National Geographic : 1970 Jan
proportions. (Evenings can be cool at the castle's 3,000-foot elevation, and Scotty and Johnson laid in a lifetime supply of firewood by buying up 75,000 ties when the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad liqui dated.) Looking at Scotty's chair-scaled to his con siderable girth-we could almost see him settling for an evening of yarns. With Stetson pushed back on his shock of white hair, he often told guests how he had survived the fangs of six rattlers, or how he had enter tained Will Rogers at the castle. Once, he said, he entered a Bowery alley cat named Irene Watkins in a Madison Square Garden pedigreed cat show and won first place. Irene later turned out to be a tomcat. The castle has a comfortable, lived-in look despite its large scale and lavish furnishings. Metal workers came from Germany and Austria to make massive wrought-iron chandeliers and door fittings. Orna mental tiles from Spain and Italy cover floors. Huge oil paintings and tapestries hang everywhere. A palatial upstairs music room houses a 1,600-pipe or gan behind an Old World cathedral grille. A special device causes the organ to play duets automatically with a grand piano. Despite such opulence, Scotty's favorite place was a modest hideaway ranch about eight miles from the castle. There he had piped water from nearby springs to run night and day through a kitchen faucet. Veteran of many a parched trek of the desert, he loved the sound of running water. We saw a big porcelain bath tub set under a willow in the front yard; in it Scotty spent hot afternoons while hoses played cooling foun tains of water over him. The 8:15 Curtain Waits For No One Scotty's Castle is not the valley's only cultural showpiece. One day our friend Dwight Warren asked us: "How would you like to go to the ballet?" "In Death Valley?" Virginia couldn't believe it. That evening we stepped from the twilit desert into the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction. The performance had already begun. In the spotlight a lithe brunette wearing a pink tutu turned from statue to flowing grace as we groped for chairs. I looked around. Until our party of five arrived, she had been dancing to an empty house. Marta Becket used to dance where the crowds were, in halls all across the Nation for concert associations. For a dozen years she and husband Tom Williams traveled, until a tire went flat in Death Valley Junc tion. While Tom changed it, Marta poked around the near-abandoned former borax town and found a deserted movie theater. "To me it was an opera house," Marta told us. Over coffee after the show, we visited with her and Tom, who serves as manager, emcee, and stagehand. "It was a place where I could dance as I've always wanted to. We decided we had to have that theater."