At Jake’s Saloon recently, Al Carrasco recalled hearing the news.
He was working for the DWP in downtown Los Angeles at the time when a man ran into the vehicle shop, waving his arms and yelling that someone had bombed the aqueduct.
“I rolled my eyes and joshed, ‘It was probably one of my relatives up there,’ ” Carrasco added.
“It turned out to be true. Mark Berry is my cousin.”
In the weeks after the blast, Howe, the son of an Inyo County probation officer, and Berry, the son of a maintenance worker at a Lone Pine school, became underground celebrities.
“We’d all thought about doing something like that — but they actually hauled off and did it,” recalled a gas station store clerk who asked not to be identified because she feared losing her job. “So we gave them rousing shoulder punches and clinked beer bottles in their honor.”
Berry said his father, as yet unaware that his son was one of the culprits, boasted to a neighbor, “If I ever find out who bombed the gates I’ll buy him a steak dinner.”
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department built a case against Berry and Howe based on physical evidence and information provided by confidential informants, including Howe’s friend at the time, Doug E. Clair, who now owns a construction company in Bishop.
Howe and Berry were indicted in January 1977.
Howe was sentenced to 90 days in Inyo County jail and three years probation. After that, he left town and hasn’t been heard from since.
Berry was sentenced to 30 days in juvenile detention. His records were sealed. The court ordered Berry to enroll in a nearby community college, where he studied rocket and aviation engineering.
“That sentence was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Berry said. “I went on to work at airfields in states including Montana and Alaska.”