Seldom Seen Slim aka Charles Ferge
The Unofficial Curator of Ballarat Ghost Town
by Lynn Bremner
Can you imagine living in a deserted ghost town, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, with no water source or electricity? Can you imagine living in a place once referred to as “The suburbs of Hell?” It's hard to believe that anyone would want to, but one man did. His name was Charles Ferge, aka Seldom Seen Slim. Slim was a prospector who spent 50+ years living and working his claims in a deserted town called Ballarat, known for its extreme temperatures and mining history.
Seldom Seen Slim was an uncommon man who found his peace and solitude in the desert. He was a prospector who was always seeking the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I‘m not sure who coined the name “rainbow chaser,” but that's what Slim was. His focus was his mining claims; the comforts afforded by society were not necessary to him. Material wealth was not important to him. He just needed enough money to maintain the meager lifestyle of a desert prospector. Slim only needed enough to buy food, tobacco for his pipe, water, gas for his car and a few clothing items.
Slim arrived in Ballarat between 1914 and 1917. He moved there before the town became deserted. When the last mine was closed and the post office closed in 1917, everyone who lived in Ballarat moved away, except for Slim. Ballarat became a ghost town and Slim was the only resident for many years. He lived there until he died of cancer in 1968 at the age of 86. He was buried at Boothill and his grave is marked with a plaque surrounded by an ornate fence.
Slim liked Ballarat. It was his home. His mining claims were there and he didn‘t mind being alone at all. It was a way of life that suited him. Slim had the whole town to himself. At one point or another he had lived in just about every abandoned building in Ballarat. He said a fire had come through the town one year and burned down some of the buildings, one of which he had been living in. He then roughed it for a while and eventually got himself a trailer to live in. In reply to the common question of whether he got lonely living in the desert, his response was “Me, lonely? Hell no! I‘m half coyote and half wild burro.”
Far away from the closest spring or well, Slim had to drive
many miles to get water, bringing it back to his camp in jugs. There used
to be a water source in the Ballarat area, but the water table had dropped and
the water had dried up. Slim would travel to Trona, 30 miles away for supplies.
Slim lived with no electricity and
no water for years. He only bathed a couple times a year. He claimed he would
bath in the rain as the water kept his skin soft. Other times he would tell visitors
that he got his hair cut and bathed once a year in Trona.
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