Sunday after Sunday, William showed more and more signs of the strain, of tense war
days, while the Los Angeles Street work showed more signs of a growing restlessness.
Those who had helped finance the Mission work before were now interested in buying
Liberty Bonds. William realized the time was approaching when he had to face the fact his
ministry was ended.
He had brought "order out of chaos" as the LOS ANGELES TIMES phrased it.
Granted it had not been the spectacular evangelism of the decade. No singing, no advance
men, no well-trained ushers, or generous money support, no mass conversions, but plenty of
new members to swell old church rosters.
In William's words, however, "many hearts had been reached." Violence had
been subsided; indeed, the gentle had conquered the wild.
William toyed with the gold pieces he had kept in his pants pocket throughout the years
of his ministry across the United States. Once again he recalled the promise of the Bible
and quoted one more time:
I have been young and now am old;
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
nor his seed begging bread.
In the six years he had been gentling the street, he had offered the twenty-dollar gold
piece every Sunday, offered it to any man who could bring to his attention one example of
a Christian family in need. Yet there had not been one taker and the promise was still
good. He put it in his pants pocket, shaking his head. His smiling countenance was covered
"Annie, my darling. Children, my dears," he announced at the supper table.
"I have something to say. There is nothing left but the gold pieces and God's work he
will provide for his own."
"I have been thinking, Calvin, and soon, Everett, will be of age to joint the
army. I want my sons to do everything for their country, but I cannot convince myself that
God wants us to kill any man. I offered my services to the Cavalry to train the army's
horses, but they would not take me. They said I was too old, but I am not too old to farm
in the San Joaquin Valley, to raise produce for the needs of our country. If you are
willing, I will put our house up for sale and we shall all farm together. There is a great
need to supply food for the hungry here and 'Over There.'"
Annie whitened. She had never once disagreed with William. He had always "been
right." She had done everything to help his work, economize, skimp, and save, never
complaining for the lonely nights, when he didn't come home until nearly midnight, the
budgeting to feed the poor, going without garments to clothe the ragged, only to hear him
"I am going to farm."
Annie had always hated the Valley, but she said not a word. Perhaps it was because she,
too, thought taking up farming would keep her sons out of the war. Perhaps it was the only
way to get the children through college.
True to William's good fortune, he sold the home quickly and with enough profit to buy
one hundred acres of land in Shafter, Kern County.
We all pitched in packing with a vigor, but when no one was around, Annie would sit on
the piled-up boxes and cry her heart out for the little brick and stucco home with the
long row of Shasta daisies that grew from the side street to the alley, the fan-palm trees
edging the street and the garden, fragrant from General MacArthus roses that thrived in
the side yard. Asparagus, peas and tomatoes grew in abundance in the backyard. "Our
salt-of-the-earth Annie," as Aunt Bob referred to her, would never have another house
like the one she had there.
I think she thought of me as being disloyal because I made no protest. But it was
considered patriotic to lend a hand at raising food and many of my friends planned to
become "farmerettes." So I felt I was doing my bit, too, and I was glad. I had
joined a speaking group at Occidental College and was going about with other young people
from theater to theater selling Liberty Bonds. Father had become a dollar-a-year-man,
working for the government selling Liberty Bonds, too. He was "making the world safe
for democracy," destroying once and for all the "Kurtur of might makes
"I told your father it would mean losing you," Mama said, eyeing me closely,
trying to read the thoughts of my heart. "I said you would never go live on a
She wanted so much to have one in the family share her dread of that hot, dry country.
I think there still lingered the memory of that six months' pastorate at the Bakersfield
Baptist Church and small blame to her!
So on a warm June morning, we set out for Shafter on the winding, then narrow, Ridge
Route, across tawny mountains splotched with dark green of the scrub oak. The Model T Ford
bravely climbed the crest of the horseshoe formed by the meeting of the two mountain
ranges, the ragged Sierras with lofty snow-capped peaks, and the not-so-lofty but greener
rolling ridges of the Coast range. It was an all-day trip in the loaded-down touring car.
