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Local couple finds retirement isn’t easy

t’s hard to find a Pahrump native these days. Unless family members have been in this area since the town began to coagulate in the 1960s, most residents have moved here from somewhere else. And because this is a “bedroom” community to Las Vegas, it attracts a number of folks seeking a simpler life, and because it’s less expensive than Las Vegas, it attracts a large number of retirees.

Bill and Salli Kerr moved to Pahrump in 2002 in a combination of both. Back then, Bill was 52 and Salli was only 38. The couple looked around quite a bit before they settled here. Salli said, “We looked at Mesquite, Parker, Ariz., and other places. Bill came to Pahrump by himself the first time, but when I came back with him, I knew this is where we were supposed to be. I knew this is where Bill would retire.”

Salli has three children from a previous marriage, and although the family lived in a small community in Orange County, Calif., and enjoyed it, they were far away from most amenities and the schools. Her youngest son was entering middle school and all the children were being bused into the city for classes. “I didn’t want that kind of life for them,” Salli said.

Bill is retired from safeguarding pools against child drowning. He said he needed to get involved after his own son drowned in his backyard pool in California.

His main motivation for being here was the small community feel and the lenient laws. He said, “You could pretty much do what you wanted on your own place, and it’s the cheapest place to live. I hated both of us having to work full time.”

Salli manages Arnie’s Cocktail Lounge and The Hideaway for her uncle Darrell Strain and Bill does the farming chores.

The most important thing for both of them was being able to “pump water out of the ground.”

Bill said, “We sold our home in California and were able to pay cash for our house and five acres here. We don’t have a mortgage.”

The couple wanted a simple life and a good place to raise the boys. They had a lot to learn about the simple life, and the learning curve wasn’t far behind the relocation. Bill said just over one year after they moved here, their home caught fire and he learned to “build a house” out of necessity.

“When you have a mortgage, your insurance is figured in as part of your house payment. Without that, we were underinsured when the house burned, I had to rebuild it. I thought it was going to be easy to retire.”

Salli, who is originally from Montana, comes from a farming family. Her knowledge was instrumental in the couple’s next adventure as they “went from city folks to country folks.”

Bill said, “We wanted to raise our own food and with three kids, we were spending $10 a day for milk back then. We figured it was cheaper to buy the cow, so we did.” Salli did the milking until Bill caught on. Now the couple has one milk cow, a bull and a calf. Bill said the bull is going to the freezer soon.

Extra milk goes into butter and cheese or gets fed to the chickens.

They added chickens to the growing menagerie and fresh eggs to the fridge.

Salli said putting in a garden wasn’t overwhelming to her. Bill took the Cooperative Extension Master Gardener classes.

“The original garden was 40 feet wide and 100 feet long. It was huge.” With a garden that size, the family could can and freeze their own food for the winter. Salli said, “There’s nothing like opening the pantry and seeing all those canned vegetables. You know where they came from, how they were grown and when I open the jar in November, it’s going to taste just like it did when I canned it.” Bill said, “We give back. All the food we don’t use goes to the food banks.”

She said last year, there was no garden. Bill has COPD, and could no longer take care of such a massive garden while Salli worked. “We really miss having one, growing our food.” Salli said she and Bill go to the farmer’s markets to buy produce if they don’t have a garden.

Asked if the local politics has changed the way they live over the years, Salli said, “Even if the government drives me crazy, there’s something we can do about it. I can walk up and introduce myself to any member of the town board or county commissioners and have my say. They are approachable. It’s not that way in a large city. It’s where we have power.

“We don’t have that on a national level. This community is too small to matter anywhere but here. People need to pay attention and be heard. Bill and I like this as a small community. Some businesses are OK, but we didn’t come here to live in a city. If someone wants city life, they can move into one.”

She said one of her biggest gripes is the community complaints about not having anything for the kids to do here. “I practically lived in my car for four years when the boys were growing up. I was always running them here or there for healthy activities. We’ve had businesses here that provided entertainment for the kids. Skate Zone and Sandbaggers have both gone out of business because even when it’s here, the community doesn’t support it.”

Two of her sons are making their lives in Las Vegas. EliCline is her youngest and has integrated himself into the community as a Little League coach, and as the Trojans JV football and baseball coach.

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