PRICE 10 CENTS   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   ONLY ONE LOUSY THIN DIME


Desert Rat Scrap Book logo

Two of Four




Smallest newspaper in the world and the only 5 page one.

Desert Rat Scrap Book small logo

Packet 2 of Pouch 4

hr short center

This paper is not entered as 2nd class mail. It's a first class newspaper.


Pack Rat

Published at Fort Oliver
1000 Palms, California
Four Times a Year
But sometimes they don't have them.
Darned if I am going to the trouble of mailing it for nothing.
10 Years ................... $5.00
100 Years ................$50.00
Something to think about!

Asbestos editions will be forwarded
in case you don't make it.

Published by

H A R R Y   O L I V E R

Fort Commander
Lamp Lighter

Pack Rat


    A paper that grows on you as you as you turn each page . . . excepting page 5
    Pictures are by the author, many of them are woodcuts.

I did all but the spelling.

hr short center

Not one of these names or places is COINCIDENTAL.



Pack Rat

    An Old Prospector writes to learn why I do not have a department for "Answers to correspondents." The reason is simple. I once announced I would gladly receive questions on desert topics and endeavor to answer them satisfactorily. The first inquiry received was in relation to a little amount I owed the writer. I think it was eight dollars. I borrowed the money and returned a satisfactory answer, but it put back the printing of the next packet for more than three weeks.



    Unlike most papers, this paper is not looking for a way to reach the mass of so-called "Little People" or the "Johnny-Come Latelys." It's for and by the Old Timers of the Great Desert Southwest. Why should I mess with folks that don't know what "Squaw-Wood" is or "Prairie-Feathers" a "Bill-Show," "Buffalo=Soldier or a "Sunday-Mirage" so take it or leave it.

hr short center

The only thing I know for sure about the future is that there will be a lot of it, so let's have all the laughs we can today.

hr short center

How and Where to See

Your Editor's RECIPE

    Get in your car and go from the desert to Banning, pick a night without wind, take one small S.P. Engine, must be on tall end of train going up, have Engine cough up rings. Turn off Moon Light, turn on the beacon light at the Air Field. If you are a Wizard (what's a she Wizard?) you can swing that beam and time it so's to cut off those rings just like slicing salami as they sail away, the best Flying Disks this side of Mars.
—Maybe a "Witch" is a "She-Wizard," I must remember to ask one.

hr short center

You don't know happiness till you find yourself doing things well—just for your own approval.—H.O.

hr short center

Unfinished Business

    We regret very much that we cannot accept offers to go on large papers. Our highest ambition has been to be the Editor-in-Chief of a large San Francisco daily, and help do up the mail with one of those shiney fancy, new addresser machines all in one day. But we cannot leave Old Fort Oliver. My dog "Whiskers" don't like big towns. There are ties that bind us here. We don't care to say how much we owe, or just who's dog Whiskers has got to lick, and then too there are those—hundred-year subscriptions to think about—seven of them.

hr short center

Plenty substitutes for work have been invented. But they won't work.

hr short center


Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do when you ain't going anywhere.

hr short center

One of the great compensations of old age, is that you can do as you please.

With the help of God,
The San Bernardino Sun,
and my Indian Guardian Angel

    They say if you want something for your plan in life, and its right you should have it—if you live right—work hard—and think right, you will get it. For two years I have wanted 12 Type Cases, California Job Cases two-thirds size, to take care of my choice collection of Old Type. Well I spent a lot of time thinking right, working 18 hours a day, living right and going over my plan making sure it was good—Guess I over did it—overshot my mark—for my plan has sure skyrocketed into a much better and bigger plan.
    I haven't got the Type Cases yet. No—but the San Bernardino Sun-Telegraph presented Old Fort Oliver museum with an Old Washington hand press, vintage of 1860, and for free, that is on a perpetual loan, POSTERITY SURE GETS A BREAK, thanks to James Guthrie, L. Burr Belden, and John B. Meek. I must also thank my "Guardian-Angel" who took over after we loaded that 900-pound press on the tale gate of my 1928 Ford Station Wagon, as I low-tailed it, those 70 miles across the Desert.

A Museum of Early Western Printing

I am now setting my sights for 100-year old printer's Stick, Tweezers, Gages, Bellows, fancy brass galleys, etc., for The Museum of Early West Printing, Box 12, Thousand Palms, Calif.

hr short center



    My dog Whiskers is all mixed up. He don't think he's a dog. I don't know just how to tell him that he's only a dog—(the best dog in the world)—but some morning when he wakes me I'll sure tell him. I don't like his choice of early radio programs, I wish I had never shown him how to dial that radio.
    I don't want to hurt his feelings. Guess I will wait. He is very sensitive. Yes I will wait—Those programs might get better. Gee, I hope they do.
    Good thing that there's a Mountain Range between this desert and that new fangled Television.

hr short center

I just can't help glorifying newspaper man (gals too).

hr short center

    After a few years of this tomfoolery, I think I could go completely nuts and lots of you folks wouldn't find me out till your subscription ran out—Your Editor.

     Why then?—he was POCO LOCO when he started and he ain't getting any better. Says me a linotype operator—that's headed East.

hr short center

Hallmark cards say just what you should say—send a Desert Rat Scrap Book, it says just what you should NOT say.