The sun drove straight down with stinging rays. The wind scurried through the curtainless
car, and a blast from the fiery furnace that we could not escape.
Yet our black touring car labored up the steep grade, spouting and hissing angrily.
Father was a ludicrous sight sitting straight and looking massive behind the little
steering wheel so people could probably not help but think it was he that made the little
car go and not the engine inside it.
When the Pass was reached, the car slowed down, and then screeched to a stop. He
squeezed under the wheel and jumped out on the red road to fill the sputtering radiator
with water from the burlap bag that had hung on the car door.
"Boiling! Never saw anything like it! We have too much of a load," he
sputtered out. "All this junk! You women never throw your burdens away."
"It's the sun that makes it so hot," Annie retorted. "And this isn't
"Memories," Annie corrected.
"Memories belong in the heart, not loaded in a Model T."
Still with all its burden of memories, the Model T made its last heroic effort to climb
the summit. And did. There below lay the Valley, the terrible Valley, shimmering vibrantly
in the sun. The good mountains would soon be hovering in the distance with black shadows
settling on their peaks. And we would belong to the Valley, the hot, terrible,
unconquerable Valley, the Valley that was to blossom someday as a rose.
"There it lies, the world's finest Valley. And do you know it's bigger than three
New England states and can produce more food than all of New England. All it needs is
water to make it the world's most productive valley."
"Yes," he boasted, "the world's finest Valley. I wish I could have been
bringing you here in February or March when the entire floor of the oval Valley was
covered with purple lupine and the red paint-brush. What a sight that would have been for
"Water! Doesn't seem to be any signs of that! Where is all this water to come
from?" young brother Oliver asked.
"From the rain," Papa said, as though it were the simplest thing in the
"Does it rain much here?! I asked. (I knew there was only one rainy season in
California and it wasn't summer. But this thirsty land could never have been visited
recently by water, so desolate did it appear now.)
"No," Father said. "Only about three inches. But at the other end of the
Valley, north of Sacramento, there's as much as one hundred inches of rain and
"So how are they going to get the water here?" my sister, Elizabeth, asked.
"They will move it, wee sister," Papa said. "Someday they will move
We all accepted it without question. When Father spoke like that, he had a way of
making you believe what he said, no matter how fantastic it sounded.
There must be others with this same faith, for as we sped along the beeline stretch of
road across the prosperous Valley, men were planting along the public highway small
cottonwood trees and watering the infant saplings to add some change of vegetation to the
jimson week, the sage brush, and the brittle, stalked weeds with choking pods.
To us, Bakersfield looked like any other early California pioneer town, although not as
attractive as the newer ones sprouting up in Southern California.
But I never saw Papa happier than when he ended the monotonous forty-mile
"straightway" ride from the mountain pass across the parched fields to arrive at
Bakersfield, a city he had loved from his younger days. He had to stop to say
"hello" to old friends, of course, to tell them that at long last, he was to
become a resident of Kern County.
"What a place this is for you," he told Annie. "Finest place in the
world . . . wonderful country . . . no people like the Bakersfield people . . . honest,
frank, open-hearted. How well I remember Bakersfield. Don't you, Annie?"
"Yes, I remember it," Annie said.
I thought I detected a touch of sarcasm in her voice, but I did not press the matter.
We left Bakersfield after a congenial lunch with hospitable friends. "That's the
way fold are here," Father said proudly, glad to find the present was loyal to the
We then journeyed on, past the red-brick hospital, and across the bridge of the winding
tree-shaded Kern River.
"A river!" wee sister called out excitedly.
"Why there's no water in it at all," Oliver said in disappointment.
