go in the store but
Roy and I would head out back in search of Daughters' Burro.
The Cliff House in those days was owned by people named Daughters. As the story goes,
one day an old touring car, top heavy and piled high with furniture and cotton sacks of
belongings, ran out of gas in front of the store. The occupants all got out, and there
along with the batch of kids from the back seat came this baby burro. It seems that the
mother burro had been hit by a car somewhere West of Needles and they had picked up the
baby. With all of his kids bawling their eyes out, the father traded the burro to
Daughters for 5 gallons of gas.
That burro had the run of the place. Every kid in Newberry was his pal. They shared
their soda pop and candy easier with the burro than they would with their brothers and
I wonder what ever happened to Daughter's burro?
Copyright 1995, William E. Smith, All Rights Reserved
Newberry Springs Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 116
Newberry Springs, CA 92365
Phone: (760) 257-1072