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Jack Bell Tells of Pioneer Days
Nevada State Journal, August 22, 1926, page 2

Al Revert Pays Tribute to Ray Baker In Statement


The dull red glare of the sun, glittering, waverly ever changing, rolling waves of hellish heat, drifting, ever altering. The unkind dread and wind waved seas of sand desolation. Into the infinite bosom of the shifting silicas. The land of danger, indescribable hardship. Waterless. Where travel was days and days ahead. Real and unreal mirages with the ever-present lakes and refrishing, swiftly running shaded streams. Down there where spirals and twisters dotted the vast area, making grostesque moving pillars that changed and disappeared as they were drawn into space. The miles and miles of moving terraine. With a Joshua, clumps of cats-claw freckled here and there. A sea of awfulness, that stretched into the far horizon. Fascinating, beautiful, terrible. Deep within the confines of the great desert, occasional plots of the desert verbena grew. From the pale grayish star-shaped bloom, the shades took brilliant purple, restful, and gave one a moment's thought of the beautiful. Side-winders, adders, horned-toads, and the entire lizard family lived. How? No one knows. It's not a territory to invite close detail, investigation and attention. One must always travel, on and on. The measure of water must be carefully apportioned. The wood must be used with care. The feed for stock hoarded.

This is in part a mental remembrance of the days when Bonnie Claire was a station dot in the universe of the surrounding beyond, on the Tonopah and Tidewater railway, back in 1906.

Sixty miles to the west the forbidding eastern rim of Death Valley loomed, and over a dim trail from the railway point was the Ubeheebe copper mine. There was the usual desert camp of tents. Freight for every mining use was strewn over and about the little rail-head. A great corral, with a hundred head of horses and burros, great freight wagons and trailers were parked in military order. Bronzed, hardy, trained men of the desert, skin tanned to the color of the drying inner bark of the cottonwood. Myriads of squint wrinkles radiating from eyes and mouth. Knotted, hardened hands. Old-time freighters, mule skinners and packers. Horse wranglers, hostlers. The hurdy-gurdy of a new strike, and the hurry for development. Miners, prospectors. Camp saloons. Gambling. Folks of the half world. All bustle. The picturesque and classic language of the old freighters. The line-up of the burro train. The packers throwing sheet and diamond. The dust. The awful heat. Putrid water. Bad grub.

It was into the maelstrom of desert life that Ray Baker alighted from a mixed freight and passenger train in the hectic days of this excitement.


"There is no tribute that I could pay Ray Baker that would be too high, as a man of stamina, purpose and real guts, backed by a fine personality and the inherent honesty of the vanishing Westerner," said Albert Revert, pioneer lumberman, of every late mining camp in the state, now the owner of, and director of the Verdi Lumber company, the largest in Nevada, and whose big plant is at Verdi, Nevada. Revert has lived almost his entire life in the state. He has been active in lumber and mining all his major life. He has been associated with many of the big interests in the game. He was the backer of the Ubeheebe down in Death Valley, and for that proposition it required big finances, and a gamble to brave the 60-mile freight haul alone, not to mention the innumerable difficulties, in the distances across the unsurveyed, unmarked desolateness of the shimmering oceans of desert.

Revert himself tells of Ray's employment by him as follows:

"How well I remember when Ray Baker came into my office at Tonopah, early one morning in the mid-summer of 1906. He was a lithe young man. Broad shoulders, straight as a lodge pole pine. A smiling face that radiated good nature, a friendly, lovable chap. His glance was direct. His appearance indicated that he had just come from luxury and the drawing room of the well-to-do. He seemed out of place in the boisterous, hustling camp life.

"'Well, young man, what can I do for you?' I asked him.

"'I want a job. Any kind of a job. I am broke and want work.'

"I kind of laughed, after looking over his apparent strangeness to any sort of manual labor, and said that all I had to offer was a job of hostlering, wrangling burros, handling freight, greasing wagons, and be general all around helper to the seasoned old timers down at the big corral at Bonnie Claire, and to make the trips across the sixty miles of desert to the developing Ubeheebe mine in Death Valley."

"'This is a man's job, young fellow, and it's simply hell on earth down there. I don't think you would last long. Just about as long as the proverbial snowball. This is all I have to offer.'

"'I 'll take the job, and what's more, I'll stick.'

"I felt sorry for the boy. I could not see how he would ever stand the awfulness of the life, after what he had just left, a life that old timers of the hot places would curse and leave.

"'All right. The job is yours. How are you fixed?' I well knew that he was broke, and perhaps needed a good meal under his tightly drawn belt, and offered him an advance.

"'No, thank you. I've got the job. I'm all right. I'll be there as soon as I can get there. Please tell me how to reach Bonnie Claire."

"Right then I was sorry that I had given him the job, it was sure a tough one, and I banked on his early rturn to Tonopah after getting one look at that lower country.

"I was never so fooled on a man all my life. That boy made immediate friends with the hard-boiled wagon boss, and the harder-boiled old desert rats. He did his work without complaint. Stood the friendly gibes, the rough horse play, and was soon initiated into their friendship and confidence.

"For one solid year, without the loss of a single day, Ray Baker worked at this heart-breaking labor. Rotten food. Bad water. Inconvenience of every kind and description, and he was one of the last to leave when we discontinued operations down there when copper took the big slump.

"I have known many young men, but never in all my life have I known one unused to hard, rough going, stick and come through as this boy did. He was a top hand with 20's, down the scale to throwing the single diamond, and took care of stock, handled a jerk-line, and packed freight with the best of them. His friends down there were legion. I'll bet he still has them wherever they may be.

"A fine manly man, whose word was twenty-sixty-seven fine, and I know that he is the same grown, mature man now, as he was the upstanding youngster then. A man well worth knowing in person, is Ray Baker."

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