Former mayor weighs in on haylift
Editor’s note: Mert Demonski and I have talked on previous occasions about the emergency haylift. Friday’s article brought back some memories for the former Fallon mayor.
I moved to Fallon in October of 1948 and was county supervisor for the Farmers Home Administration and in Charge of the Fallon and Caliente offices. My territory was everything in Nevada south of U.S. Highway 40 requiring that every two weeks I had to drive over to my office in Caliente.
I rented an apartment on Southern Taylor Street as I was tired of hotel rooms and on a cold -36° January morning awoke to find my pipes frozen and Eastern Nevada under 12 feet of snow. The good news was that I wouldn’t have to drive over to Caliente for awhile. My office was in the Rice Building on the corner of Center and Carson Streets. I didn’t normally take a coffee break, but since we were snowed in my secretary talked me into walking up to Kicks Place for a cup of coffee with the Mayor’s daughter whom she wanted me to meet. The only snow removal equipment the city had was the road grader they used to plow Maine Street piling up a 3-foot bank of snow in the middle that was there for some time. We had to cross it to get our coffee. Expensive cup of coffee … I married the girl.
After WWII NAAS Fallon was decommissioned and turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Snow was scraped off the runways and emergency radio equipment installed in the abandoned tower so that the C-82, Flying Box Cars could land. I volunteered along with a bunch of farmers to load and drop the hay bales and bags of food from the planes.
The planes had a large equipment door on the side at the rear and next to it were two lights, red and green, install for paratroops. There were four of us assigned to each plane. Hay bales were stacked in the middle and two of us with hay hooks dragged the bales over to the two at the door. We had ropes tied around our waists in case we went out with the hay. When the green light came on we bucked the hay and stopped when the red light came on. The slipstream from the aircraft whipped hay particles in our eyes and for a week after wept green tears. We flew so low down the valleys that we had to look up to see the skyline. I can’t recall hitting any cattle with our bales.
After dropping all our hay we flew over mines, line-camps and cabins dropping sacks of food. Got a lot of waves as they were short of rations. The hay lift was a success and ran smoothly. The airfield was returned to the Navy during the Korean Was as an Outlying field. Today only a lonely old hanger marks the spot where we launched the historic hay lift.