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Neighbors: Turnipseeds love quiet of Genoa

Nancy Hamlett, Record-Courier staff writer

Mike and Paige Turnipseed’s home in Genoa is reminiscent of a country cottage with two English Labradors peeking over the white picket fence and gay sprays of color blooming from gardens surrounding the house.

The peace and tranquility belies the lifestyle. Mike, as the water engineer for the State of Nevada, is responsible for decisions determining the allocation and distribution of all of the state’s water.

“There is lots of controversy, lots of litigation, court and hearings, because I have to make decisions based on what the water law says when addressing water rights issues, not always the popular position. Decisions make half the people happy and the other half unhappy,” said Mike.

On June 21, Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed Mike as the director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resource, a position held by Pete Morros for many years. As the new director, Mike will oversee nine state divisions and sit on 10 boards and commissions. The new job takes effect on Aug. 2.

“After every Legislature, Pete threatened to retire, saying that he was never going through that again, but he always did and we never took it seriously until now,” said Mike. “I already do a tremendous amount of traveling around the state. This new job won’t add to it, but out-of-state travel will increase. I guess I’ll be a little bit busy.”

n Busy with babies. Paige recently left her job of 13 years in the personnel department of the Douglas County School District in favor of spending more time with their grandchildren, Keith, who turned 1 on Mother’s Day, and twins Jack and Kyle, who were born in April. Son Jeff and daughter-in-law Cindy live in Reno. Paige now works part-time at the Bristlecone in Carson City.

Mike and Paige met while they were both living in Anaheim, Calif. It was the morning after Paige attended a slumber party at a friend’s house.

With sleepy eyes, messy hair and wrapped up in a sleeping bag, she greeted her friend’s brother as he walked in the door with a box of doughnuts.

“I thought that he would never ask me out, not after seeing me like that, but he did,” said Paige.

At the time, Mike was working as a surveyor for the City of Anaheim while taking 12 hours of credits at Long Beach State. The schedule was hectic and he dropped one class. The next thing he knew, he lost his student deferment, and a draft letter was in the mail.

“I joined the Air Force instead of getting drafted,” said Mike. “That meant four years instead of two, but it was a better decision for me.”

Paige, in the meantime, enrolled at Fullerton Junior College.

“But then we got married and that was the end of that,” she said.

Mike was in Vietnam when their oldest son, Jeff was born.

“That was hard,” said Paige. “When you are having a baby, a father should at least be in the same country.”

After his discharge, Mike finished his education at Utah State University. Before moving to Nevada, the family was living in the Cashe Valley in Utah. Mike jokingly called himself a “transient bureaucrat” because he worked in Utah twice and Idaho once before moving to Nevada in November 1984.

“I left the family in the middle of winter with six cords of wood,” said Mike, who added that although Cashe Valley is reminiscent of the Carson Valley, the winters are much harsher. Paige and younger son, Tyler, moved in March 1985, and Jeff followed after he completed his freshman year of high school.

Mike has been involved in the “water business” for over three decades, and the Turnipseeds’ home in Genoa is their oasis. Mike is an avid fly fisherman, spending two to three evenings a week fishing the Carson or Walker rivers or lakes when the rivers are too muddy. He is a member of High Sierra Fly Casters, but he said that he draws the line when it comes to tying his own flies.

“I don’t have the patience,” said Mike. “I’d rather go into Pete’s and ask what they are biting on and buy a dozen or two.”

The backyard Labradors, Augustus McCrea (Gus) and Woodrow F. Call (Woody), named after the main characters in the novel, “Lonesome Dove,” will soon be trained for duck hunting, another activity that Mike enjoys.

“Right now, they are still in the puppy stage and a little unruly,” said Mike.

n Indoor, outdoor activities. When the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor activities, Mike enjoys woodworking. He makes fine pieces of furniture that grace prominent spots in the couple’s home, but lately he’s only had time to make a few picture frames and help Jeff make a table for his wife, Cindy.

“When we sold our home in Minden, we really didn’t plan on selling, so we didn’t have a plan B,” said Paige. “We gave the Realtor a list of requirements, including an area that Mike could use as a workshop, but we ended up falling in love with a home that didn’t have any of the things we wanted. So now Mike’s tools are crammed in the corner of our little garage.”

Hiking and camping have always been part of the Turnipseed family’s recreation, but Paige said that lately they have to make the effort to get into the mountains.

“Except for hunting season,” said Paige.

Mike and his sons put in for deer tags every year, and if one of them is lucky in the draw, they spend a week together in the far northeast corner of Elko County.

“When the twins turn 12 and are old enough to get junior tags, I imagine I’ll be just the camp cook by then,” joked Mike.

Paige uses the time they are gone pursuing her favorite hobby – antiques. She also enjoys reading and is a member of a book club.

One of the pitfalls of being in the water business for so many years is that during trips and vacations, Mike is always cognizant of the water situation.

On a recent trip to Ontario to visit relatives, Mike and Paige traveled through a series of locks.

“The next thing I knew, Mike was calculating water volume. Before we moved on he announced that every time a lock filled and emptied, it was enough water for Reno/Sparks for a day,” said Paige.

Mike shrugged. “I guess that’s what you get when you’re in the water business for 30 years.”