South Dakota Leads Nation In Gold Production

    According to the Resources Bulletin of the South Dakota Natural Resources Commission, South Dakota in 1949 was the greatest gold producing state in the United States, producing 457,000 troy ounces compared to California's 410,310 and Utah's 305,750 troy ounces.
California Mining Journal

hr short center

The man on the trail

    "For gosh sakes Captain Catnip Ashby I heard you were dead!"
    "Yeah. They did say I was dead. But it was another fellow. I knew that it wasn't me as soon as I heard it."

hr short center


    1st Hunter: "Hey Bill!"
    2nd Hunter: "Yeah."
    1st Hunter: "Are you all right?"
    2nd Hunter: "Yeah."
    1st Hunter: "Then I've shot a bear."

hr short center


    We don't have hurricanes in our deserts because our local winds just blow them into a couple of dozen Dust Devils before they get a good start. I always tell my Grandson Stephen that he won't be a real Desert Rat till he has had a Dust Devil carry his hat 50 foot in the air.

hr short center


    Saw a rainbow here at night. "Moonbow," Dry Camp Blackie called it, "Gee, he said with a smile, "Moonshine Rainbows," and them darn Song Writers haven't found them yet.
    This beautiful thought came from Blackie as he lay on his blanket smoking his pipe in the moonlight, 27 miles from anything you could call a road in the Borrego Bad Lands—one place where a rattelsnake would be ashamed to meet his mother.

hr short center


    The Buffalo Chips story in the last packet, brought some amusing mail. W. A. Kommers of Hyannis, Nebraska, sent a picture of a Chip Pile (Cow Chips) 15 feet high. Must look like that stuff in Fort Knox, to those Nebraskans with a cold winter coming on.
    L. K. Barton of San Pedro — Tells how the old timers got breakfast when there were no Buffalo Chips—"We used to light a little wisp of grass, and then we had to run a mile and a half follwoing that blaze before our bacon and eggs would be cooked.

Wood Vs. Chips

    Some people have a belief that every tree, when it burns, gives back the colors that went into its making — they see in the flaming logs the reds of many sunsets, the purple of early dawns, the silver of moonrise and the sparkle of stars.

     This comes from my December copy of North & South Dakota HORTICULTURE.

     Once the Dakotas were the home to the Buffalo Chip Fire—No wonder old timers like W. A. Simmons get a kick out of a wood fire.

hr short center



Burro     In the year 1888, as the story goes, a desert rat hired a burro in the summer time, to pak a load from Palm Springs to Dos Palmas. At noon, when the sun was very hot, both he who had hired the burro and the owner of the animal wanted to sit in the shade of the burro, they fell to thrusting one another away. The owner insisted that he had hired out only the burro and not the shadow. The Desert Rat insisted that as he had hired the burro, all that belonged to the burro was his.
    Old timers say the fine point of the burro and his shadow remains unsettled to this day, but the name Shadow Mountain has long been used on the North side of the Valley. A few years ago the name was borrowed by some real estate men from the South side of the valley. Old Timers say the real shadow of the burro can still be seen at noon each day near the Old Lindley Place, at Thousand Palms. Those real estate fellows on the South side of the Valley they have to make their own shade—standing on their own shadows.


Fort Oliver     They say Arabia has 9,999 legends to our one here in the deserts of our Great Southwest. This has aroused me to publish all the legends I can dig up on my many trips prowling our desert.
    Anyway our legends are much more up-to-date than those of Arabia, and being newer should be truer. I will say I didn't have to go far for this one, and here it is:

The SINGING SANDS of Old Fort Oliver

    For many years I have heard the Singing Sands! (If I had known you better when you were here I might have asked you to stop talking long enough to hear them.) But before the boys from Cal-Tec told me "the why of it all," I didn't talk much about it only to my best friends.
    The technical boys say the singing of the sands is caused by grains of silica picking up sound waves, transmitting them to one another and magnifying their volume on the principle of the crystals in early radio sets.
    When the wind is low (as it is most of the time) the sands sing me to sleep sounding just like Jo Stafford, only the sands hold those notes longer even than that girl Jo and just as sweet.
    When the wind is higher the sands sometimes whine like Frankie Lane.
    But when the singing sands get to sputtering like Arthur Godfrey I know it's a warning of a coming earthquake. At times this sputtering has started in time for me to get out of bed and pour one and sometimes two glasses of whiskey before the quake hits.
    Makes things kinda O.K. because I have known of bottles sliding off of shelves in a quake.
    A Nonesuch You Say—Read on I say—Or look up singing sands in your Almanac.


