Roadkill to riches

Bill Anderson

Photo By

Bill Anderson, founder of the Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village, didn’t think much about Bonanza. He didn’t watch the “idiot box,” as he calls it. But tourists were driving around Tahoe, looking for the Cartwrights and their Ponderosa Ranch. So, in the early ’60s, Anderson, a savvy businessman with a third-grade education, acquired 448 forested acres of land that adjoined his 12-acre parcel and started a tourist attraction that draws 250,000 visitors a year. Anderson, 80, with the help of Reno writer Mike Sion, recently completed his Horatio Algers-like memoir: Bill’s Big Bonanza: The Autobiography of a Third-Grade Dropout Who Came to Build, Own and Operate the World’s Most Famous Ranch. You can buy it ($19.95) at Sundance Bookstore in Reno, Mark Twain Bookstore in Virginia City or at the Ponderosa Ranch when it opens next spring.

So you just finished a book.

Yeah, and I’m trying like hell to sell it ‘cause I’m on welfare.

You’re a third grade dropout?

My editor here put the verbiage together. I’m illiterate, and that makes it pretty difficult for me. I never went to school after the third grade. I was going to go to Yale—to teach Braille. I was going on the Intercourse to start a Have you ever heard of scatology?

The study of excrement?

That’s what it is … (laughs). That’s what you’re talking to. I have multiple personalities. I can spew out verbiage and recite poetry until it puts you to sleep. But I’m truly an illiterate. But I can read contracts and the fine print.

You’ve been successful as a businessman.

Why don’t you ask me if I’ve ever told a lie?

Have you ever told a lie?

If you’ve never told a lie, you haven’t done anything.

What drove you to create the Ponderosa Ranch?

Money. It was an opportunity that was sitting there. I’ve never worked for anyone in my life except the military.

Was it a good way to make money?

I don’t have anything. If you die wealthy, you’re a damn fool.

That’s funny.

I can make it funny and still be disenchanted with something.

What’s the best thing about having money?

Not eating roadkill anymore. Don’t have to steal out of cornfields or dig garbage out of dumps.

What made you decide to write a book?

I had three editors over the years. One of ’em was a fruitcake. I called him the “Freudian Slip.” The other was a drunk. Along came the ugly one, and the ugly one got it done.

Do you like the book?

I’ve never read it.

Have you gotten lots of interest in the book?

Oh hell, yes. Some people are more interested in it, like distant relatives. They want it for free. The biggest sale so far was to my ex-wife. She bought 10 books. She wants to give ’em to friends. … I don’t use the word “friend.”

Writer Mike Sion interjects: He also doesn’t use the words “love” and “hate.” He says they’re meaningless terms.

That makes me sad.

It doesn’t me. I have two German shorthairs and an attractive young wife.

I guess that’s what money can buy .

That’s right. If you have enough money, you can buy anything.