Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Making a living in the desert....

The Desert Queen Ranch

In 1917, William Keys got a mine and ranch in exchange for unpaid wages in what is now Joshua Tree National Park in California.

A year later, Mr Keys rode to San Bernadino, some 100 km away, to get some distraction. There he met Frances Lawton, a girl from a prosperous and educated family. They married and she followed him into the loneliness of his 160 acre dessert ranch. A trip to town required two days by horse drawn wagon.

Bill and Frances had five children, who were raised on the ranch. They even built their own school for them (at that time, the state of California had to provide a teacher if there were at least 5 children.....). They built water reservoirs, kept the mine running, planted an orchard, raised cattle, chicken and rabbits, had honey bees and finally even built cabins like the one above to cater for the few first tourists

Even in 1943 this was rough country and in a fight about the access rights to one of his mines, Bill Keys shot his neighbor Worth Bagley. He was 62 then. He went to jail for 5 years before he was pardoned.

Frances Keys died in 1963, Bill in 1969, when he was 89 years old. They are burried on their former ranch

Since the place was so remote, the Key family never threw away anything - you never knew when you would need it again. And the stuff is still there