    Marco Polo wrote of the singing sands in Central Asia. The singing sands north of Alamosa, Colorado, are in the largest body of shifting sand in the world. Then there's the "Crying Sands" of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, the "Barking Sands" of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, the "Drumming Sands" of Reg Ruwan in Afghanistan, the "Fluting Sands" of Jebel Nagus on the Sinai peninsula, and not so well known YET are the Singing Sands of Old Fort Oliver, Desert of the Salton Sink.

hr short center

Dry Camp Blackie Blackie Thinks Back

    Dry Camp Blackie wants to give a thousand dollar idea to some smart fellow. All he has to do is give us back the old fashion CARPET SLILPPERS, Blackie says there ain't any of the new kind that's worth a dam'. In payment for the idea, Blackie says send two pair, one for him and one pair for your Editor.
    Blackie says another thing this Old Fort needs is some of those old fashioned, stuffed, leather covered chairs, that have been thrown out of most placed to make room for screw-ball modern furniture. If you want to donate, will come and get them if they are not over two states away.

hr short center

Petrified Lightning

    Harry, you old fossil, you have often mentioned the various Petrified Forests and Springs in the desert that will petrify wood, and you have probably been petrified yourself a few times around Christmas and New Year's—BUT I'll bet that you haven't seen any Petrified Lightning . . . Well, practically right out your own back door, there are barren sand dunes that have been struck with lightning. The intense heat fuses the sand and forms tubes, which are sometimes 30 feet in length. These tubes vary in size, some being three to four inches in circumference although most of them are a little smaller . . . The interior of the tubes is glossy and like glass, so now get busy and figure out something that they can be used for . . . High class Rockhounds call them Fulgurites, but between you and me, they are just Petrified Lightning.
     Because I like having "PETRIFIED LIGHTNING" on the cover, I reprint this from Packet 4 of Pouch 2 (this is one of the pakets that sells in old book shops as a COLLECTOR'S ITEM). If you gt one hang on to it.—H.O. Ed.

Prickly Pear Burro

    Keep up the good work, Harry—"May you live to be as old as some of your jokes."
—Phat Graettinger

The Pack Rat's Nest

Using L.A. Wino's for Guinea Pigs

    Dry Camp Blackie is unfair to organized desert burglars. He dipped crackers in Muscatel Wine, putting them out for the Pack Rats, and just like people they swapped every thing they had—dug up every thing they had dragged away from Old Fort Oliver in the last 75 years—not asking for change—just a quick swap.
    Blackie says he didn't have to use pack rats to know Muscatel Wine was a brain dissipater, HE HAS READ MATT WEINSTOCK'S new book — "MUSCATEL AT NOON."

hr short center

Hermit Business

    Never miss a chance to make other people happy even if you have to leave them alone to do it.

Editor's note—To be a nice old man is so stupid—I hope when I go, all will say, "Good riddance"—and that it wil be a happy TRAIL END—even to those with 100-year subscriptions all paid up.

    This helpful bit of conversation comes from, "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People." By Irving D. Tressier, 1937. Never since I decided to fort-up in this fraid-hole I call Fort Oliver and go into the HERMIT BUSINESS have I had such a helpful book—here I reprint pages 91 and 92.

    Recently I was invited to a bridge party. Personally I don't play bridge, and there was a blonde there who didn't play bridge either. Ah, you say, what a perfect set-up! But it wasn't that kind of a party.
    As we sat down on the sofa, I readily saw through her. She had just returned from a trip to Yellowstone Park and she was itching to tell someone all about it. I was just as eager not to be told about it.
    "You've just come back from Yellowstone?" I commenced rapidly. "Really, is it still there? I thought they'd torn the place down years ago. Do they still keep those mangy pet bears by the road side? Are those ancient steam boilers still able to raise the geysers above the ground every hour?"
    She grew slightly red. "Why, what do you mean?" she asked.
    "Of course," I continued, "you know the whole Park's a fake, don't you? There hasn't been a naturally active geyser there since the days of Little Egypt—they gave out one winter while the Park was closed and the Government secretly installed underground boilers with time clocks and pressure gauges. Naturally, they didn't want to lose the enormous revenue the park brings to the Park Service each year."
    "I don't believe a word of it!" she stormed. "Why, I never heard of such a thing."
    "Of course, I'm only telling you what the divorced wife of a former Park Superintendant told me," I replied quietly and with an injured tone. We conversed for several minutes longer, then she begged to be excused and I was left alone with the entire evening to devote to my favorite game, solitaire.
    Naturally I was talking rubbish, but it served its purpose. If I hadn't invented this fantastic tale about Yellowstone Park I should have spent three straight hours listening to her describe everything from the marvelous colors of the rocks to the feeling of insignificance and the renewed belief in God which Nature's bounteous wonders had recreated in her.
Editors Note: PLAY SAFE, this idea is O.K. for blondes but don't (as I did) try it on a red-head.


Bill Kazoo Fadden says—Maybe he who laughs last has remembered the original joke.

hr short center

Joe Fox of Randsburg says: "I look all around me and then I grin—to see all the trouble I ain't in."

hr short center


    "Cactus Slim" Moorten" of Palm Springs tells me of a strange cactus from Baja California, Mexico, that is commonly called the "Creeping Devil" (Machaero-cereus Eurca). It creeps ahead along the ground—sending down roots as it travels, dying off behind.
    "If you don't believe this," Slim says, "Just hop on you bike and head south of the border on the 984 mile obstacle course and see these fantastic migrating caterpiller cacti."

