A Short History of Rachel

A Short History of

Rachel, Nevada

By Glenn Campbell
HCR Box 38, Rachel, NV 89001

Prepared for the Rachel Senior Center
Edith Grover, Director

Edition 1.1a

First Edition: January 6, 1996

Revised: March 11, 1996, Sept. 4, 1996

This document is property of the Rachel Seniors and is posted here by permission. If you appreciate this work, please send a donation to the Rachel Senior Center. $1 to $5 is recommended. Send cash or check (made to Edith Grover) to:

Rachel Senior Center
c/o Edith Grover
HCR Box 53
Rachel, NV 89001

Edith says that donations will be applied toward a new heating system for the Rachel Senior/Community building.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Pre-History
  3. A Mining Town... Built on a Farm
  4. Rachel Jones
  5. Plane Crashes
  6. The UFOs Arrive
  7. Rachel Businesses
  8. Rachel Organizations
    1. MUMS and the TV Translator
    2. The Sheriff's Substation
    3. Library & Senior-Community Building
    4. Ambulance & Ambulance Barn
    5. Rachel Baptist Church
  9. Rachel Personalities
    1. D.C. Day
    2. Edith Grover
  10. The Future of Rachel
  11. Rachel Timeline
  12. Foot Notes



I will revise and expand this history as new facts and corrections become available, so please let me know of any errors or omissions.

Glenn Campbell

702-729-2648


Introduction

Rachel reminds many outsiders of a visit to "The Twilight Zone." After miles of lonely highway without a tree or building in sight, you come over a crest and there it is: a scatter of mobile homes spread out like buckshot across a Mars-like valley. Rachel seems almost like a planet of its own, cut off from the rest of the world by miles of emptiness. It doesn't help that the nearest civilization is a top secret military base known for its UFO stories. To the outside world, Rachel is "Lost in Space," and a visitor passing on the highway may wonder what it is like to be stranded here, miles from the conveniences of civilization. Would living in such a place drive you mad? Would you make a deal with the Devil to get out? Rod Serling could have probably knitted a surreal and haunting story out of these circumstances, but in reality Rachel is a village not much different from any other. Once you have lived here for a while, the distances vanish, and the desolate setting is forgotten. All you see, over time, are the people here and what the have done to make this place a home.

With only about 100 people in the whole valley now[1] and 200-300 in its heyday[2], Rachel has never even rated a post office. There is a gas station/convenience store at one end of town and a restaurant/bar/motel at the other. Although there are least five permanent houses now, most people live in mobile homes on patches of scrub desert. Rachel is located at the southern end of the Sand Springs Valley, an otherwise empty, bowl-shaped valley about 25 miles wide. To the northwest of town is a dry lake without a name, and to the west are the huge green circles of the Penoyer Farms, where alfalfa is grown using well water. Ringing the horizon on all sides are barren mountains, usually crystal clear in the distance. On most days you can "see forever," and at night the stars seem so close that you feel like you are out among them. Outsiders would dismiss the town for its remote location and tiny size, but these are precisely the qualities that residents appreciate. This is a place of freedom and simplicity, where the things that draw people together are the basics of life.

If we were to fix a time for the birth of the town, it would be March 22, 1978 at 5:45pm. That is the day and time that electric power first arrived in the Sand Springs Valley (also known as Penoyer Valley) on a long line of new poles down from the Union Carbide mine.[3] There may have been history here stretching back to age of dinosaurs, but only in 1978 did that history begin to have a coherent identity. That was the time when Rachel took its current name and the valley adopted its first autonomous form of government--and indeed the only government it has today--the Penoyer Valley Electric Cooperative.

Rachel citizens like their life without much government. The Electric Cooperative causes friction enough, with rates sometimes going up and down dramatically to the power company's tiny size and inability to absorb losses. Some meetings of the Power Board have been electrically charged, as some angry residents threatened to go back to generators and again have no government at all. People did not come here to be fenced in. Rachel is a place where you can still buy 5 acres of scrub desert for about $6595[4], put your mobile home in the middle of it, drill a well for another $3500 and hook up to the power grid if you so choose. Then it is your domain to do with as you wish without any outside demands aside from the local power bills and property tax assessments from the far away county government in Pioche.

Pioche (pronounced "Pee-OH-ch") along with Carson City and Washington are names not usually spoken of kindly in these parts. All of them represent distant foreign kings, making intrusive rules and taking their booty in taxes without giving much in return. If a vote were taken today and the act were possible, Rachel would probably opt to succeed from the rest of Lincoln County. This village is different from the major population centers to the east--Alamo, Caliente, Panaca and Pioche, big towns with over 500 people each. That part of the county is dominated by old Mormon families, many of them descendants of original 1800s settlers and whose attitudes and society have not changed much since then. Rachel is a newer and more diverse community: now about 30-40 households, nearly all of them from out of state and some from huge metropolises like Boston, Tulsa and Lubbock. Apart from the children, everyone living here has come here by choice, not birth. They feel comfortable with the 150-mile haul to Las Vegas for most shopping and services. Freedom to do as you wish is what brings people here and makes up for the inconvenience, so it is not something residents surrender easily.

Rachel would be unknown to the world if it wasn't for the UFO claims. Since 1989, people from around the world have come to Highway 375 to look for lights in the sky they think are extraterrestrial. The visitors talk about "Area 51", the top secret military base 25 miles south of here, but the base has little real connection with Rachel aside from its proximity on the map. "You can't get there from here," the locals might say about the base, so it could just as well be a million miles away. Most residents have never seen any UFOs and are generally skeptical of the fantastic claims made by tourists. No more than 5 or 6 residents still work at the "Test Site"--meaning any of the restricted government areas to the south or west--and those who work at Area 51 won't discuss it. Most of the UFO and Area 51 talk is limited to the bar, which caters to the "UFO-tourists" and where no claim is too fantastic to be exchanged as truth. The rest of Rachel's population hardly ever thinks about UFOs except when asked by reporters.

Apart from the UFO anomaly, Rachel is essentially a mining town whose fortunes have risen and fallen with that of the Union Carbide tungsten mine on Tempiute Mountain about five miles east of town. Although the mine is now closed, many maps of Nevada still show only the abandoned mine site, Tempiute, instead of Rachel. When Union Carbide bought the mine and reopened it in the mid-1970s, there was an immediate need for housing for 100-plus workers and their families. There wasn't enough flat land around the mine itself for more than a dozen mobile homes, so a land rush of sorts began in the Sand Springs Valley below. The site that is now Rachel possessed the two essential requirements for settlement: accessible underground water and private land.

