Having worked all of his life, Larry Strickland sees no reason to retire…not yet anyway. “I don’t want to be in the house, sitting in a rocking chair, and wondering what to do next.”
He’s always been a busy man and doesn’t know how to be anything else. He has no intention of living off of Social Security and quit doing the things he loves to do. His philosophy is, if you want to spend money, you have to make money. He says, “When you’ve been self-employed most of your life…you don’t have a pension.”
Larry is originally from the town of Fowler, which is in Central California. Located near Fresno, CA, Fowler has more than tripled in size since he lived there and is predominately agricultural. He attended Bullard High School but was bussed to Edison High School, which was a minority school. It was the first time they tried bussing in the school systems.
There were only about 20-25 white students bussed to this school, and they still kept them segregated from the other students within the school. It was a strange way of trying to integrate the different races attending classes. He didn’t think that was the way it was supposed to work. He remembers his favorite teacher was Hispanic, and Larry says he was more than just a teacher. He was a human being who believed in helping the students through some stressful times in their lives. He also taught them a trade which many of the students carried into their adult lives.
Larry went on to graduate from Fresno State and farmed to earn money as he attended school. For about seven years, he milked five cows a day and raised many calves, all while he was seeking his Doctorate in animal husbandry.
He intended to become a vet and tried to get into the University of California, Davis but was unable to. He wrote his doctorate thesis on “How Does an Unconnected Caucasian Man get Accepted into UC, Davis.” To become a vet, you must attend a veterinary school. Having a Doctorate in animal husbandry isn’t enough. He worked for a vet for two years as a vet technician but soon became so busy he could no longer work for him. He was going to school full time and was doing this for free. He needed to get a paying job.
“His philosophy is, if you want to spend money, you have to make money…When you’ve been self-employed most of your life…you don’t have a pension.”
For a while, he assisted a vet tech that Artificially Inseminated (AI) cattle on large dairy farms. Because he wasn’t making enough money to survive, this job only lasted about six months.
His next adventure was working at the fire department for about a year, but he has a heart condition that interfered with his ability to pass the physical. His heart also kept him from serving in the army even though his draft number was 149. He wanted to serve his country, but again he failed the physical. Now when he looks back, he feels fortunate he didn’t end up like nine of his close friends who never made it back from Vietnam. To this day, he highly supports all military veterans.
From the dairy farm, he went to work for a harvest combine business for four years before moving into construction work where he still is today. At the time, he was still in California, and he didn’t qualify for a contractor’s license, but he’d already built four houses, so they blackballed him. They told him he had to work for a licensed contractor for two years before he could apply for his own license. He’d had enough of California’s rules and regulations in the building business, so in 1977, he moved to Gardnerville, NV, where he got the first of many Nevada contractor’s licenses.
In the beginning, a general contractor’s license allowed him to do everything he needed to run a construction company, so he started his own business. Things have now changed in the state of Nevada concerning licensing, and a general contractor’s license isn’t enough.
Eventually, he had to obtain five licenses so he could build houses in this state. These licenses included: construction, well drilling, masonry, utility, septic tanks with sewer lines and septic systems. He also had to get a separate manufactured housing license allowing him to work on them. At one time, he had his real estate license as well, but he let that one expire as today, his wife, Commissioner Debra Strickland, handles that part of their business.
Before he got his utility license, he recalls being fined $750 because he dug a trench and laid the conduit in it so the electric company could pull the power through. He made it clear he didn’t touch the wires but was fined anyway.
He explained the State Contractors Board is not a state entity but a private board that reports to the state. According to them, you’ve got to have a utility license even if you don’t pull the wires through.
“He [Larry] came here in 1992, where his uncle, Uncle Elroy Strickland, had moved…He was Larry’s mentor and taught him so much, not only about construction but in life as well.”
He got tired of having Carson City in his business all the time, so he decided to try something different. This time he tried his hand at sheep ranching in Powell Butte, Oregon at the Red Cloud Ranch. He moved there, bought a ranch with acreage, and settled in for what he’d hoped would be a long stay. After four years, the sheep ranch went broke. Although he was disappointed to have to change jobs again, he managed to get three times what he paid for his land because of the water rights to the property.