Will Rogers The Ax

Indispensable Friend of the Pioneers

Ax     Charley Russell, the great Western artist, sold a painting to old Cattle King Lane of Calgary, Canada. It was a picture of a bunch of his cowboys around the chuck wagon in the morning, some of them eating and some getting on their horses and one horse bucking through the campfire. Nearby was an ax and wood for the fire. It was a big picture with lots of people and action in it.
    Well, he sent for Mr. Lane to come down to Great Falls, Montana, where Charley lives to see the picture. Lane looked at it quite a while and Charley said he began to feel that there was something terrible wrong with it. He knew the old man knew for he had been a cowpuncher all his life.
    Finally he said, "Charley, you ain't got that ax handle wrapped with rawhide. You know them cooks was hell for breaking ax handles in them days."
    Charley picked up a brush and wrapped the ax handle with it, and the old cattle king handed over his paltry ten thousand bucks for it and took his ax handle back to Canada.
—From Autobiography of Will Rogers edited by Donald Day

hr short center


    The ax is a tool of romance. From earliest history on down through the Stone age, the Bronze age and the Iran age, and more especially during th time of America's early pioneers, the ax has been the indispensable friend of man. And it is the one thing most liable to be left when moving camp.
    "Curly" Carroll of Randsburg has an ax he's mighty proud of, claims it came across the country with his grand-pappy in a covered wagon. In asking him about it I commented on the ax because it seemed as good as when his grand-pappy bought it. "Well," replied "Curley" after a thoughtful pause, "It's had three new blades and five new handles, but excepting for that, she's just the same, sir, just the same."

hr short center


Catnip Ashby     Saw an old Model-A car parked on Main street the other morning to which was roped three bedrolls. The car carried an Arizona license, and the three occupants who got out and went into a cafe for breakfast looked like dyed-in-the-wool prospectors.
    Those three bedrolls held my eye. All were fair sized, and well roped. Back in the old days when prospecting was a fairly common profession, and there was a chance for a man to find a profitable mineral showing, size of the bedroll carried by an individual was usually indicative of his wealth and importance. The man with a good outfit, or who was grubstakedStewpot      by some merchants or saloonmen, usually carried a fat bedroll — a mattress, wool blankets, a real pillow and a good heavy tarpulin. The poor prospector — the man who worked in the mines for his grubstake, and who lived frugally out in the hills on beans, bacon and flapjacks, carried a small bedroll. At most a couple of worn soiled blankets, no pillow as a rule, and a piece of old canvas. He was accustomed to bedding down on the ground and seldom slept warm when the weather was cold. Instead of a wide strong leather strap around his bedroll he used a bit of frayed rope, or even a couple lengths of Mormon waxends — baling wire.
    How often out in the hills 40 and 50 years ago have we envied the plutocrat prospector with the bulging bedroll! Envy grew to bitter jealousy at nightfall when we bedded down beside fire in some lonely canyon or near a spring in some wind-swept valley. We have seen times when we were tempted to murder a man for his bedroll. Lying out on a cold night under the stars, perhaps shivering, we would hear our rich friend buried deep in his soft wool blankets, a mattress between his bones and the ground, quietly snoring, as the stars moved slowly and unnoticed through the windy sky.
    Yes, there were plutocrats among prospectors back in the days when Butler found Tonopah — and we'll wager that Jim, down on the county tax roll for $10, never carried more than a couple of thin blankets and a bit of ragged tarp.
Tonopah Times-Bulletin


This page is dedicated to the World's Greatest Optimist--the Desert Prospector

Harry Oliver's

Pageant of


A Great Desert Show

Cast of Characters
        Mother Nature
        Father Time
        77 Dust Devils

    One of the best descriptions of this great show of Dancing Dust Devils I find in a book written back in 1891 by John Randolph Spears, "Illustrated Sketches of Death Valley."
    "Tornillos," (Spanish meaning "little screw" or "little twister,") let's start again — TORNILLOS have a better chance to do their stuff in Death Valley—no Telephone Poles—no Coca Cola Signs—no Old Newspapers. You see Uncle Sam is keeping that desert just as that great Art Director planned it,
    God designed it, Goodwin sweeps up after each Act. Mother Nature and Father Time gave the background its beauty and color and as to the 77 Dust Devils—let's let John Randolph Spears describe the show.

  *   *   *  

    "It is a marvelous spectacle when a sand-auger travels down the valley. Astonishingly slender in form, it rises writhing and twisting, someties a mile in the air. With a faint puff or cloud at the top and a slight spread at the base, away it goes, sagging and swaying hither and thither, until some how it all unexpectedly vanishes out of sight. I saw two such augers. Both were more than 2,000 feet high. Neither journeyed a mile, but when they faded away there was no sign of a falling cloud or a thickening of the dust in the air where they had been. They simply disappeared ghost-fashion, as I was looking at them.

hr short center

Johnny Western Smart as a Mule

Geo. A. Stingle

    After searching for a week for a lost mule the owner offered the town half-wit two bits if he could find him. In about and hour the dope came in leading the mule. When asked how he found him so quickly he replied—"I just thot where I'd go if I was a mule and I went there and there he was.