When Union Carbide closed the mine around 1988, the fortunes of Rachel fell with it. At least half of the population moved out, leaving behind many empty mobile home pads and a few hardy survivors. Not long after that, due to outside events that are a mystery to most residents, the UFO watchers started arriving, but the visitors brought good fortune only to the Rachel Bar and Grill, which quickly changed its name to the Little A'Le'Inn and began endorsing the claims. Increased employment at the bar at minimum wage never made up for the loss of the mine and its good paying jobs, and many residents still live with the hope that the mine might someday be back.

Pre-History

Between Rachel and Alamo lies some unique geology.[5] The "Alamo breccia" is a ancient layer of sea sediment visible from Milepoint 35.4 on Highway 375.[6] What is unusual about this layer is its location and odd mix of fossils. The area that is now Rachel was under a vast inland sea until about 50 million years ago, but the fossils in the breccia are inconsistent with what should be here. Apparently, fish from deeper waters were thrown up violently on shore, where their fossils mixed with those of shallow-water creatures. This leads geologists to believe that a massive meteorite struck the sea about 375 million years ago. Although the site of the impact is subject to debate, it could have taken place at or near Rachel. Any crater, however, has long since been filled in by millions of year of erosion.

In more recent history, this region was the occasional home to bands of Piute Indians, from which the name of nearby Tempiute Mountain comes. In the hills around Rachel can be found petroglyphs, arrowheads and other signs of Indian encampment,[7] although there is no indication of any permanent Indian settlement. The first white settlements in the area were mining camps in the surrounding mountains, which came and went in a boom-and-bust cycle. Within a 30-mile radius of Rachel are the remnants of dozens of abandoned mines and several fairly long-term mining camps including Logan, Crescent, Freiburg, Groom, and settlements on the west and south sides of Tempiute Mountain. Silver, tungsten, mercury and lead were mined in this vicinity once.

Logan, on the side of Mount Irish about 30 miles east of Rachel, was founded in the 1860s during Lincoln County's first mining boom, but the rush there was over by 1869.[8] In 1865, silver was discovered in Tempiute Mountain about five miles east of Rachel, and mining continued there off and on for over 120 years. Between the booms, a few small operators eked out a subsistence living extracting marginal ores. Since most early miners lived as close as possible to their mine, none of this activity resulted in any settlement at the current site of Rachel. A 1908 map of Lincoln County[9] shows a road junction called Sand Springs just west of the current Rachel site[10], but it is unclear whether anyone actually lived there. (It may have been the spring from which water was hauled for the mines on Tempiute Mountain--see below.) Until the 1960s, there were only isolated ranch and milling sites in the valley.

Wesley Koyen, who lives alone in a ranch house about 5 miles north of Rachel, has been in this valley longer than anyone else. He was born in nearby Alamo, has lived in the valley since the 1932[11] and was connected with Tungsten mining on Tempiute Mountain for years. In the 1960s, he built a small ball mill[12] across the highway from the current site of Rachel. The mill was later damaged in a fire, and the rusted machinery is still visible there today, as though frozen in time. Mr. Koyen's life probably deserves a history in itself, but it is separate from Rachel's.

The mines on Tempiute Mountain had been through several cycles of boom and bust prior to the settlement of Rachel...[13]

During the winter of 1865, silver was discovered in the Timpahute Range, east of Sand Valley. In Dec. of 1898 a band of prospectors discovered additional lodes of silver. The Tem Piute mining district was established and was supposed at one time to have an immense vein of ore, the Inca Lode, running through it. The area was also known for lead. Ore specimens were sent to Hamilton for assay and showed values from $72 to $300 per ton. Like Delamar, mining was difficult due to scarcity of water. The water had to be packed to the camp by Indians from springs 12 miles away.

With about 50 miners in the camp, Tem Piute post office was activated from 1879 to 1883. When the ten-stamp mill was dismantled in the following year, most mining ceased. Tungsten ore was found in 1916, but not until additional deposits were uncovered two decades later and a small mill was built did large-scale mining begin. The Lincoln Mine Co. commenced operations in the 1940s. Tempiute prospered during World War II, then slumped again and the region was almost deserted until 1950 when the price of tungsten rose. About this time the Wah Chang Trading Company of New York City, tungsten buyers and importers, incorporated the entire district under the name of the Black Rock Mining Company.

With over 700 residents the post office re-opened and a school was built. Of the 66 active tungsten mines in Nevada, the Lincoln Mine was one of the nation's major producers of tungsten. Once again the price of tungsten fell in 1957, and the mill was shut down.

It was soon dismantled leaving bare foundations and remains of houses. For over 15 years the area became a ghost town again. Once again mining came to Tempiute in the early [or mid] 1970s when the Union Carbide Co. re-opened the tungsten mine. With the objections of the great distances the workers had to travel to work, it was obvious something had to be done.

A Mining Town... Built on a Farm

Surprisingly, in spite of all the surrounding emptiness, available land is a rare commodity in rural Nevada. Most of Nevada is "public land" owned by the American people and managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Public land is open to settlement or sale only under certain limited circumstances, so when Union Carbide re-opened the mine, this was the closest possible place to build a town. The existence of private land here had to do with agriculture, not mining. Rachel sits atop a vast aquifer that is as close as 100 feet below the surface. That and the sunny desert skies makes irrigation farming possible and even profitable when prices are good. It is a curious sight to be driving across this parched terrain and come upon vast circles of green alfalfa in the valley west of Rachel. The difference is so striking that Air Force pilots on exercise use "The Farms" as an important landmark in the otherwise endless and indescribable desert.[14]

The land around Rachel was public until the 1960s when D.C. Day[15], Edwin Gunderson[16] and a few other hardy farmers turned it into private land in a federal homesteading program To obtain private title to what was previously public domain, one had to successfully irrigate and farm a portion of the land for a certain number of years. It wasn't easy. The water was ample and alfalfa, sugar beets and corn grew well,[17] but the cost of operating a farm here was high. Water was pumped by propane motors, and fuel got more expensive while crop prices remained low.[18] The number of homesteaders in the valley gradually dwindled as the land in D.C. Day's domain grew, but even D.C. could barely hold on. In the late 60's and early 70's, the price of propane went from six cents a gallon to over twenty, and D.C. could not make ends meet. Although he eventually obtained title to 4000 acres, he ran out of money to cultivated it.

