Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

See Page Two
Table of Contents

      Paul Christy 

In 1946 a ‘pickle-jar lottery’ led to 86 winners becoming 


Paul Christy served as a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps in Europe and North Africa during World War II.  “I never shot another airplane and another airplane never shot at me,” Christy recalled. He trained in England with spitfire pilots who fought the Battle of Britain.  With a serious tone Christy admitted seeing action himself and firing on tanks and troops, “unfortunately,” while providing what was known as “ground support” (though it was carried out with aircraft) for General George Patton’s forces against Hitler’s Gen. Erwin Rommel in Tunisia. 

When he returned to the United States, he and his wife Gertrude were married in 1944. He completed his military service in 1945 and entered a lottery in 1946 for one of 86 homesteads in the Tulelake area, along with 1,500 other applicants. As names were pulled out of a pickle jar, Christy’s name came out eighth. 

Equipment was hard to come by after the war, but Christy was able to buy a 1947 Ford truck. “I went in and told them I just got a homestead and needed that truck bad,” Christy said. He drove to Tulelake with his wife, father, and Susan, their baby daughter. In the truck they brought everything they owned: a set of bed springs, mattress, crib, two-burner hot plate and a drop-leaf table. “That’s it,” Christy said. After arriving, they toured the homesteads to choose the one they wanted, according to the order of their drawing. Christy had fifth choice because three veterans ahead of him were disqualified. The homesteaders lived in the internment camp used to house Japanese-Americans during the war.

Eventually they moved out of an apartment and into 100-foot sections of the camp barracks that were sawed in half and trucked to homestead lands for around $300. 
Rough land, tough crops The roads that existed were packed down and rough. When a neighbor irrigated his farmlands, one of the dikes broke and the roads by Christy’s land became a lake. He had to put off the move for weeks. When the barrack halves arrived, one was used as a garage, and the other turned into a home. The home section is still part of Christy’s house, used as a dining room. Cots and mattresses from the camp were used up against the walls as couches. Homesteaders also received coal stoves for heat and some cooking.  When they arrived, their 70 acres were burnt stubble. “Black ashes, that’s all there was,” Christy recalled. He rented out his land and worked for another farmer for two years to learn the trade. 

About the time the Christy’s daughter started kindergarten, work on the Newell school began. There, homesteaders brought about 300 children with them and the school was finished in 1953. Christy took over the farming on his land and grew alsike clover, barley, and potatoes. 

Neighbors helped Christy become independent. The University of California Experiment Station looked for crops to withstand frost, a problem in Tulelake, especially before sprinkler irrigation. Plants suffer more from frost when the ground is dry. Horse-radish was promoted as a crop that actually thrived in cold weather. “The colder the weather, the hotter the horseradish,” Christy noted. Customers had to be secured, and his horseradish patch grew. One of the original plants still grows in the Christy’s backyard.  When it comes to horseradish, Christy doesn’t just grow the stuff. “I love it,” he said. In fact, where he grew up in Indiana, horseradish was a welcome break from the meat and potatoes diet, and an  important source of vitamin C. “We used to take bread, butter, and horseradish.” 

The Christys bought an adjoining 70 acres in 1966. He retired April 10, 2000. He had a “humongous” heart attack seven days later. “I had a seven-day retirement,” he joked, his love for farming still obvious as he shared some horseradish he had stored in a shed behind his home. 

Wife’s memories “Homesteading was harder on wives,” Paul said. “Most were city girls. We came out here and didn’t have any money.” Farm equipment was bought first, then goods for the house. “One girl thought Tulelake was going to be like Lake Oswego,” Gertrude noted. She laughed about getting by with little money. Paper drapes were ordered from “Monkey Wards.” While her husband worked in the fields, Gertrude took their daughter to church in Merrill. “There were no seat belts. She’d stand up the whole way.” Christy also remembers parking so she would not have to back up. Without electricity, a hole was dug under one of the sheds and lined with wet gunny sacks to keep things cool. On a social outing to Lake of the Woods, three rode in the truck’s cab, and Gertrude rode in the back with friends. “When we got there, we were covered in dirt.” Sometimes they would drive out on the dikes, but when “No Turn-Around” signs were absent, they ended up backing up for miles or turning around inch by inch. 

With no water being delivered to their land this year, the lease of their land fell through. The payment would have been received April 10. “Now we are going to get Social Security, free cheese and food stamps,” Paul joked.  “Instead of investing in the stock market we kept this,” Gertrude said pointing out the window to the farmland around their house.  “The irony is we are paying for all their lawyers — these are all government employees. It’s immoral, and they did it to the logger first. Nobody can keep a straight face when they say it’s for sucker fish. It’s unbelievable. They seem to want this reverted back to swamp. “All this is going down the drain, all these schools. It took years to get customers for horseradish. They’ll go 


Table of Contents Homesteaders Contact


Page Updated: Saturday February 25, 2012 05:29 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001, All Rights Reserved