hr short center



    This desert air is something wonderful. It's pasteurized, homogenized, dehydrated and impregnated with solium. It also has atomic properties which make you immune to allergies. Many hopeless victims of rapid decline improve so rapidly they soon start hiking to the mountains to fight bobcats. Some anemic folks gain strength so fast they have to take sleeping tablets to keep from overdoing. One walking skeleton gave this desert atmosphere a trial and in three months had to go on a diet to reduce to fighting condition for a battle with Joe Louis. Hay fever victims develop a hobby of making and sleeping on ragweed pillows about the second day after they hit this atmosphere.
    Germs? Well there ain't any. The old miners around these parts have a legend concerning germs. According to their story a long time ago a group of germs of various diseases invaded the desert and after several days of fighting the wind and sand they spied a burro. They immediately attached themselves to a lump of bunch grass right where the burro was browsing. Pretty soon the burro ate the bunch grass, germs and all and that made the germs might happy. At last they were off to a good start in the burro's stomach. However, they were pretty tired and they decided that they would all take a good sleep and in the morning when they were rested and fresh they would go to work and make a killing. When they woke up the burro was gone. Consternation was in camp, as they say and after sizing up their predicament they decided they had better go back to where they came from. Which they did. They never came back. That's why there are no germs in the desert. Most folks 'round these parts die from old age. Occasionally a tenderfoot will get ambitious, don his bathing suit and dive head first into a mirage. Others again laugh themselves to death reading the Desert Rat Scrap Book.

One Year $2.00         Single Copy 25¢
Grubstaker: The late Scotty Allen
The Pony Express
Stories of Pioneers and Old Trails

Pony Express

Herb S. Hamlin, Editor
Address All Mail to

795 Sutter Street
San Francisco 9, Calif.

Published Monthly at Placerville,
California, Formerly Hangtown


From George Wharton James' book "The Wonders of the Colorado Desert."

    The ost famous as it is perhaps the best known and the least understood of all desert illusions is the mirage. The poet Moore ould think of no more miserable doom for the traitor than to invoke the judgment of Heaven upon him in the mirage.
"May he, at last, with lips of flame,
  On the parched desert thirsting die,
  While lakes of that shone in mockery nigh
  Are fading off, untouched, untasted."

    A question is often raised on the desert by cattle-men and others that is worthy of serious consideration. Do cattle SEE water, or do they SMELL it? If they only smell it, then a mirage can never lure them to death. Most cattle-men will tell you that cattle never see water. I do not believe it. I have seen cattle struggling to reach mirages, and in the southwestern corner of the Colorado Desert where more mirages appear than anywhere else, are the bones of thousands of cattle. In one of Mr. Eytel's forceful paintings of a drove of cattle is being taken across the desert. In the distance behind them lies a mirage. The cattle have stopped and two of them are bellowing in their anger that they are not allowed to go and quench their thirst in the mirage water. Critics have censured the picture as untrue to life. I take issue with them on the ground stated. I shall be glad to have the matter discussed by scientists and others.

'49ers SAW THEM

    My cousin, Jessie Gould Hannon, let me look in her notebook on "Going to California," a book soon to be published. I snitched this mirage story penned by her grandfather, Charles Gould, while crossing the plains in 1849 sine it substantiates Thomas Moore's poem above.
    "The mirage was here seen, presenting a large and beautiful lake of clear water, on the surface of which was reflected the shrubs and objects on the shore."
    As the above took place on the dreaded desert between what is now Lovelock and Fallon, Nevada, with parched and thirsty lips they may have glimpsed cool and refreshing Lake Tahoe.


    Mirages are like women,—strictly unpredictable — they always look inviting, cool, and attractive — but you can't pin one down.—Keith


    At Indian Wells, I have seen the moon mirage, rolling like quicksilver in the hollow of the valley, parting about the reefs of black rock and streaming in long bays and estuaries out of sight among the surrounding ranges.
—From "The Lands of the Sun."   Mary Austin


Sterling Sparks, in Magazine Digest

    One of the finest locations for the mirage-hunter is northwestern Nebraska, whose Great Plains region puts on some fine shows when conditions are favorable. From a gray, unnatural cloud flying low on the horizon there will often appear fairy-like buttes, forest, and castles standing in the heated atmosphere as uncertain as the details of a dream — and as beautiful! The manifestations often last for a half hour or longer, shimmering and changing slightly as you watch. Finally, they may slowly disappear into the gray cloud which, in a few more minutes, also fades away.


From Frank Waters Book, The Colorado

    There is a playa in Nevada skirted by the road. Here stands a tiny filling station and red gasoline pump — the only one in miles. There is no mistaking its location. But looking down from the range above, I have seen it washed by rhythmic blue waves; seen it moved miles out into the dry lake bed; seen it reflected, upside down, true in every detail.


From Paul Wilhelms Desert Column

    One of the most startling mirages can be seen in late spring from 1000 Palms Village. Ordinarily, you look west and see no more than a long sand hill which completely hides Palm Springs from view.
    Then, on successive mornings, above sand shimmer, a phantom city arises and hangs floating in the air a third of the way up San Jacinto, each building distinct, the whole scene dominated by the parapet tower of old El Mirador Hotel.


Its surface is the fastest motor boat course in the world

PLAY—In the Sun - - In the Water and Under the Wind

Salton Sea—A beautiful inland body of salt water — area 306 square miles, 250 feet below sea level. Its salt content is twice that of the ocean—too salty for dill pickles.


