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TIMES PAST

Stove explosion kills hermit farmer `Carrot Walt'

December 19, 2006

Dec. 19, 1913: "Old Walter Tolley, an ancient of the Lankershim hills," was killed as he heated his afternoon coffee in his cabin, The Times reported under the headline "Modern Device Kills Recluse."

Tolley, "whose interests were centered in his old horse 'Abe,' " and in raising the fattest carrots in the San Fernando Valley, died alone in his cabin. He was burned to death in an explosion of a gasoline stove," the newspaper said.

"Epicures of vegetables will look vainly for the quaint old hermit who made his rounds semiweekly, vending the choicest fruits and vegetables that the season afforded. He had some secret cultivation of carrots which produced them in abnormal sweetness and size."

The Times said Tolley was known "among the trade" as "Carrot Walt," adding:

"In the hills back of Lankershim, removed from all highways, he had a small plot of ground and a dingy cabin tucked in a coulee in the hills. There he raised all his vegetables."

"It was Abe that carted the carrots and other desirables of the garden and orchard into the city, and the old man would discuss the merits of his goods earnestly with the old horse," The Times noted. "If Abe liked a carrot, then it was good enough to sell. If Abe didn't like it, the vegetables were cast away."

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