In the Watergate era, bank loans dried up, so D.C. had to seek investors. He formed a corporation and attracted the interest of a wealthy insurance man from Dallas.[19] The investor visited the valley and was impressed with D.C.'s proposal to build a full-fledged farm. He said, "I'll tell you what. I'll put in $2 million." The investor said he would send the paperwork the following week, after a vacation to Florida. The investor, it turns out, was some kind of health fanatic--which can sometimes be taken to unhealthy extremes. D.C. says: "Well, he went to Florida and went in and had a transfusion of sheep's blood that was supposed to make you younger and all this good stuff. He and another fellow right behind him took it and they had spoiled blood, and they died in less than 24 hours." That was the end of the investor and his $2 million.

Things were getting desperate for D.C. when he hit upon the idea of subdividing some of his land and selling it as housing lots.[20] This was strange idea in the early 1970s because of the remoteness of the area. All that was here then were struggling farms and some very small mining operations, and Union Carbide had not yet reactivated the mine. Why would anyone buy land so far from civilization? Ed Gunderson on the other side of the valley had tried the same without much luck, but D.C. fared better owing to his better location. Ed and Laura Fallis were the first to buy land in the subdivision, then Union Carbide reopened the Lincoln Mine around 1976, and D.C.'s struggling subdivision, being the closest private land, promised to become a real town.

Union Carbide was a difficult neighbor, however. When it became clear that the mine would be reopened, that's when D.C. says the harassment began.[21] State inspectors from Las Vegas and Carson City descended on D.C.'s tiny subdivision and started to find fault where there had been none before. One inspector forced a new landowner to cap off his well and fill it with concrete because he had drilled it himself and not used a licensed drilling company, even though the well itself was sound.[22] Another inspector demanded that D.C. rip up all the PVC piping he had installed to supply water in his new trailer park because the law only required a lower quality piping.[23] "Every time we turned a shovel of dirt up out here they'd try to stop us." says D.C.

"We could never prove it," he says[24], "but Union Carbide had started a subdivision in Alamo. They wanted their employees to buy or live in Alamo... I sold some land in the subdivision to a friend of mine down at Alamo and they told him, `If you buy land down in Penoyer Valley, look for another job.'"

D.C. had fought long and hard for his land in Sand Springs Valley and was not going to let anyone rob him of its benefit. He complained to the director of the state health department and to the head office of Union Carbide in New York. D.C. Day made so much noise that the harassment soon stopped. He believes that the attempt to "shut us down" did not come from the head office of Union Carbide but somewhere at a lower level, where the company did have an improper influence with the state. It is hard to say whether the actions of some Union Carbide employees convinced any workers to choose Alamo instead of Day's subdivision, but Day's community of mobile homes did prosper when the mine was open.

A trailer park was built by D.C. and J.R. Robinson, and in 1976 large Honda generators were brought in to supply the closest residents with power. Back then communication was by CB,[25] and there was no television or daytime radio reception.[26] Fuel for the generators was expensive, and negotiations began with the Lincoln County Power District to bring in power lines. Nothing happened, however, until a farming concern, the Mel Brown Company, bought farm land from D.C. in 1977 and needed power to run its pumps. Then, a local cooperative was formed, leading to the switch-on of power on March 22, 1978.

Rachel Jones

D.C. first called his subdivision Tempiute Village, because it was near the mine at Tempiute Mountain, and the town has also been known as Sand Springs. As people began to move here, they felt both names lacked distinction. When the town formed a cooperative to negotiate the bringing of power into the valley, the name of the town was also discussed.

The first and only child to be born in this valley was Rachel Jones. Her father delivered her in their mobile home on Feb. 15, 1977. The town, then, was on the upswing, and Rachel's birth struck everyone as an important event. D.C., La Rae Fletcher and Laura Fallis thought the name of the town should be changed to Rachel, and others agreed. The name of the town was changed at the same time power came in. Ever since then, "Rachel Day" has been held on the first Saturday of April to celebrate both events. (Later changed to first week in May.[27])

Sadly, the child Rachel died only three years after her birth. Her family had moved to Moses Lake, Washington, where Rachel succumbed to a respiratory problem, presumably aggravated by the dust from the Mt. St. Helens eruption. She died on May 23, 1980.[28] In memory of her, residents created a cemetery and memorial park[29]. Although Rachel herself isn't buried there, four other residents are.

Buried at Rachel Cemetary
Edmund FallisDec. 5, 1984
Aloue Vina "Grandma" HeadyJan. 6, 1985
James MoodyJan. 12, 1992
Rosalie WimmerJune 7, 1981

Plane Crashes

Rachel lies underneath a major military exercise area, the Nellis Range Complex. Visitors are startled by the many loud sonic booms in the area, but most residents have gotten so used to them they hardly notice. Some people, like Ralph Grover, a former Air Force mechanic[30] who spent his last years here, have enjoyed living here because they could see jets flying around all the time, but most residents only notice what goes on overhead when the booms knock pictures off the wall or when jets crash in their backyard.

In fact, a jet did crash in a backyard once. It came down practically in the middle of town, missing power lines and trailers by only a few feet.. On July 10, 1986, at about 4:10pm, two F-16 jets of the Norwegian Air Force collided in mid-air while participating in Red Flag exercises near Rachel. One of the planes came down just 75 feet from D.C. Day's trailer park[31] and only a few feet from the playground. Sharon Bales (now Sharon Singer), who along with her two children was in the trailer closest to the impact, heard what she thought was a very load sonic boom that almost knocked her trailer off its foundation.[32] This was not too unusual in itself--Rachel being the sonic boom capital--but the flashes of light coming through the window raised her concern. Sharon stepped outside and saw a burning pile of debris and smoke billowing over her trailer.

The pilot had ejected safely before the crash, and the other jet made it back to Nellis Air Force Base. Needless to say, there was a lot of activity in town following the crash. Residents converged on the area with shovels and garden hoses to keep the grass fires from spreading to the trailers. Jeff Fallis saw the pilot come down in his parachute near the old mill across the highway, and he drove out in his pickup truck to pick him up. As Fallis approached, the pilot held up his hands and said, "I didn't mean to!" Apart from some bruises, the pilot was unharmed.

