My mother, Geneva Dean, taught at Sulphur Springs School in the years
immediately before the Sterling Borax mine above Lang closed, and during the closing
year. The mine closed early in the school year and mother had only one pupil
for almost the whole year.
She married my father who, along with his three
brothers, had homesteaded in Agua Dulce Canyon at the upper end of Vasquez
Rocks. She later taught at the Agua Dulce school in about 1930 and 1931. I sat
in the front row most of the time, because baby sitters were seldom available.
Mother boarded with the Murphys while teaching at Sulphur Springs, and my
father became a fixture while he was courting my mother. He drove the dinky locomotive on the narrow-gauge line from
Lang to the borax mine. Minnie and Walter Murphy
were like grandparents to my brother and me; we attended several elaborate
Thanksgiving feasts in that ranch house. I still remember the three cookstoves
in her large kitchen one wood, one gas, and one electric.
Rita Schaefer, Clara Wright and my mother decided that since children were
so scarce in the area, they would become pregnant at the same time so that we children would
have playmates. However, I was conceived a year late, so Jim Schaefer and
Charles Wright were a year older than me.
My father worked on a survey party and one night became trapped on the
crest of the St. Francis Dam. His story of his rescue by the damkeeper, and
the climb down the leaking dam in the dark, is a classic. Two weeks later the
dam went out and the damkeeper was lost.
I well remember the two-story Mitchell ranch house in the late 1920s and
early 1930s. My mother and father were close friends of Wes and Rubeen (sp?) Mitchell, who
lived on the old Soledad Canyon road a little west of the Murphy house. I
believe that in 1930, Wes' father and brother lived in the adobe house west
of the Murphys. I last saw the Mitchells about 1932. At the time, Rubeen was
nursing a very young baby whose name I never learned.
There was a story of one of the Mitchell boys lying in
ambush all night for the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez. He hoped to collect a reward. When Vasquez
finally rode by he stood up and pulled the trigger on his old muzzle-loader,
but it misfired because the water in the swampy area had soaked the powder.
Vasquez is said to have given the boy a boot in the pants and sent him home.
We used to walk over into Vasquez Rocks and watch the cowboy films being made.
I have a picture of my father and Walter Murphy
beside an eight-point buck hanging from the Murphy windmill tower, dated Sept. 20, 1923; and
another picture of my mother beside her horse in front of the adobe-wood house,
about 150 feet west of the two-story Murphy house. Another photo shows my father
at the (borax) locomotive controls with my uncle, Otto Held, riding behind.
Dick Held lives in Sun City West, Ariz.