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The Hansen family members at their homestead ranch in Inyokern Circa 1920. | Courtesy Photo

Homesteader shares memories of life on the Hanson Ranch Part 2

“On the visits to the ranch, I loved to walk all over the desert, especially in the spring time when the flowers were so thick you could not walk without stepping on some of them,” said Vivian.

“The food cooler at the house was still being used during those early days. This consisted of burlap sacks draped over a framework with shelves inside. Water was dripped on the sacks and a breeze blowing on the water soaked sacks produced a natural refrigerator. You could always count on the wind to do this job.

On April 1949, Russell VanDevender and I were married. Russ had finished Engineering School at Northrup Aeronautical Institute and had applied for a job at the Naval Ordinance Test Station, China Lake, California, but was turned down. He did not have the skills yet that they needed. We settled down in Monrovia, California (9 miles east of Pasadena) for 15 years, while we raised a family of five children. Russ went to night school to complete more schooling and to get his State Professional Engineering License. This took over ten years. In 1964, Russ answered a classified ad in the newspaper for a job at Naval Ordnance Test Station (N.O.T.S.), China Lake.

To our surprise, he received an answer and an invitation to visit the installation. He got the job and moved up in April of that year. The children and I followed in June after school was out. It must have been an interesting sight as we came through the gate with a station wagon full of 5 kids, a very large dog, and an assortment of luggage and a few last minute things thrown in. Russ must have alerted the guard at the gate to watch for our arrival, because when we got there, the guard phoned him and shouted ‘they’re all here’.

Our first temporary house was a duplex on Radford Street, then to a 4 bedroom on Shangrila Circle for 15 years. “With the rent increasing rapidly and only 2 kids left in High School, we decided to look for a place to buy. With much looking and evaluating, we ended up with 20 acres north of Inyokern and space to enjoy life. We have never regretted it. The move to the desert was a benefit to the children as well as for us. It gave them the opportunity to discover and enjoy the Great High Sierras and the wide open spaces. It was not uncommon to transport a load to kids to and from Southern California to spend weekends with us which we used to do some exploring. They were always glad to get away from the pressures of the ever growing cities.

IYK First School Bus
The first Inyokern School Bus was provided and driven by Clarence Ives, one of the earliest homesteaders in the Indian Wells Valley. | Courtesy Photo

The years on the desert produced many lasting good friendships, some of which we still see. In the early days of the valley, keeping in touch with friends and neighbors were beneficial both for the survival and loneliness, especially if they had kids.”

“One day a black cloud hung in Nine-Mile Canyon all day. As darkness approached, a roar was heard. The animals panicked and the cats clung to the screen door. With flashlight in hand, Dad went to the outskirts of the property and found much water roaring past to it destination: China Lake (dry lake to the East). It was a good sized flash flood that came out of Nine-Mile Canyon and went between the Carr Ranch and the Hansen Ranch and on to China Lake. Along Highway 6, hailstones fell as big as baseballs, puncturing a car roof that killed the driver,” Ruth remembers. “There was so much water in China Lake that it looked black from the house.”

When Grandma Johnston would come from Pasadena to visit she would write ahead with the date and approximate time of arrival. Grandma Johnston had a friend who drove to Bishop occasionally and would drop her off on Highway 6 and she would signal with a mirror and Mom or Dad would be watching and go pick her up. Grandma would be returned to the highway about the time the friend was returning home. The mirror signal was probably used again.

At first, Mother drove the girls to school in a horse and buggy. After they got another horse from the Carr family, Ruth drove them to school where horse and buggy waited to take them home again.

When the kids started going to the Inyokern School a bus was provided and driven by Clarence Ives. It was a truck covered with canvas. If the children misbehaved they had to walk all 12 miles. One time the kids tied the driver to the seat. Yes, they walked.

The Schuette kids would drive an old car to the Hansen ranch and ride the bus from there.
Vivian served as a Librarian for the Sierra Sands Unified School District for many years at Burroughs High School and Murray Junior High School.

Vivian celebrated her 94th birthday on June 14th; she now lives with family in Ridgecrest.

Read Part 1 of  “Homesteader shares memories of life on the Hanson Ranch”