An Air Force helicopter arrived within 18 minutes of the crash to take him away, and that was the last folks saw of him, although La Rae and Edith later exchanged letters with him. The area of the crash was cordoned off, and the fire in the plane was allowed to burn itself out. Residents were evacuated to the bar (then known as the Stage Stop Saloon & Kitchen) to protect them from the fumes. The next day, a military clean-up crew combed the desert for debris, and the day after that, the wreckage was trucked away on a big flatbed, leaving only a burn mark to indicate where the crash had been.

No one seemed to blame the Air Force for the nearly disastrous event, and the recovery soon turned into a social occasion. Rachel residents prepared a picnic for the clean-up crew on the front lawn of Ralph and Edith Grover. A month and a half later, on Aug. 28, everyone who participated in the recovery was invited back to Rachel for a barbecue. Although the pilot could not be there, he sent a letter of thanks.

The Norwegian Air Force and the pilot sent the town a molded crest, patches, photos, a small Viking ship and letters of commendation, including this one that came with the crest[33]:

OVERSENDELSE AV CREST

I forbindelse med F-16 havariet på Nellis AFB 10 juli då ble befolkningen i landsbyen Rachel sterkt involvert i rednings - og letearbeidet ved krasjstedet. Dessuten ble våre folk tatt godt vare på og ble hjulpet på en meget tilfredsstillende mate under deres opphold i byen. I den anledning har Generlinspektøren for Luftforsvaret bestemt a vise sin takknemlighhet overfor befolkningen i Rachel ved a overrekke en crest med følgende inskipsjon:

Presented to
the inhabitants of Rachel
from the Inspector General of the
Royal Norwegian Air Force
Airplace crash - 10 July 1986

Det er derfor GILs ønske at oberstløytnant Søftelend ved en passende anledning overrekker denne crest'en sammen med følgeskrivet ti "The Residents of Rachel."

Vi ser gjerne at rapport blir sendt adjutant/GIL når oppdraget er utført.

Med Hilsen
T. Gustavsen
Kaptein, Adjutant/GIL

The town later received a Christmas card from the pilot:

To the people in the community of Rachel:

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy peaceful new year. I hope all of you are doing good and are with good health.

I have recovered from the accident and are flying as normal in my squadron. My job in the sqn. is deputy sqn. commander and chief of the operations. But from next year I will start a new job as flying safety officer of my airbase.

Concerning the accident, the investigation board couldn't find anything to blame me. I was of course happy to hear that. I was also happy to hear that you doesn't hold a grudge to me. (I read that in Bullseye, a newspaper of Nellis AFB.)

I promised you to send a picture. I also send a couple of patches we are use in my airforce. The first one is a common patch all the F-16 pilots in the airforce use (RNOAF stands for Royal Norwegian Air Force). The other one is a sqn. patch from my sgn.--332. This sgn was established during the last world-war in England. On both you can see the relationship to the vikings. Norway is famous for the vikings who ravaged for some centuries ago. And again, merry Christmas and happy new year. (The words on front of the card mean the same.)

Best wishes from your friends in Norway,

Leif Granseth

Saltnes, Norway

The U.S. Air Force was less expressive, at least officially, and offered no commendations. The community received no compensation for the crash or its later inconvenience, not even a free meal when everyone was sequestered in the Stage Stop. The Air Force would not allow Sharon Bales and her family to return to their trailer until the next day for fear of fumes, but they did not offer to pay for other lodging. However, the people of Rachel held no grudges for their close call and remember with fondness all the nice military men they met during the clean-up. An officer from Nellis AFB, Major Donald Flynn, sent the town a thank you letter for the barbecue, and in February 1987 the Air Force gave residents a free tour of Nellis Air Force Base.

The site of the crash was the triangle of community land immediately behind the Quik Pik trailer park, just east of the playground. The land is now known as the D.C. Day Park. (Location: N37deg.38.575', W115deg.44.405'.) Until 1995, you could still find small pieces of wreckage in the empty lot, but then the land was graded to improve the park, and it is hard to find any pieces now.

Crash at Dump. There were other crashes in the vicinity over the years, including a jet which crashed in Spring of 1984 near the town dump. The location was along the Dump Road about a mile from Rachel. (You can still find some tiny pieces of debris about 0.4 mile from the highway. Location: N37deg.39.575', W115deg.45.400'.) In this case, there were no friendly encounters with the military. Some men of the town raced to the site just after the crash, but helicopters bearing guards arrived almost immediately and warned them off in no uncertain terms. "You have one minute to turn around and leave the area," the local men were told.

Townspeople differ as to the type of aircraft it was. Some say it was a Marine Corps Harrier,[34] while an F-16 has been mentioned and others think it was a Russian MiG. Following the crash, residents were given a free tour of Nellis AFB, just like after the Norwegian crash. La Rae Fletcher says that during the tour, Pat Fallis asked the Colonel in charge, "Why are you telling us it was an F-16 when it was really a Russian MiG?" The Colonel reportedly got very upset at that and said to an aid, "How the hell did they find that out?"

Small aircraft parts found at the site[35] appear to bear no Russian markings, only English, so what was the real story? Was it a Harrier that was secret for some reason and the Air Force was claiming it was an F-16 (meaning the Colonel was bluffing about the MiG)? In any case, security was tight and the debris was picked up quickly--in less than 24 hours. It was a typical military operation, though: Residents recall that the flatbed truck which hauled out the debris got stuck in the sand[36] and then got lost in Rachel trying to find the road to the Test Site.[37] Residents do not know whether the pilot ejected safely.

Persistent rumors of a MiG crash near Rachel have been reported as fact in the aviation press, but these are still unproven. Captured or purloined MiGs have certainly been flown from Groom Lake and Tonopah Test Range, and there was a confirmed crash which killed a General Bond in the 1980s, but that was inside the range according to news reports. The following are the only crashes the Rachel people remember.

Plane Crashes in Rachel Vicinity[38]
Norwegian F-4 Rachel Playground July 10, 1986
Marine Corp. Harrier? Near Rachel Dump Spring 1984
F-4 Crash, no survivors Near the Seeps ?
Canadian F-4, no survivors North end of Groom Range?
F-4 Crash, no survivors Back side of Tempiute Mtn ?

