Oral Histories

David Baker



A: Well, no. We didn’t do so much of that, I don’t guess.

Q: Maxine Newell said there was just one party after another.

A: I worked with her out at the Arches for several years. I know her real well. We didn’t

have the money in the first place.

Q: What do you think about Moab now, about newcomers and how it’s changed over the years?

A: I think it has to be like it is. You can’t change it. It don’t bother me much. I’m retired really.

Q: As far as changing over to tourist business?

A: Well, we have to have something. That’s about the only backbone income we’ve got here. I mean industry. Sure is.

Q: I skipped all your Park Service. Was that after the uranium times that you went to work for the Park Service?

A: Oh yes, after the boom, our claim-selling business went down the drain. I worked for the Bureau of Public Roads from the fall of 1955 until October of 1956. I worked on the Castle Valley Road and the Kane Creek Road. Then I worked for the mill until 1964 (4 years as a leach operator and 4 years as a Maintenance mechanic). I worked approximately 1 year at Potash as a laborer. Finally, I went to work for the Park Service in 1966 and stayed there until 1990 in maintenance. I was at Bridges for two seasons, at Island in the Sky I was the first permanent maintenance man, and then I was in Arches from 1970-1990. Lots of good fresh air.

Q: You were right in the thick of the uranium business.

A: Oh yes. We’d have made a lot more money if we’d had the claims in the right place. I made some money staking claims. More than I could have made for wages. We made some pretty good claim deals. The last deal we made, we sold our royalty on some claims. $25,000 we split three ways.

Q: Did you ever get royalties?

A: No there was never any production on the claims we staked.

Q: So you made money by selling the claims?

A: Yes, and holding the royalties. We sold, I think it was a 3 % royalty. We always held a 10 on our deals; a 10 percent interest.

Q: Did you feel left out when the uranium boom busted.

A: It was a let-down. Things were booming here, there was a lot of money floating around for dang sure. I’ll bet there were 8 or 10 attorneys, maybe more than that, with offices around town at that time. A lot of uranium companies setting up in different buildings and they had their vehicles with names all over the sides of them. A lot of just promotion and stock deals. Not so much mining it. We probably had all the crooks and promoters in the world here there for a while; pretty shady people out to make a quick dollar.

Q: Certainly Moab grew in leaps and bounds?

A: Right after we bought that old house, you couldn’t have found a place to rent or buy or nothing. We were lucky to get in that old shack. That was before there were any subdivisions built like the Mountain View or Walker. There were no new houses to buy.

Q: The Hecla Subdivision, did the Hecla Mining Company build that?

A: Yes, they bought that property and developed it. And there was Steenville. When I worked down there on that ranch one summer, Jim Stakle made a deal with the guy that had the ranch. He didn’t own it either. Mrs. Reardon owned it and she lived in Grand Junction. She leased it to Fred Frazier, gave him a 20-year lease on it. Before the boom hit, Frazier talked Stakle into subleasing and in the deal he was to plant 20 acres of alfalfa hay on the place. We planted the whole thing – up there where the churches are now and Helen M Knight School, plumb down to where that restaurant is [Denny’s]. Where all those houses are now was planted into corn. I planted the corn myself with a corn-planter. And they hired a couple guys to irrigate it in the summer and we raised a pretty good crop of corn down there on that place. Up there across from where Ottinger’s is, old Kent Johnson dug a big pit there. We chopped up all that corn and put it in for ensilage in that pit. Then Skakle went ahead and let them have the alfalfa.

Q: What did Skakle get out of this?

A: His brother was president of Great Lakes Carbon and they bought that old ranch down there back in the early 40s with the prospect of drilling on it and getting potash mineral. They went in there and drilled 3 holes in the sloughs. I saw the core laying out there. It was all stacked down there in a shed at the ranch. After that they decided not to go ahead and do anything to develop or mine.

End of tape Missed part of the story.

Q: Okay tell me about the pheasant war?

A: Okay, old Clive (the game warden) and Jim Skakle got in that big argument so they decided to just have a shoot out down on Main Street. The game warden said it should be open to all and Skakle said it was private property and didn’t want everyone to come in.

Q: Back up a minute. Was the Shoot-out about the pheasants? Why did they decide to have a shoot-out?

A: They couldn’t agree on letting the people hunt and they got in a big argument so the way they were going to settle it was to have a big shoot-out on Main Street. Gene was working down there for him. Jim said, “Well, I think you ought to go up there with me to see if I get a fair draw.” They were to meet at one o’clock or two o’clock up on Main Street. I guess they had quite a gathering show up.

Read the other Oral Histories