After selling the Oregon ranch, his next stop was Pahrump. He came here in 1992, where his uncle, Uncle Elroy Strickland, had moved after leaving Carson City. Uncle Elroy was an important influence on his life. He worked hard until the day he died of cancer at age 88. He was Larry’s mentor and taught him so much, not only about construction but in life as well. According to Larry, Uncle Elroy knew how to do everything. But Elroy was always working for someone else.
When he arrived in Pahrump, Larry bought four lots. Back in those days, there was no building department, so you could “pretty much build what you wanted to.” Once he got here, Larry started building houses.
Soon after arriving in Pahrump, Larry and the Commissioner met and were married 12 days later. When asked how they met, he said she was dating his best friend and listed one of Larry’s houses. Fortunately for all involved, the friendship remained intact.
“When Larry was a younger man, he always thought he would retire at ago 50. But things didn’t work out that way for him.”
He feels marrying Debra was a no brainer. It was very unusual how much alike they were and had so much in common. They drove the same model of truck with the same tires, they loved country music, and they even had the same curtains and silverware in their houses. At this time, Larry had been single seven years and the Commissioner six months. They’ve now been married for 25 years and are partners in business and in life. They both have kids and grandkids, but not together. It doesn’t matter to any of them; they are all a big happy family.
Pahrump has been the Commissioner’s home since 1973. Today, they have three businesses together including, a real estate company – T&M Real Estate; a construction company – Strickland Construction; and their fairly new mini storage company – At Lakeside Storage.
Larry admits he’s cutting back some. They continue to build steel buildings, well drilling, pump services, and septic systems. Building and expanding their storage units has also kept them busy. The Commissioner runs the real estate company as well as performs her County Commissioner duties. Larry and daughter Tawny Wald manage the other two companies. Larry also partnered with Debra when she successfully ran for Commissioner.
Retirement sometimes sounds appealing to him, but he likes what he’s doing. He loves creating things and making things happen. What he doesn’t like are some of the hassles he faces daily. Water Rights in the Valley have become a major issue. It’s one of the reasons he so strongly supported his wife becoming a County Commissioner. He felt they needed someone on the Board who has lived through the issues these water rights changes have inflicted on the people of the area.
When Larry was a younger man, he always thought he would retire at age 50. But things didn’t work out that way for him. He’s always felt he didn’t have enough money to fulfill his desires, so he doesn’t see how quitting work will get you more. Even in college, he’d work all night and go to classes during the day.
“His idea of retirement is to do the things both he and his wife love to do. They love to fish, hunt, and participate in shooting competitions.”
On December 1, 2019, Larry turned 70 years old. He thinks he may “retire” at 72. But all that means is he won’t do as much as he does now. They have a four-phase plan for their storage business, including adding solar. Once they complete this project, he may think about retiring. But when he does, he won’t owe money to anyone.
His idea of retirement is to do the things both he and his wife love to do. They love to fish, hunt, and participate in shooting competitions. They both have many ribbons and trophies displayed in what they call their Cowboy Room. They also have photos of various famous cowboys they have met over time.
They are members of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), which meets annually in Albuquerque, NM, for the world championship competition. They have both won the world, regional, and state championship titles in these events. It is held on an approximately 360-acre area where a fictitious permanent town resides. The only weapons used are pre-1900 guns. There are no modern guns, only replicas and actual firearms of that era.
At age 65, Larry was the first Senior Champ to claim the new category trophy at “The Wild Bunch,” named after the movie starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, and Warren Oates. They both have their shooting aliases; Larry is Lash Latigo, and the Commissioner is Penny Pepperbox. As you can imagine, there are stories behind these names.
Larry’s business card used to read, “Have Gun Will Travel,” which can be interpreted as a gun with bullets, a nail gun, a paint gun, a staple gun, etc. He enjoys what he does and will continue to do it as long as it allows him to take part in the activities he loves to do.