Although most residents hardly notice the booms, the skies over Rachel remain active year round, with most of our country's military combat aircraft--and many from other nations--passing overhead at one time or another. Most of resident's concern involves damage done by the booms, which has involved a substantial number of broken windows and items knocked off walls. Since the jets have always been here, though, it is hard to claim that anyone is unprepared. The Air Force is fairly responsive to claims if submitted on the proper form, but it never seems to return full value for the damages and cannot seem to enforce the "Noise Sensitive Area" over Rachel.

Edith Grover says that residents saw the Stealth fighter long before the government admitted having it,[39] and the B-2 stealth bomber has often been seen here in recent years. While residents tend to be highly skeptical about UFO watchers and UFO sightings along the highway, they seem open to the notion of unrevealed aircraft still being tested at Area 51. As for the government operating alien spacecraft at the Test Site, many residents do not dismiss it, even if they do dismiss the visiting UFO buffs.

The UFOs Arrive

Whether or not you believe in UFOs, one thing is certain: The UFO watchers are real and are sighted here with great frequency. Most of them go directly to the Little A'Le'Inn where they buy souvenirs and listen to Joe Travis talk about the New World Order. The wave of UFO buffs took the town by surprise beginning in late 1989, and "ufotourists" have come here in growing numbers ever since.

In November 1989, a Las Vegas resident, Bob Lazar, claimed on a Las Vegas television station[40] that he had worked with alien spacecraft at Papoose Lake, in the Nellis Range about 35 miles south of Rachel. He said that he saw nine flying saucers in a hanger built into a hillside, and that he had worked as a scientist to "reverse engineer" the propulsion system of one of these craft.[41]

Part of his story was that in March and April of 1989, he brought some of his friends to the Tikaboo Valley, 25 miles before Rachel on Highway 375, to watch the saucers being tested in the sky on Wednesday nights. As soon as his claims were publicized, it seemed that everyone was coming to the Tikaboo Valley to look for UFOs on Wednesday nights. The sacred site among UFO watchers was the "Black Mailbox," which is rancher Steve Medlin's mailbox and the only landmark along the lonely stretch of highway in the Tikaboo Valley. Some who ventured further down the highway came upon the Rachel Bar and Grill.

Rachel is no closer to the Tikaboo Valley than Alamo, which is a lot bigger and more accessible, but only the Rachel Bar & Grill took hold with the UFO watchers. It may have been the impressive isolation and open terrain that made Rachel attractive to UFO watchers, or it may have been Pat & Joe Travis' eagerness to please. When the wave was just starting, Pat & Joe told an aviation journalist[42] that they did not really believe the UFO stories but that it was good for business. Later, however, as the business rolled in, the Travis's began to embrace UFOs wholeheartedly, and they now seem to endorse all UFO claims without exception.

If walk into the bar and ask for the last time UFOs were sighted, the answer always seems to be, "Just the other night." The sighting is usually reported by a tourist; Rachel residents themselves never seem to see them. Pat Travis has only two first-hand UFO stories. In one, a ball of light came through the door while Pat and Joe were sitting alone at the bar shortly after they had bought it. Joe and Pat recognized it as an alien presence and offered it a can of beer. In the other story, the bar is protected by an alien named "Archibald," who only Pat can feel and hear and who saved her life on the highway once by warning her to slow down when a cow was on the road ahead.[43] Joe Travis says the UFO mystery is tied up with the "New World Order," a global conspiracy of the federal government and the United Nations to take away our guns and other rights.

Shortly after the watchers started arriving, Pat & Joe changed the name of their bar to the Little A'Le'Inn (pronounced "Little Alien") and started selling T-shirts and other souvenirs imprinted with aliens. Although what first brought the UFO watchers here were the claims of Bob Lazar, the UFO lore has since taken on a life of its own, and a wide range of claims are now circulating that seem to have nothing to do with the relatively down-to-earth Lazar story. Some visitors believe the UFOs represent a vast worldwide conspiracy of governments to control the people, as Joe Travis claims, while other tourists feel they are in direct psychic communication with the aliens. Some people who visit the bar even believe they are aliens themselves and can tell you exactly which star system they came from.

Most of the claims center on "Area 51," the secret aircraft testing facility at Groom Dry Lake, about 25 miles south of Rachel. This large Air Force base, which the government does not talk about, was the testing ground for the U-2, A-12 and F-117A before these planes were made public. Lazar never claimed there were saucers at Groom Lake, only in the valley to the south, but Area 51 was easier for UFO buffs to focus on than Lazar's ambiguous location.

Interest in the area was given a boost by Rachel resident Glenn Campbell, who was the first to write a book about the claims. His Area 51 Viewer's Guide, a compendium of confirmable facts, helped make the story approachable by the major media. In June 1993, Campbell discovered a hill along the military boundary, about 25 miles south of Rachel, that he called "Freedom Ridge" where you could legally view the Groom Lake base. Another small mountain, White Sides, had been discovered by the UFO watchers prior to Campbell's arrival, but Freedom Ridge was much more accessible. Campbell blazed a four-wheel-drive road to the top of it so the "nonexistant" Area 51 base became like a drive-in movie.

When the Air Force moved to seize both viewpoints in October 1993--an action that had been in the works since the discovery of White Sides--Campbell issued press releases and made sure the world knew about it. That's when the biggest wave of publicity began, with many major media outlets visiting Freedom Ridge to report on the "nonexistent" base. The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science,The New York Times and many other publications ran stories on the base and on Rachel, as did dozens of TV outlets, including ABC News, CNN, Encounters and Sightings. On Oct. 1, 1994, Larry King brought a crew of 50 to Rachel for a live , 2-hour special on TNT. They built an open-air set in the desert across the highway from the bar, employed at least six television cameras and conducted the show as the sun went down. Millions around the country saw it.

Rachel Businesses

The Sand Springs Valley is currently the home of five full-time businesses: The Bar, The Store, The Farm, The Ranch and The Research Center. D.C. Day used to make septic tanks, and Clarence and Judy Jones used to have a printing shop but those businesses have been closed since the 80s. And of course it was the Union Carbide mine that put this place on the map, while the Penoyer Valley Electric Cooperative employs one person part-time. Most residents who don't work for one of these are retired or unemployed or they work for the "Test Site." About 5 residents work for the "Test Site," meaning Area 51, the Nellis Range, the Nevada Test Site or Tonopah Test Range, without any clear distinction as to which one.