Swimming and Boating
Desert and Seashore Homesites

9½ Miles East of Mecca, California

Printing Press An Atomic Bomb in Printer's Ink

Desert Humor Newpaper

Gets more than laughs

This is the lead editorial in The Date Palm, Coachella Valley's Pioneer Newspaper, written by Ole J. Nordland—who wishes he had my job.

    If newspapermen dream, and we suspect a lot of them do, every man jack of them would likely wish he was the editor and had the opportunity that Harry Oliver, our sagebrush philosopher, burro wrangler, and gold mine yarn-spinner has. He can say what he wants, and print it when he gets around to it.
    One thing we are sure of is that whether they wished for his publication chores, they certainly envy his ability to obtain readership without the accompanying circulation woes.
    Harry's "Desert Rat Scrap Book" has obtained more publicity than any other item in the world today barring only the United Nations and the atomi bomb . . . and the Scrap Book is a kind of atomic bomb itself. It blasts the ego and the comeuppance of a lot of people who think they are pretty important shakes.
    For example, when a big newspaper in New York folds, that's newspaper news and you read about in all the newspaper men's publications like The National Publisher, The Publisher's Auxiliary, Printing Magazine, the California Publisher, and other papers and magazines of the publishing, editing and printing trade.
    But here stands Harry Oliver, bearded editor of the Desert Rat Scrap Book, who owns one of the West's oldest presses and has set up shop at his Fort Oliver home 11 miles west of Indio. He showed me this month's copy of the swank, Park Row, N. Y. Printing Magazine, it presents a two page spread with pictures and a story about his paper.
    He also pulled from under his well-laden arm a feature write-up with pictures, of the Scrap Book from the National Publisher which was reprinted in the Magazine Digest last Fall.
    There was a front page story from the Publisher's Auxiliary and one from the September California Publisher—all recognizing Harry as an editor and publisher in the field—and we might add all slanted with an envy streak by the writers for this desert publisher.
    He then brought forth a large scrap book laden with other clippings of (one and two page) stories with pictures, from American Magazine, Dodge News, This Week, Westways, Ford Times, Quick, Home Magazine, Movie Life, Parade, Desert Magazine, New Mexico Magazine, and in the following daily newspaper Sunday Supplements that had illustrated stories in 1950: San Francisco, St. Paul, New York, (3 papers), Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Chicago, (2 papers), Denver, Dallas, Boston, St. Louis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.
    Also hundreds of columnists reprint his choice paragraphs. Harry said 100 million people have had a chance to read about him and his newspaper, his dog "Whiskers," Old Adobe Fort Oliver and try his brand of desert folklore.
    We didn't take time to count the circulation but we can observe that Harry's desert banter has sure gone to a lot of folks in every state and there must be a few million who now know Fort Oliver better than 95 per cent of the folks right here in Coachella Valley—and it's not Harry's fault if they don't.
    As a newspaperman I say he has glorified the newspaper business beyond any dream the nation's most famous printer, Ben Franklin, could of had, short of a nightmare.
    Thanks to Ole Nordland—an old time editor of both ends of the Salton Sink. Scrap Book Ed.'s Note.

Unusual as usual


Saguaro and Kite                                               The human eye can see only 6,000 stars.

                                                                            hr short center

                                            The moon travels from west to the east.

                                                                           hr short center

                                            The loudest noise in the world is thunder.

                                                                           hr short center

                                            Only one side of the moon can be seen from earth.

                                                                           hr short center

                                        The closest the moon can come to the earth is 221,463 miles.

                                                                           hr short center

                                            A lightning-flash lasts approximately one-millionth part of a second.

                                                                           hr short center

                                            Halley's comet, on its last appearance in 1910
                                            had a long and very brilliant tail.

hr short center

Venus is better fitted to support human life than any other planet except earth.

hr short center

The 1948 eclipse of the sun ended the day before it began because it crossed the international date line.

hr short center

Once every 500 years a star explodes and releases energy 100,000,000 times greater than that of the sun.

hr short center

Lightning has traveled down a lode of ore and shocked miners working at a depth of a thousand feet.

hr short center

Thunder cannot be heard more than twenty-five miles away, and usually not more than ten or fifteen miles away.

hr short center

    Weathermen define a "storm" as a wind blowing from fifty-six to seventy-five miles an hour. Above that, its usually calle a hurricane.

hr short center

    Tell a man there are 376,857,775 stars and he will believe you, but if a sign says "Fresh Paint," he makes a personal investigation.

hr short center

    The desert air is so dry your skin tingles. Perspiration evaporates before it can be felt or seen. A man has to lather three of four times to finish shave. Seed pods of native desert plants like mesquite don't peel open and split, they just explode.
RAIN IN THE SUMMER. On a summer day great storm clouds roll in and obscure the sun. Far above you can see the falling rain. But no drop reaches the desert; it is evaporated before it strikes earth, and only the oppressive humidity results.

hr short center

    At my hand is a newspaper clipping of a motorist literally baked to death in his automobile while driving a desert road. He was an army captain training here for service in Africa, well supplied with proper manuals and instructions. But he had underestimated the 130-degree heat, and without being aware of it, he was thoroughly dehydrated and lost consciousness. Weighing 180 pounds, he had lost 60 pounds in his four-hour drive.

hr short center

    When I look at the stars and realize that the light from some of these suns, traveling at 186,000 miles a second, takes a million years to reach my eyes, I realize how tiny and insignificant this earth is, and how microscopic and evanescent are my own little troubles. I will pass on soon; but the desert stretching for a thousand miles and the stars and spiral nebula swarming through illimitable space above—they will continue for thousands of millions of years. I marvel that any man looking up at the stars can have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance.



