That fall, or rather winter (1908), I secured a place near San Diego, where I had shelter and food during the winters and small wages during the active seasons in return for doing the chores and other work.
I had become possessed with a desire for an orange grove, and refused to consider how much it would take to develop one. I was finally able to secure a small tract of unimproved land. But I found that the task of clearing it would be too great for me because of the great trees, so for this and other reasons I snatched at a chance to file on a homestead in the Imperial Valley. This was in May, 1910. Later that summer I was able to sell my piece of land near San Diego at a profit, so that in September I went over to get settled on my homestead. I employed a fellow to help me make a wagon trail for a mile or more and to build my cabin for me. I moved in the first of November. Early in 1912 I decided it would be impossible to irrigate enough land there to make a living at that time. Also the difficulties of living alone so far out in the desert were greater than I had anticipated. With the help of a friend, I was able to make final proof in July and pay the government for the 160 acres, instead of having to continue to live on it. I did stay, however, until the general election in 1912.
Then I went to Los Angeles to get something to do. The town was full of people seeking work, as usual, most of whom could present better records than I could. To be sure, my friends and even my old correspondence school boss gave me splendid recommendations, but I felt my lack of business training and feared that 999 out of any 1,000 employers would not take a chance with me on such a record as I had. Consequently I did not try very hard. For a while I was with a real estate firm trying to secure applications for a mortgage. The commission was $25, but, naturally, that did not go far toward expenses. It was not long before I was in a bad mental condition again through worrying, self-condemnation, and uncertainty. It would not have been difficult to prove that I was ‘insane.’
Finally an acquaintance of mine, a prominent lawyer, took up my case. He has a good personal and business friend who is the general manager of a large oil company with headquarters here in Bakersfield. When first appealed to, this gentleman refused point blank, because he had a bad opinion of college graduates in general (I really don’t blame him or other business men); but the lawyer used his influence to the utmost with the result that I came up here in March, 1913, and was sent up into the oil fields. I was put under the civil engineer, and for two months I was sort of ‘inspector’ and ‘force account’ man in connection with the building of a supply railroad, but I gradually worked into the regular surveying crew, first as substitute rear chainman, and then as the regular one. Before long I was head chainman. I could have remained a chainman with the same crew to this time, but I left a little over a year ago, as there once more seemed a chance to earn a place in the country.