Waterhole Ike
Golconda's Capitalist Pig

Back in the late1970s, Waterhole Ike, a native Nevadan, had a darned good job and money in the bank. Investors were
clamoring to buy stock in his syndicate. Times were good for awhile until success went to Ike's head. He became an alcoholic,
lost his family, and had to go on welfare. 

It wasn't all Ike's doing. He had a lot of help from Mark Cowley, former cowboy, livestock buyer, ranch foreman, rodeo rider,
and bar owner. In fact, it was Mark who started Ike's rise to riches and fame. He also contributed to Ike's downfall. 

Cowley owned Mark's Waterhole #1, a bar and grocery store in Golconda. He and some of his patrons had way too much
time on their hands. They decided to start their own union. Well, what the heck? Places like Reno and Salt Lake City had them,
why couldn't Golconda? They decided to call it Waterhole Loco #3. 

Cowley and seven of his customers chipped in five dollars apiece for dues. The treasury was a milk carton. Knowing they
couldn't just sit there with that much change, the investors voted to buy a pig. They called him Waterhole Ike.

Waterhole Ike in his prime.   
Waterhole Ike in his heyday. Photo from Dennis Rich, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ike's job was to make money for the syndicate. He made little pigs at $25 a shot. With pigs that's called "standing at." His imagined pedigree, compiled by members of the corporation, stated that his mother was "Go-Pig-Go" and his sire was "Three Stars."

Cowley and his friends sold preferred syndicate stock at one dollar a share. Certificates were printed that included the statement, "This is not a legal corporation." More than one thousand shares were sold. Even a former governor of Nevada bought a few shares.

Times were good. Money was pouring in and the stockholders decided to open a bank account for Waterhole Ike. Cowley
took the cash to the bank and filled out the necessary forms for Ike's new account. The bank told him that a Social Security
number was required for tax purpose when a new account was opened.

Ike is a law abiding citizen so Cowley dropped in at the post office and picked up a Social Security card request form. Mark
explained, "I helped fill out the form, listing his mother, 'Go-Pig-Go,' and father, 'Three Stars.' I signed for him. You can't expect
a pig his age to write."

About three weeks later, a letter arrived from the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, Maryland. Cowley opened it.
There it was. Waterhole Ike had his own Social Security card. The card was displayed on the bar's wall for all
to see.

The bank later sent a letter to Ike offering him a loan from $2,500 to $25,000 if he ever needed it.

One might say that Ike was living high off the hog, so to speak. But, it couldn't last forever. Over the years higher feed costs, printing, and other expenses caused the bank account to dwindle. Cowley loaded Ike, his sow and nine little piglets in a pickup and drove them to Winnemucca. Mark went straight to the welfare office and told the people there the story. He said he had a friend out in the pickup. That buddy was out of a job. He's got a wife and nine kids and doesn't want to desert them and...well, here's his Social Security card. The welfare people checked the regulations, got out some forms and said Ike was entitled to $600 a month and food stamps.

Sometimes reality gets in the way of legends but it was reported that Ike got his welfare checks for awhile but, being an honest pig, he didn't cash any of them. This was a good thing because when county commissioners heard about it they were pretty disgruntled. Actually, Ike was just too proud to stay on welfare.

Ike's downward spiral continued. He lived behind the bar and Cowley started pouring leftover beer into Waterhole's morning bucket of oats. He became an alcoholic and was useless as stud service. Cowley reported that the curl went completely out of Ike's tail.

Mark hauled Ike into Winnemucca again and explained to rehabilitation officials that Ike was out of a job, had lost his wife and
nine kids, and was an alcoholic. He handed her Ike's Social Security card and the proper forms were filled out to send him to Reno to a rehab center.

When Cowley told Ike what was going to happen to him, he sobered up in a big hurry and didn't have to go to Reno. Instead, Ike moved to Gil Pedroli's place in Winnemucca where he resumed his old job and continued living off the interest in his savings account.

There was talk that Ike planned to retire and collect Social Security benefits. In a pig's life span six years is equivalent to 60 years. With tongue in cheek, the story ends here. Most of the incidents are true. Waterhole Ike put Golconda back on the map for a few years. 

Cowley sold the bar. Golconda, about twenty years east of Winnemucca on I-80, is still there. Waterhole is, of course, no
longer around. In pig years he would be more than two hundred years old today. He was, though, in his lifetime, a living legend, and still lives in memories and print. Golconda's capitalist pig is now part of northeast Nevada's more pleasant history.

Sources: Western Humor by Norman D. Glaser, late State Senator and Halleck, Nevada rancher. Winni Mini Mart, story by
Marc Keyser-Cooper, November 22, 1977. Two newspaper articles by Stefka White (newspaper and dates unknown), from
the Edna Bain Collection, Northeastern Nevada Museum, Elko.

Howard Hickson
April 24, 2000

©Copyright 2000 by Howard Hickson. If any portion or all of this article is used or quoted proper credit must be given to the author.

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