Calico Print

Reviving the paper published in Calico in 1882,
with all the spirit of the silver boom — and we
hope some of the silver.

Send one silver dime for sample copy to—


Drawer 951 — Pasadena, California
$1.50 year       15c copy

(There'll even be stories by Harry Oliver!)


Some one sent a large order to the Valerie Jean Date Shop and remembered to say he saw the ad in my paper, being an independent old rat I wouldn't ask no one to do anything like that. I wonder if any one ever walked up to Mr. Knott at Knott's Berry Farm and said "Mr. Knott I saw your ad in Oliver's paper, so came to see your lay-out." As to C. Roy Hunter's Desert Beach at Salton Sea, I know Thousands have gone there on account of his ad—they stop at my place on their way—if they don't know they're going there on account of the ad I tell them so—and I tell them to tell Roy the ad did it. I put a little salt in his ad, this packet.


A Story With a Moral


    Many a desert collector has poked around a Ghost Town Dump to find an amethyst colored whiskey bottle or spoon holder, to put, with pride, on the shelf. The Magic of years of desert sun, he will say.]
    I told this story at the 3rd annual Peg Leg Liars Contest but there must be something wrong about the moral, it wasn't a winner.
    Thirty years ago here in Borrego, Whisky Joe was pickin' a hole in the side of Santa Rosa Mountain, up above Rock House Canyon, getting just enough gold to keep him in beans, prunes and whisky.
Bottles     He would go to Westmoreland for grub and whisky about every two weeks, coming through Borrego on his way back he always loaded his canteen at Borrego Springs, and would finish his second bottle, putting the empty bottle in his pack, hitting for his trail that went straight through Clark Dry Lake—that is, Whisky Joe went straight when there was a big moon, but when the night was black or there was a sand storm blowing sometimes he would circle on that flat smooth dry lake, cussing as he tried to find trace of his trail.
    One night in a sand storm Joe saw one of his empty bottles then another and they helped him get a line on his way across. This gave Whisky Joe an idea . . . He started saving his whisky bottles, he would cut greasewood sticks, push them in the clay, put bottles over them to mark the trail.
    In about seven years, on a bright moonlight night, Joe's trail looked like Broadway and on dark nights Joe had little trouble following that trail, drunk or sober.
    A couple 'a years after the trail was all fixed, Joe's little vein of gold played out, he couldn't get enough gold to get both food and whisky. So Joe took his few belongings and instead of dropping down the trail into Borrego, he went up and over the mountain.
    Then one day after spending some time around Twenty-Nine Palms, he sees a fellow selling some desert tourists colored glass and getting up to $2.50 for a well colored purple whisky bottle.
    Joe lost no time getting him a string of burros and hot-footing it back to his old trail in the Dry Lake, loaded 2000 fine purple bottles, took them to the dealers, sold them for $2.50 apiece, netting him five thousand bucks and then sold the string of burros at $150 profit. Not bad for Borrego!
    This story has a moral all desert folks should heed . . .
    "Never break a whisky bottle."

hr short center


Geysers of Salton Sea

    Twenty acres of boiling, bubbling mud, shooting out jets of steam and gasses, caused by water seepage form the Salton Sea coming into contact with underground beds of hot rock. Dry ice is made from the gas.
     If your Editor ever gets around to it he is going to get whistles in some of those baby geysers. Why can't you do this Hocus Pocus? This idea is a year old and I can't get to it. You could tell your grandchildren about it for years.

hr short center

J.H.S of Santa Fe writes—

    Konrad, the chef at La Fonda, our local Harvey House, got in the paper the other day for saying he'd seen some flying saucers in the sky that morning.
    Joe, the San Felipe Indian who sells stuff to the tourists around the hotel said, "Huh, I think he just goosed a waitress."

hr short center


     Magistrate: "So you claim the defendant hit you with malice . . . and aforethought?"
    Plaintiff: "No, your Honor— its no good trying to make me contradict myself. I said he hit me with a shovel, and that's right!"

hr short center


Chief Exalted Ruler Of the Desert Rodents
Desert Rat Harry Oliver

    Dear Rat: Looks like the time may come soon when you as the Editor may have to change the word subscription to prescription—The dang thing gets habit forming.—Keith