The Store. The store was first opened by J.R. Robinson around 1987 in a single mobile home. It was then sold to Jim & Sue Lindow, who eventually defaulted on it. The store was closed for several years until D.C. Day reopened it as the Quik Pik. He expanded it to double-wide and now leases it to his son and daughter-in-law, David and Burnadine Day.

Past Owners and Names of "The Store"
J.R. Robinson Shady Grove Store 1976
Jim & Sue Lindow Rachel Store About 80-83
D.C. Day Quik Pik From about 86

The Bar. The bar was first opened by Tom Spears in 1976. It started as a single mobile home, but was expanded to a double-wide when J.R. Robinson had it. It remained this size from most of its life, until Pat & Joe Travis took it over and the UFO watchers started coming. Since the Travis' took over, the main building has doubled in size and at least a half dozen mobile homes have been added out back for motel rooms.

The bar has had a succession of owners, none of whom could really make it work in such a small community until the UFO watchers started arriving in late 1989. Throughout the bars history, D.C. Day has been lienholder, and owners have made payments to him until, typically, they go bankrupt and default. When Pat and Joe Travis bought the bar and started making payments to D.C., they were probably heading for the same destination as the rest of the proprietors, but then fate intervened and sent the aliens.

One of the previous owners, Bill Fields, once lost the bar to Steve Medlin in a poker game. Gentleman that he is, Steve Medlin never took possession of it, although he lead Fields to believe that he would. Apart from the Travis's, Bill Fields is the only proprietor who came close to making the bar successful, but any advantage he had was undone by liquor.

Past Owners and Names of "The Bar"[44]
Tom Spears[45] The Watering Hole 1976 (<1year)
J.R. Robinson Oasis Bar & Lounge About 76-78[46]
Ernie Paul Oasis Bar & Lounge Around 1979
Cliff Arnold Oasis Bar & Lounge 979 (<6 mo.)
Bill Field Club 111 About 80-84
Tiny & Lois Franklin Rachel Bar and Grill
Gene & Maryanne Kemp G&M Bar and Grill
Larry Sabotha Stage Stop Saloon & Kitchen. Around 1986[47]
Ladell & Harold SingerRachel Bar & Grill.About 87-88
Joe and Pat Travis Rachel Bar & GrillStarting 1988
Renamed to Little A'Le'Inn 1990

The Farm. The farm was created in the mid-1960s, when D.C. and others homesteaded here. There are now two alfalfa farms in the valley: The Penoyer Farms is operated by the Castletons, with about 14 half-mile irrigation circles (or "pivots"). Part of Rachel was the site of Sunrise Farms. It was first sold[48] to George Engleman who sold it to James Franklin who sold it to Glen Iholts. Then Iholts defaulted, and it was sold to the Agees, who now run two pivots on it for alfalfa. Some of this land was traded to D.C. for use as lots near the townsite.

The ownership history of the largest farm, Penoyer Farms, is complicated, since there were a lot of investors and parcels involved. Richard Castleton writes[49]: "The farm was owned by a group called Nevada Farms who leased it to Mel Brown who was a partner in Penoyer Farms as was Richard Castleton. I exercised the option to purchase the farm for Penoyer Farms Ltd. in 1981. The farm is now being managed by Don & Becky Shortell."

The Mine. There has been mining at various sites on Tempiute Mountain off-and-on since the 1860s. First silver was mined there, then Tungsten. The history of the Tungsten mine is below. Union Carbide still owns the mine today, but following the Bhopal incident, it was transferred to a subsidiary, UMETCO, perhaps for political reasons.

The derelict mill across the highway from Rachel is owned by Wesley Koyen and was once connected with the mine. It was apparently started in the 1940s when the Lincoln Mine was open. The mill was located here and not at the mine itself due to the availability of underground water. In the 1980s, the mill burned. Wesley Koyen and D.C. Day had been engaged in a lawsuit over placer rights under the town of Rachel, and D.C. won. When the mill later burned Mr. Koyen suggested that D.C. had something to do with it, but no one else in town believes this.

Past Owners and Names of "The Mine" (Tungsten)
Lincoln Mine Co. Lincoln Mine WWII era
Wah Change Trading Co. Black Rock Mining Co. 1950-57
Union Carbide (UMETCO) (unknown) Mid-80s to present

The Ranch. There was cattle grazing in this valley since long before the homesteaders arrive in the 1960s, but none of the ranchers lived here until the Agees came. The Agees now own all public-land grazing and water rights in this valley, and they also operate a small alfalfa farm. The land around Rachel is open range, and cattle often wander through town.

In Railroad Valley to the west, the Fallinis control grazing rights, and have done so since the beginning of time. In the Tikaboo Valley to the east, Steve Medlin owns the rights, and has for over twenty years. In the 1980s, the Air Force tried to evict Medlin from his land as they expanded the military reservation to protect Area 51, but Medlin's supporters rallied to his cause and wrote letters to Congressmen and government officials.[51] In the end, he was allowed to keep his grazing rights on both sides of the military boundrary, but only after obtaining a top secret clearance.

As to how many cattle the Agees, Medlins and Fallinis run in these valleys, it is not considered good western etiquette to ask since ranchers frequently clash with BLM over this issue.

Past Owners of "The Ranch"
(Grazing and Water Rights in the Sand Springs Valley)
[52]
Adam McGill Ranch Until 1920s
Stuart From 1920s
Burns Ranch (managed by Ed Higbee) About 15 years?
Jay Wright About 78 to 85
Dirk and Marta Agee 1985 to present

The Research Center. In Jan. 1993, Glenn Campbell parked his tiny motorhome behind the Little A'Le'Inn and started publishing his Area 51 Viewer's Guide. Seven months later, late in the evening of Aug. 28, 1993, Campbell was rousted from bed and ordered out of the compound by owner Joe Travis in a drunken rage. Pat Travis later explained that Campbell "was trying to take over our business." Shortly thereafter, Campbell moved into a mobile home at the other end of town and called it the "Area 51 Research Center." The Research Center sells books and maps about Area 51, UFOs and other topics of interest to Campbell, mostly by mail order and internet. Campbell employs one person full-time in Rachel and another full-timer out of state. For brief periods, Campbell called his mail order business "Psychospy Productions" and "Secrecy Oversight Council." He was the first Rachel resident with an email address (starting 1993) and a presence on the World Wide Web (starting 1994),[53] and the Research Center was the largest single customer of the Alamo post office almost from the beginning. Campbell now lives mainly in Las Vegas and comes to Rachel on weekends to manage his business.

