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

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       George and Theresa Smith wonder about their future

George and Theresa Smith were ready for their interview. Theresa showed a picture of her late husband, Sam Wynn, and another homesteader, Stan Buckingham, on the cover of Spudman magazine from 1970. She also showed a photo of her and Sam with then Vice President Richard Nixon. Wynn had been in Patton’s Third Army and 
was an artillery observer calculating to aim the big guns. 

hey also showed a copy of Homestead History: 1946 Land Opening put out by the Klamath Project Tule Lake Division. The book contains photos and records of the homesteading. In 1990 George and Theresa lost their first partners, but the long-time friends found each other.  George came to Tulelake after serving 37 months and 17 days in the Navy. He started in Pasco, Wash., as a driver and motor machinist. Later he served in Manila in the Philippines on the chief of staff’s boat, hauling officers “ship to shore.” Smith was not in serious combat, but recalled “looking down the smoke stack one minute and the keel the next” during typhoons and avoiding the hulks of sunken ships in the harbor. He served Admiral Glover, who was in charge of supplying the Pacific fleet. “We always ate good; that’s the reason I didn’t join the Army.”

Not all the homesteaders were men. Eleanor Jane Bolesta was part of the 1947 homestead group and served in the Navy. They made Tulelake home, and Theresa recalled being a city girl and coming there. It took some adjustment, but a new baby, good neighbors, friends, church, and a garden club kept her busy. With no water for their farms this year, they are losing substantial lease money, but still have insurance payments to make on equipment and buildings, and interest payments on loans. 
George plans to plant two-row barley, a crop that requires less water than onions and potatoes. But even after growing up on a dryland wheat ranch, he isn’t sure on his odds of getting a good crop.  “This is really a disaster, and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing,” Theresa said of her experiences with farming and the present situation. Now she wonders what her land is worth, but the worries go even deeper. “It is more than just losing water. It’s destroying a whole way of life, the fertilizer, machine repair, tire, gas and oil businesses, the whole economy, even clothing and shoes,” George said.

The Smiths showed a copy of Homestead History 1946 Land Opening, which details the drawing process and history of the 1946 homesteads in Tulelake. The book includes a notation on the entitlement of 2-1/2 feet of water per acre for every homesteader, a provision they say goes against recent actions by the federal government. 


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