Knott's Ghost Town

Western Books

Ray Hetherington has reprinted



More about
Pegleg Smith

    Your Editor is happy to print this letter from W. T. Russell of Grass Valley, California.
Peg Leg     I have been particularly interested in your Peg Leg Smith stories, I have been reading everything I could get hold of about Peg Leg for the past sixty years. I am an old broken down prospector, born on the mother lode, El Dorado County in 1875. Spent the most of my life here. I never knew Peg Leg, he passed away a little before my time   But I did know his son Joe, and his grand children, played, danced and worked with the grand children 50-60 years ago, all dead now I think. I tried to get in contact with one that was supposed to be living near Los Angeles, a few years ago but failed.
    Peg Leg Smith drifted to El Dorado county in the early days of the Gold Rush. Took part in an Indian War in El Dorado Co., in 1852. He finally settled down on a small ravine in the north side of El Dorado Co., a branch of Beer Creek. The ravine goes by the name of Peg Leg, to this day. He died there in the early '60's and was buried in an unmarked grave at American flat, El Dorado Co., a few miles from where he had been living. He left a crude map of the lost mine, that he had drawn, his son Joe, thinking it of no value, burned it. In after years he regretted it. Then he would remark "If I only had that may today I could get $1000 for it.
    His son Joe was born at Taos, New Mexico, some time in the 1830's. I think his mother was either a Crow Indian or a Mexican. He died in El Do Co. sometime in the latee 189's.
    I have always had faith in the existence of the mine. If I were 20 years younger, I would not hesitate to spend a few months looking for it. It was simply a rich pocket that eroded and was scattered on the hill side, it often happens.
    And as to the gold being black that was because the gold had been bedded in manganese. Some time after Peg Leg stumbled on to it, it was covered up by one of your sand storms. It has been covered and uncovered several times no doubt.
    The Indian was lucky enough to happen along when it was uncovered.

hr short center

Harry GUN and JUG

    Moonshiner brewed himself a jug of whiskey. When iet was ready he grabbed his gun and the jug and lit out for the nearest community, threw the gun down on the first man that he met up with, handed him the jug of whisky and said, "take a drink," man said he never drank, moonshiner said "drink" so the man took a drink and shuddered all over, moonshiner said "pretty bad stiff apparently," man said it sure was, moonshiner handed the man his gun and took the jug himself, said "now hold the gun on me while I take drink."
—Thanks to Collis Mayflower

hr short center

Pick and Shovel

Dry Camp Blackie is prospecting for a Meerschaum mine—wants to build a pipe shop atop the mine.

hr short center

Haywire Johnnie

The Windmill Monkey from Kate's Hacienda was recounting his troubles to a cow-poke. Among other things he said that Kate was to darn close for any use.
    "This very mornin'," said he, "She asked me" "Windmill, do you know how many pancakes you have et this mornin'?' I said, 'No ma'am; I ain't had no occasion to count 'em.' 'Well!' says she 'that last one was the twenty-sixth.' And it made me so mad I jest got up from the table and went to work without my breakfast!"

hr short center

Troubles of a Joke Smith
By "The Danbury News Man" Back in 1873

    I don't like to have people copy jokes from the papers and send them to me as their own. A man who will do this, will put cayenne pepper in his grandmother's snuff, that is if he ever heard of anyone else doing it, and borrow both he pepper and the grandmother to do it with.

Only One World Famous

Valerie Jean Date Shop

11 Miles South of Indio on Highway 99
or Please Mail Your Order
1 lb. Finest Dates and Confections, $1.30
3 Lbs. Finest Dates and Confections, $3.50
Including Delivery—Write for Folder




HUMOR Was funny back in 1881

    Much distress and sickness attributed to dyspepsia and chronic diarrhea is occasioned by humor in the stomach. Hood's Sasparilla the remedy.
Independent Statesman—1881

hr short center

Crack-Shot Smith Spittin' Champ Goes Hollywood

    Crack-Shot Smith of Yawning Gulch who has chewed tobacco for thirty-eight years, has sworn off, and the change in him is remarkable. He has had his chin sandpapered, and his teeth calsomined, and his delighted wife wants to take him to Hollywood to breath smog through his teeth like those actors do when getting their pictures took.

hr short center


    Joseph Burns, in the Chemung Valley Reporter, telling about the old maid who was very fond of her faithful she-cat and before she left on a trip to Palm Springs she instructed her sister: Now feed Geraldine well and whatever you do don't let her out nights. After a week the sister received a card reading: Having a wonderful time, met a swell fellow on a hay-ride . . . P.S. Let the cat out tonight.


    After several fruitless years of tunneling for gold Pat O'Brien gave up in disgust and abandoned the claim. Later a Swede took it up, continued digging and struck it rich at about ten feet from where O'Brien had quit. When the Irish miner heard about it he said, "Begorra, that'll sure be a lesson to me till my dying day—I'll never stop again till I've gone ten feet further.

     That's the story as sent me by Old Timer, Geo. A. Stingle.

    Last week at Randsburg, I got the rest of the story. It was this same O'Brien that after years of "ten feet further," popped out of the East side of Red Mountain a few weeks ago, like a scared gopher. He wouldn't stop and went right through that darn mountain. When his pick knocked the first hole through her. "Why the sun came in looking just like gold." Said O'Brien, "And begorra I thought I had hit the Mother Lode and I couldn't stop." And he didn't stop till he slid to the bottom of the canyon.

hr short center


Bats are equipped with radar.
The Ocotillo is not a cactus.
The Jack Rabbit is a Hare.
The Joshua Tree is a Lily.

—Your Editor is sober and this Column is full.


Dick Oakes

All text was hand-entered (no OCR scans) by Dick Oakes who did the layout, markup and graphics reproduction (all of Harry's misspellings retained). The contents remain the property of Bill Lincoln and his heirs.