The Lincoln County Fairground and Rodeo is located in Panaca, Nevada. A rural county fair is a vital piece to a place as remote to get to as this Great Basin settlement. You can tell people have been leaving Panaca. Nothing personal, Reno and Las Vegas are booming while the states small towns keep drying up. Walking out on Panaca has been going on since they stopped selling elixir from atop a soap box next to a horse drawn wagon.
Eighty-five miles east in Cedar City, Utah there was a cattle auction. Livestock trailers, long haul rigs, pickup trucks, cowboy hats and belt buckle championship barrel racers of yesteryear were busy market making steers and heifers. In this perilous moment, you’d expect to see ranchers in masks, but because of their misguided faith in Sean Hannity’s hatred for the better half of humanity there were no masks being worn.
It’s a living not a livelihood
Cattle auctions tell a cowboy which way the wind blows. In this day and age the sage investor is going long on Beyond Meat, then putting up most of the rest against cattle futures. The smartest money is shorting cheeseburgers, pork bellies and farm raised salmon…bastards.
White Pine County, Nevada and Cedar City, Utah are in the midst of a toe to toe. Cedar City has bought water rights on Snake Valley property located on the Utah side, even though most of the underground water they have claim to is in an underground aquifer on the Nevada side.
Great Basin Water Network (click on)
I’ll make this short. Mormons in Cedar City, Utah are not taught one thing about water scarcity. Instead, Jack Mormons are instructed from cradle to grave in the divine rights attributed to the so called Latter Day Saints. Each man, woman and child use three times as much water as a heathen in Las Vegas. If they’d break their fast and go get good and drunk, I believe they could get by with one hell of a lot less of most everything, if they could just appreciate the fun in blacking out and going tits up in a casino now and again the whole non-Mormon universe wouldn’t have to hide their wallets or worry about Cedar City water grabbers.
Resource conscious citizens living atop the aquifer in White Pine County, Nevada are none to pleased with their spiritually hifalutin water stealing neighbors. Cedar City folk can be as aggressive as a hungry bobcat finding there is a fresh lunch waiting on the other side of an expertly installed poultry wired chicken coop.
Pick a direction, any direction then go
From Panaca south on the Great Basin Highway you’ll find hayfields, forlorn abandoned homesteads, and if you stick with hope and the horizon, you’ll come around a bend into Caliente. One of the puzzles I’m always trying to fit the pieces to is how a town is born. In the case of Caliente, you will not by use of your naked eye to be able to tell. Caliente was identified as suitable habitat by emancipated slaves, man and wife. Two new free citizens of the United States, Civil War negroes traveled to this desolate corner of the continent to set down roots and stake their claim to freedom.
Best block in Caliente
Today near 1200 citizens live in Caliente. In the Union Pacific steam locomotive way station era this high desert town was a growing concern of 5000. Diesel powered trains ended the railway company’s need to use Caliente as a refueling station. Operations were scaled back, jobs went hard to come by, and with hard times a good many of the town’s citizens struck out one direction or another in search of wages for work and better days.
There is a grocery store. The place isn’t big at all, but you’ll get by with what you can find on the shelves. Highway 93 runs north and south, either direction it is at least 100 miles if you want to go shop elsewhere. Likely the people in Caliente stock up. If you have some cooking talent, know what you are doing in a kitchen, you can stretch your shopping days apart by weeks to a month or more.
I wanted to look inside the one bar in town but didn’t because of the goddamn virus. I’ve been warned the Covid-19 curse is just waiting inside and would infect me before I could get my lips on even one ounce of whiskey. What remains of the towns long closed movie palace is next door. Drug store is gone, secondhand store is shuttered, even Caliente’s City Hall isn’t opening due to the pandemics spread through the community.
Panavision falls on hard times
The Caliente Hot Spring Motel was sold off after the previous owner had been found guilty of sex crimes. This was a fundamentalist Mormon character caught practicing polygamy, which was not the crime, it was the age of his wives, and that is the reason his lawlessness landed him in prison.
A good many of the best homes were built back when the Union Pacific boom days were on. You’ll walk around town and there is a neat as a pin quality to a good many blocks. Of course, religion is still big here because sinning is still so popular. By my count there is a thriving Christianity being offered here of various types and kinds. You don’t like the way your soul is getting saved at one operation why you can just try your luck down the street at this other establishment.
Tender Mercies and virus workarounds
Carson City state government officials have ordered all of Nevada’s hot springs to remain closed until the war against the virus is won. Museum, Chamber of Commerce and community hall are closed until further notice. Auto repair shop remains open, post office still delivers the mail, and the saloon remains in business twenty-four hours a day for drinking, cigarette smoking, and gambling. In Nevada there is no emergency of any kind that will force saloons closed because a closed saloon is the single biggest most colossal emergency of all imaginable emergencies. Any prohibition fearing Nevadan knows no rule or law must ever be passed that would short circuit a citizen’s liquor consumption, not now, not ever. Nevada without booze would be like living in hell without heat, it is just not possible.
My favorite California saloon tried reopening. Because there is so much virus they were ordered closed again. Boom times in high end cocktail bars have turned to bust. Windows get papered over, doors are locked, lights remain off.
Not much but then it’s all they got
Citizens from Caliente could be enlisted to spread out across the countryside to help the luckier places while citizens cope with the crisis. Things have been hard in this slice of paradise since forever, even the virus can’t make misery much more miserable than was already here before anyone ever arrived to witness the burdensome toll firsthand.
Here is what I want each and every one of you to do. Schedule a post-pandemic holiday, put it on your bucket list, set it down on your calendar. Then, once the all clear signal has been sounded drive on out to Caliente, Nevada. Spend time here talking to the citizens. People here will fortify your gumption, give your stubbornness a revival, and inspire you to get the hell out of here and go back to where you’ve come from. On your return you will do your level best to make the most of what you’re town can do for you. I’m telling you can’t afford closing your mind to what Caliente has to offer an adventuresome soul. Caliente’s truth is so big they had to go and hide it all the way out here.