Rachel Organizations

MUMS and the TV Translator[54]

On April 11, 1978, a group of women in the town formed a group called M.U.M.S., or "Mothers Under Mighty Stress."[55] This name was chosen because most of the original members were mothers, and they felt under Mighty Stress due to the problems of obtaining electricity, telephones, television and some manner of rules in the new community. In the mid-1970s, Rachel was a true frontier, not only cut off by distance from the rest of civilization, but also lacking the basic services we now take for granted. It was natural, then, for the frontier women to pull together to fight for their community's needs.

MUMS put together social events and raised funds for new community services, including a translator to bring television into Rachel. Rachel is in a "blind valley" that is inaccessible to most radio and TV transmissions except AM radio at night. In 1978, consumer satellite dishes and VCRs were not widely available, so a TV translator was the only way to bring in news and entertainment from the outside world. Donations, raffles and the recycling of aluminum cans paid for the first unit, which was purchased from Dynamic Electronics for about $4000. In May 1978, it was installed on a hilltop above Coyote Summit, which is not blind to television transmissions the way Rachel is. One antenna receives the TV signal from Las Vegas, and another on the opposite side of the hill re-transmits it on a different channel down to Rachel.

Television was "turned on" in Rachel on May 31, 1978 with a single station, KLAS-Channel 8, from Las Vegas. Another translator with a second and third station were added in 1995.

The Sheriff's Substation[56]

In Sept. 1988, ground was broken for a new medical clinic on community land donated by D.C. Day. The men of Rachel built a small cottage-sized structure which was completed in 1989. Unfortunately, the State Consortium of Clinics would not authorize funds for the clinic itself, so it was never used for that purpose. Instead, the building now serves as the local Sheriff's Substation on the rare occasions when deputies come to town.

Library & Senior-Community Building[57]

Many visitors find it hard to believe that Rachel has as many services as it does. This includes a public library, community center and thrift shop--all housed in the same building behind the store. The building was patched together from donated trailers and pre-fab offices using the labor of the Honor Camp, the military and local Rachelites. In 1987, Union Carbide donated the main building after the Umetco Mine closed. In May 1988, members of the Air Force donated materials and constructed the rest rooms, and Nellis Air Force Base donated some furniture. Some of the wiring was done by members of the Navy who were training near Rachel. Finally, on August 20, 1994, the new building was dedicated as the "Bruce and Carol Phillips Senior Building." It now hosts town functions and meetings, while trailers attached to the side house the library and thrift shop.

The Rachel library had been in operation for some time. In May 1981, the Phillips' donated the trailer that first housed it, and a larger mobile home was obtained for it in 1994. Officially, it is the "George D. Cooper Memorial Library." Past librarians were Lois Franklin and La Rae Fletcher, and Lois Messier is the current librarian.

The thrift shop has also been in operation for some time. It started when Carol Phillips and Edith Grover donated some clothes. The thrift shop is part of an infinite recycling loop. Most of the clothes now come from the Tonopah Thrift Shop, which sends Rachel their unsold merchandise. In turn, any items not sold in Rachel are sent on to the big thrift stores in Las Vegas. What does Las Vegas do with its unsold merchandise? The suspicion is they are sent to Tonopah to continue the loop.

Ambulance & Ambulance Barn

Being so far from the city, Rachel is not a good place to have a heart attack, and high health insurance rates reflect the lack of a nearby hospital. Still, townsfolk have done everything they can to provide emergency medical services within the limited funds available. Several people in town have EMT training, and in 1995 the town commissioned an ambulance. Burnadine Day was the major force behind bringing the ambulance to Rachel, along with the help of many others. A secondhand ambulance was obtained from Clark County for $1 in Feb. 1994, and it received its state accreditation (license #10-391) on May 12, 1995. Also in 1995 an ambulance barn was built, using funds from the county, labor from the Honor Camp and contributions from many others.

Rachel Baptist Church

The Rachel Baptist Mission, Rachel's only church, began services in 1980 in a donated mobile home. In 1995, the church moved into a permanent building at the same site, which is not far from the Senior Building. A part-time pastor comes to town for services every Sunday evening.

Rachel Personalities

D.C. Day

D.C. Day is the town's "founding father." Most of the what is now Rachel was his land once, and he was almost everyone's landlord at one time or another. D.C. came here in the mid-1960s as a homesteader, irrigating and farming the land to obtain it from the federal government. Times were tough, and to make ends meet he decided in the 1970s to subdivide some of his land, and that land became Rachel.

"D. C." stands for Delbert Clois, although everyone in town knows him just as D.C. In the years when there were more children here, D.C. started a Christmas tradition that everyone remembers fondly. On the last day of school, D.C. used to wait for the school bus in the afternoon and give every child a silver dollar, which everyone knew as a "big nickel."

All D.C.'s sons and grandchildren have the same initials: David Charles, Donald Craig, Dylan Craig, Dakota Carinne. On Rachel Day in 1995, the town dedicated a new D.C. Day Park in the triangle of land east of the ambulance barn. On Dec. 20, 1995, D.C. and Fay Day celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and a town-wide party was held in their honor on Dec. 15.

Edith Grover

Most residents think of Edith Grover as Rachel's unofficial mayor. She is the director of the Senior Center and thrift store, is the local notary public and has been a leading force behind many community projects like the TV translators. Edith provides Rachel's recycling service, receiving aluminum cans from around town, crushing them in a custom-built can crushing machine[58], then selling the metal in Las Vegas to fund the TV project.

Edith came to this valley with her husband Ralph in April 1980 to help manage the sale of property at Lincoln Estates. Ralph was retired from the Air Force and was recovering from heart surgery. He liked Rachel because airplanes flew overhead all the time, and yet it was still quiet and peaceful most of the time.[59] Although Lincoln Estates never took off, the Grovers decided to retire here anyway and eventually bought the mobile home Edith now lives in. Although Ralph died in 1986, Edith likes it here and has stayed on. As other original residents have moved or passed away, Edith has taken on more responsibilities and made sure that the community projects started in Rachel's heyday do not fall by the wayside.

