September 22, 1999

Desert silence broken by 'rrrrring'

Charlie Wilcox waits to answer calls from people all over the world


BAKER, California (CNN) -- Fourteen miles from the nearest town, the silence of the vast Mojave Desert is broken -- by the ringing coming from a phone booth.

The booth sits beside a narrow road, surrounded by nothing but cacti and high brush.

"You see people coming from all over to see that telephone booth," said Tammy Seeward, who works at a gas station in the nearest community, Baker, "It's out in the middle of nowhere. And it works."

At one time -- back in the 1960s -- it had a purpose.

"We got two mines and ranchers. They needed something in between," said Charlie Wilcox, the self-anointed answerer of the Mojave phone.

Wilcox points out that, while the miners and ranchers have dwindled, the phone has been ringing off the hook, thanks to an Arizona man who put the desert phone number on the Internet.

So who would call and expect to get an answer? Wilcox said the calls come from all over -- as far away as Germany, France and Italy.

And, he says, the calls keep on coming -- with no sign of letting up.

CNN affiliate KNSD contributed to this report.