Slightly Used Ready to Go
Forget about that wild card Romeo from Las Vegas. There’s nothing much you are going to learn from a rhinestone cowboy out of Reno. Take a place like Jarbidge, Duckwater or Paradise Valley and you’ll likely find the kind of top shelf Nevadan that will tickle the muse.
Tonopah has a population of 2009, Jackpot 1244, Eureka 462, and my favorite Jiggs off to the westside of the Ruby Mountains counts 2 permanent residents. With the passage of time the men and women that live out on the edge of what is left of our frontier become downright idiosyncratic. It is as if the essence of rural Nevada crawls right into their being and possesses their personage, sort of like when a dog and a dog’s owner somehow begin to resemble one another.
Just Leave it There
Most are self-employed. Another chunk signup to work for the man. There’s plenty to do and hardly a nickel, dime or extra quarter paid for any of it. Barter, trade secondhand stores, swap meets, and want-ads is how most goods and services are acquired.
Toss out the metro dwellers, those big shots from Sparks, Carson City and Henderson are leaning toward the progressive side of the political spectrum. As you travel further away from the population centers another kind of man or woman comes into focus. The Federal government owns most of the Silver State. Railroads own the next chunk. Water is scarce, mustang is plenty. To the satisfaction of not one libertarian leaning misanthropic rural resident the public lands are managed to the annoying benefit and misery of the many. You already know cattle ranchers lease rangeland from BLM- Bureau of Land Management. Pinion pine nut pickers pull permits by auction from the Forest Service. Department of Fish and Game lottery out hunting tags for mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goats and pronghorn antelope. Mountain lion tags are readily available. Coyote are target practice and black eared jack rabbit are consternation incarnate. Irascibility is woven into the fabric of Great Basin life.
Ruby Mountain Sunrise
Trout fishing in the high country lakes of the Ruby Mountains will bring a 240 lbs., six-foot-four-inch angler to near speechless Sunday church like reverie. Surveying a pasture Nevadan’s can name dalmatian toadflax, goatsrue, or houndstongue at first glance. They’ll know whether they’ll have to hoe it, spray it, or burn it after they’ve pulled it out by the roots. A great many are voracious beer drinkers. A hay grower understands the forces of nature, how sun, water and healthy soil keep food on his table and roof over his head. Nevada means knowing how to use your hand tools. You don’t get to be stupid for long otherwise you’ll be bit, stung, cold, hot or just plain killed by the harsh conditions.
Rolled into Warm Springs one late afternoon. Two military jets dogfighting screamed by my campsite right down on the deck, low to the ground. United States Air Force was in training. Came and went so fast, I’d have had a heart attack if they’d given me another second or two.
Before dark, a turquoise miner rolled into where I’d parked under a cottonwood tree. The hot spring was where he took his bath. Scruffy beard, dirt smudged to his face, boney as a stick, had me sized up- right off.
“What do you do out here?”
“I work a turquoise mine.”
“You discovered turquoise out here?”
“No, all the turquoise in Nevada’s already been located. I bought the rights from another man, he’d done his time, sick of the work, ready to move on.” Grabbing his towel out of the cab of his truck, “Kill about one rattlesnake a month, we find a lot of two headed snakes, atomic test site seems to have affected reptiles more than us. Don’t kill the two headers, catch and sell them for a good price.”
I’d learned he had a lady friend in Page, Arizona. For fun he drives down now and again. She’s got a ski boat and likes to take LSD. Explained how he goes to a Navajo sweat lodge, knows a medicine man, trades turquoise for Peyote, that it unlocks his animistic vision, that he can see into the nature of things, then he explains for waterskiing acid is better.
Psychedelic small talk out in the middle of the Great Basin was unexpected, but what do I know.
The miner had three or four sun faded dog eared paperbacks on his dashboard. Handing him a book, I’d finished reading Mailer’s, The Armies of the Night. In return I ended up with Zamoyski’s 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow.
Expectations will double cross visitors from out of state exploring the emptiest parts of Nevada. My license plates told the miner everything he needed to know. Californian’s may come off as sophisticated but that doesn’t make us complicated. Awkward, ashamed of the first impression that had come up in my mind, “I’ve seen some lizards.” Trying to regain my footing.
By now I believe he had enough, he was ready for his bath. “About the only thing a lizard is good for is keeping a cat skinny.”