The Future of Rachel

Rachel came into existence mainly for the mine, but when the mine closed, Rachel stuck around, mainly due to force of habit and the fact that power, telephone, TV and homes were already in place. There is not much employment in Rachel now, barely enough to support the people who are already here, so the only outsiders likely to move here are those with a source of income from elsewhere, like retirees. Due to the isolation and relatively cold winter weather, Rachel cannot compete as a retirement community with others in the West, so unless the mine reopens, there is not much immediate hope for growth.

The UFO hysteria has brought publicity that has resulted in some people buying lots here. Buying a lot and actually settling on it are different things, however, and for most people the stark beauty of the land is eventually overcome by the problems of isolation. One hope lies in the improved communications of the computer era. When more people can "telecommute" to their offices and live anywhere they want, Rachel may become attractive for its cheap land prices and relative freedom compare with the city. That is still a long way off, however, and until then Rachel simply marches on.


Rachel Timeline

In some cases, these dates are a best guess. If anyone has more precise dates for these events, they should let me know so I can update this list in any future editions. --G.C.


Foot Notes

[1]Stutzin, Leo. "The Middle of Nowhere: The Highway to Caliente is Nevada's OTHER Loneliest Road," Sacramento Bee, date unknown (early 1990s).

[2]D.C. Day has said that the peak was close to 300, while La Rae Fletcher thinks it is something over two hundred. La Rae says the population peaked even before power came in, with the construction crews working on the mine buildings.

[3]"'Rachel' Celebrates Township Around Power Pole," Las Vegas Sun, Mar. 29, 1978.

[4]From Burnadine Day.

[5]Rogers, Keith. "Rock Formation Offers Clue to Mystery, Geologists Say," Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 12, 1993.

[6]Campbell, Glenn. Area 51 Viewer's Guide,

[7]Like the "Indian Caves" near the southern end of the Worthington Mountains.

[8]Lincoln County: Land of Many Frontiers. Booklet published by the Lincoln County Museum in 1981, page

[9]"Map of Lincoln County, Nevada. Compiled by H.E. Freudenthal from Official Surveys." Dated 1908. Published in Lincoln County: Land of Many Frontiers..

[10]Probably the site of the windmill on Dump Rd.

[11]Conversation with Harold Singer, 1/1/96.

[12]Edith Grover's handwritten history.

[13]Goodman, George. "From the Valley," Lincoln County Record, March 28, 1991, page 8.

[14]Hall, George. Red Flag: Air Combat for the 90s.

[15]McCracken, Robert. An Interview with D.C. Day. Published 1992 by Lincoln County Town History Project, Pages 4-12.

[16]Private conversation with Harold Singer, 1/1/96.

[17]McCracken, Robert. An Interview with Edith M. Grover. Published 1992 by Lincoln County Town History Project, page 10.

[18]McCracken, Robert. An Interview with D.C. Day. Published 1992 by Lincoln County Town History Project, page 10.

[19]Ibid, page 19.

[20]Handwritten history. According to this D.C. began offering the subdivided land in 1973.

[21]Ibid, page 25.

[22]Ibid, page 25.

[23]Ibid, page 26.

[24]Ibid, page 27.

[25]Handwritten note.

[26]There still isn't any reliable daytime radio reception in the valley, although you can get AM reception at night.

[27]Because of the poor weather in May and to avoid conflict with the fair in Mesquite.

[28]Whalen, Erin. "Entire Village Mourns Rachel," Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1980 (probably May or June).

[29]Located near the Nickel's house at N37deg.38.712, W115deg.45.605.

[30]Ibid, page 7.

[31]Tobin, Alan, & Russell, Diane. "Jet Crash Shakes Rachel Residents," Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 12, 1986, page 1. Small remnant can still be found in the vacant lot just behind the back row of mobile homes near Quik Pik, just east of the playground. The event was also reported by KLAS-TV, Las Vegas, which sent a reporter and cameraman.

[32]Conversation with Sharon Singer, 1/2/95.

[33]The letter was dated 21 Aug 86. It was from the headquarters of the Norwegian Air Force in Oslo, Norway, and was addressed to a Norwegian officer in Ogden, Utah. It appears to be internal instructions from the headquarters to the officer to have him send a plaque to Rachel with the given inscription. It appears the people of Rachel were cheated, however, because they received only a mass-produced crest with no inscription.

[34]Harold Singer.

[35]By author.

[36]From Harold Singer.

[37]From La Rae Fletcher.

[38]From memory of Marta Agee. Not yet confirmed by deed lineage.

[39]Ibid, page 28.

[40]KLAS-TV, channel 8, in a series, "UFOs: The Best Evidence," by newsman George Knapp.

[41]Campbell, Glenn. Area 51 Viewer's Guide, Edition 4.01, July 1995, page 61.

[42]Michael Dornheim, West Coast Editor of Aviation Week in Los Angeles.

[43]Berger, Joe. "Space Aliens Hang Out in Nevada Bar," in Weekly World News, May 17, 1994.

[44]Mostly from La Rae Fletcher, 1/3/95.

[45]There seems to be some confusion over whether the original owner was Tom Spears or Tom Grant.

[46]According to minutes, a meeting of Rachel women took place there on March 21, 1978.

[47]Mentioned in July 12. 1986, Las Vegas Review-Journal Article, above.

[48]By whom is not clear.

[49]Personal email correspondence, 8/24/96

[51]From La Rae Fletcher.

[52]From memory of Marta Agee. Not yet confirmed by deed lineage.

[53]And there still isn't anyone else with either, as of Jan. 1, 1996.

[54]Information from Edith Grover.

[55]The name was selected by ballot on April 11, 1978. The other options were: WAR (Women's Auxiliary, Rachel), WARN (Women's Auxiliary, Rachel, Nevada), PORN (Pioneers Of Rachel, Nevada), FLAIR (First Ladies Auxiliary In Rachel), ROR (Rainbows of Rachel) and Rachelettes.

[56]From Edith Grover.

[57]From Edith Grover.

[58]Built by Bruce Phillips and Jay Scoffield at the mine.

[59]McCracken's interview with Edith Grover, page 7.

[60]Exact date comes from La Rae Fletcher, who says it was on Memorial Day.

[61]"Nothing Small." Lincoln County Record, Nov. 14, 1979, page 6.

[62]Rich, Ben. "Rachel: Town with Pride." AFCC Intercom (U.S. Air Force), Feb. 15, 1980, page 6.

[63]See front page story in Las Vegas Review-Journal around Feb. 3, 1996.


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