Elko District Office
Print Page

FOR RELEASE: October 23, 2007
CONTACT: Mike Brown, (775) 753-0386
Email: mbrown@nv.blm.gov


Elko, Nev. — Progress continues in the final stages of construction at Elko’s California Trail Center.

“Looking at the building and construction site today, it’s overwhelming to realize this has all been built in just a little over a year,” said Dave Jamiel, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) California Trail Center Manager. “West Coast Contractors has completed the installation of the road base material in the parking lot, passed their compaction testing and the parking lot is closed for the remainder of the project.”

Jamiel added that Jackson Drywall has finished hanging most of the sheetrock and is preparing the surfaces for paint. Team Green has completed the installation of the trail pavers into the plaza pavers and is finishing the edges of the plaza pavers.

#38 – Gee and Haw, the language of Oxen
- by Mike Brown
In early September 1846, Heinrich Lienhard and his companions from Switzerland were making their way to California via the Hastings Cutoff. Traveling through the Canyon of the South Fork of the Humboldt he recorded what happened.

“We had to keep crossing the stream with the water often almost reaching the wagon bed. … here on the fourteenth and final crossing, the road along the right side was considerably higher than on the left. The stream was wide here, and it looked as if the water on our left was deep.

“The right ox in the foremost yoke was called Ben. He was a big slender fellow with long horns. He was a little cross-eyed in one eye; otherwise, he was as a rule a good, obedient animal, but there were times when he wanted to have his own way, his stubborn oxen nature thus coming to the fore. As we approached this last crossing, our Ben didn’t seem to like the looks of this wide river, which appeared to be deep to our left, and he blinked at it with his cross-eye as though we were thinking to himself, “There is something wrong with this water hole – I’m not going in.” More to the right the water was not so deep. It flowed over a pebbly spot and the bottom was clearly visible. Ben’s oxen sense probably told him that one of his size would run no danger of drowning there in a scant foot and a half of water.

“When we arrived at this ford, we immediately discovered that Mr. Ben did not want to go straight ahead into the water; he turned directly to his right. Zins, today’s driver, called “Gee,” and pulled in the reins in time. Thomen stayed at the rear of the wagon to hold it so that it would not capsize because it was listing heavily toward the left. I had fastened a little rope to the end of Ben’s right horn and was trying my best to pull the stubborn old fellow to the left, and Zins cracked his whip and commanded, “Oh-haw.” But Ben wanted to “Gee,” and our right wagon wheels raised even higher, causing the wagon to lean over to the left. We were barely able to hold the oxen. Now I turned to the right side of Ben, commanded, “Oh-haw,” and holding him with both hands by his right horn, I tried with all my might to push him to the left, but when all the oxen pulled together, the cross-eyed fellow lifted me to the right as easily as if I had been a child. … our wagon tipped over into four feet of water … the wheels were in the air … all our belongings were in the water.”

With a lot of hard work and extensive cursing about the ways of oxen, Lienhard and his companions righted the wagon and continued out of the canyon and pitched camp for the day.

From Heinrich Lienhard’s From St. Louis to Sutter’s Fort, 1846


Last updated: 03-26-2015