"It's quite a river in the spring," my father came back. "You should see
it then as it rushes down the narrow canyons from the hills. Why, I have seen this
community flooded in the spring, but before long the wild river had receded so much that
when summer came, there was hardly any water at all! And this summer's unusually dry! We
haven't had a dry season like this in many years. There used to be a community of English
people ahead at Rosedale. When we pass there you'll see the tall palm-lined driveway. All
this was once part of the biggest irrigated farms in the world. The government will soon
awaken to our needs for irrigation and this will again be the garden spot of the world.
That is if they don't strike oil before."
"And how are we to get water on our place?" Annie wanted to know.
"Wait and you shall see, my dear. There's a surprise in store for you! We shall
soon be at Shafter. another twenty miles and you shall see."
"I'm glad. I'm tired," mother replied. "I want to get home before dark
so I can get things straightened up a bit before we retire."
The next twenty miles took us first past a few farms where chickens hid wherever they
could find any shade, and pigs lay panting wherever a shadow fell.
Then there were no more farms--only dark green, resinous sage, in a land that was
otherwise brown and beige. The only motion of life now was the skittering of gophers in
their holes, or bounding leaps of long-eared jackrabbits from brush to brush.
Suddenly we saw Calvin and young Everett running to greet us, up behind the new,
roughly-constructed one-room house they had hastily erected in preparation for our
homecoming. They had plowed also, a few acres to give an aspect of pleasant activity to
the landscape that had been so monotonously naked except for the never-ending sagebrush.
"It's beautiful," William said with enthusiasm. "The ranch will be level
as a table top in no time."
"I want to see the surprise," Mama coaxed. I thought there was more
bitterness than hopefulness in her voice. She knew it could not be the rough shack she had
"You shall see it, my dear," Papa replied, and as proudly as if he were
showing her a marble castle. "It's the only ranch around that has one like it in
Shafter, to be sure!"
"What?" Annie asked, looking all around her, but seeing nothing.
William walked a few steps beyond the house to stand on a concrete slab and, pouring
out of a large pipe was a stream of water that rose from the ground.
"White gold!" William exclaimed joyously, and with a pleasant twinkle in his
eyes. "Did you ever see anything like it? The Land Company sank this well as a
test-well, to show the settlers coming here every day there's plenty of underground water.
You never drank such water in all your life! Clear, pure water. Taste it."
Now his face wore the animated look of a man who had waited a lifetime for this moment.
A ranch all his, a ranch that poured forth an abundance of water, and, because of this
water, it would yield food--in abundance in fact. "This ranch will yield nine crops
of alfalfa a year. Do you know what that means?"
The blank expression on Annie's face told him she didn't.
"It's a hydraulic pump," Everett explained, his brown eyes shining.
Mother could see both boys were happy and, although she didn't understand why, she
relaxed. "And will I have to carry water into the house for my work?" she
questioned, afraid of what the answer might be.
"Indeed you won't, will she boys?" William asked.
Calvin quickly caught the cue and replied, "We'll carry in a big bucketful every
time we come near the house."
"That's right. I don't ever want to see your mother carrying water, or your
sisters, either. White gold! White gold!" Father repeated joyously.
Mother, little sister and I set about to unpack and get the house in order while the
men worked in the fields.
"To think we could have come here years ago when we were young and more able to
endure such hardships," Annie mourned. "To think when your father is old enough
to retire he should start at the very beginning, farming . . . it is such a hard
But in spite of Mother's low spirits, there was a certain air of adventure about the
undertaking. Once more we would have our own horses, and the boys' first job would be to
build a corral and then a reservoir which we would use for irrigation as well as for
swimming! We glanced at each other. Our faces seemed to agree it just wasn't going to be
as difficult as it had appeared on the surface.
Calvin and Everett and eight-year-old Oliver raced to the corral to do the chores. That
included milking the cow which was housed in a lean-to shed. feeding two plow horses, Old
Sal and George, not to forget the collie, Mark, showing multiple signs of happiness that
the family was again reunited.
Mother and I unpacked our provisions and set to preparing a good supper. Elizabeth,
almost four, tried her best to set the table.
Papa was philosophizing there was nothing so bad a good meal couldn't made better.
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