Silver City Shuffle

Silver City, Nevada is home to 200 citizens maybe a few more, depends on the day. You’ll find her about four miles off Highway 50 while you’re heading east out of Carson City. A friend hangs his hat here, calls it home, for the moment, for the last two decades. Whether he stays or not depends on what America chooses to do, he’s not the time or temperament to suffer through a takeover by enemies of democracy.

Good Dog Pino

His has been a privileged life. Street performer, renaissance fair entertainer, standup comedy showman, cruise ship juggling act and even contract work as a bit part actor in Hollywood. Having seen so much of the world the implications of leaving for some more peaceful corner of creation does not stir up fear.

If you like dogs you’ll love Pino. Rescue dogs usually come from the pound with something wrong, some bad habit nobody can break. Pino might too, but Silver City is so agreeable to this dog’s disposition it is hard to know what quirk lurks beneath his fur. Might be a miracle canine healing power of the place has occurred.

See if you can spot the Snowmobile

Water for Silver City comes off an alpine lake west in the Sierra Nevada. Kind of hard to explain the intricacies of all of this Silver City water. Long gone mine owner secured the rights by putting down a pile of silver and the rights to this water are ironclad, they’ve the best high mountain fresh water of any community near or far. Tourist trap Virginia City should be so lucky to have such fine water.

Mustang range through town. Up by the community hall the park grass is fenced off to discourage equine grazers. Homes are painted, doors and windows work as they should, a proper roof is always a must. Once you adjust your eyesight to small town Nevada everything comes into focus, the good citizens here are taking care of their property. By my eye many look fully improved turn key operations.

Yes, you can find a snowmobile that has been dissolving into a rusting heap alongside the salvaged metal remains of most of one century then all another hundred years and toss these last two can we have a do-over decades plus in for good measure. There is some pavement. The one highway through town is paved. There are no traffic signals.

Looking south you’ll see sky, clouds kick up, hell of a place for happy hour. Every kind of enterprise, industry and labor is performed in Silver City. Nevada’s state capitol Carson City is not far, Tesla’s Gigafactory is not close but if that’s where you find a a job and a living wage— it can be one of life’s cruel possibility’s. The best life is reserved for repairmen, that’s the ticket here. Fix an RV toilet, install a water heater, bannister refurbishing is popular and needed.

Baker’s Whispering Elms

Baker, Nevada is 8 hours and 370 miles east of Silver City. Baker is also a town of near 200 Great Basin souls. Silver City is the minor league’s when you think about emptiness and isolation, Baker plays in the to hell and gone league. You got so much nowhere out here that by the time you drive to somewhere you end up barely having gotten anywhere. Ely’s the next nearest somewhere— she too is a fine place and there’s plenty of it, they’ve got grocery stores, gas stations and saloons.

Whispering Elm’s Campground is where I stopped in Baker. A no-nonsense hard boiled egg of a woman checked me in. Took my money, smoked her cigarette, answered the phone and grouched back at whoever and whatever was on the other line. Her ride was an overridden Ford Explorer. No dents, started when you turned the key and the original paint was protected by a thick coat of Great Basin dust. I made small annoying chit-chat. I was here in March 2020 when the pandemic was breaking out— She had nothing to say— I carried on— he persists— pretty much talking to myself, she’d of preferred to hear from anything other than a two-bit likely two-timing no good for nothing nature loving Californian.

This is what passes for true affection in the remote eastern outpost of Baker, Nevada. I needed more seasoning is what a local likely thinks— a few weeks of wearing down would help before conversation with this invasive species would offer any potential benefit. You want to talk to someone that might listen you head right over across the street to the national park headquarters where they’ve got people that are paid to put up with a just arriving Great Basin hack explorer.

I’ve cracked more than a few hard nuts out here in Baker. They’ll come around eventually or by happy hour. There are hard lessons out here to learn. First is how to put two coins together. Younger more ambitious types with some spunk left get on at one of the ranches, work on road repair crews, maybe you’re cooking for a restaurant before it goes belly up then get hired on to cook for the next proprietor that gives hospitality services a try prior to the next collapse. Ghost town status is preternatural.

I’ve met a few lifer’s along the way, but most are here because they can’t take anywhere out there anymore. Rush hour, gridlock and stinking air pollution has converted more than a few to the virtues of a place like Baker. Most of these kindred spirits have a deep detestation for civilization, all of it, the whole kit and bumper to bumper caboodle. Only exception they are willing to make is for the ornery son of a bitches that they share this corner of the world with. Fair enough, everything has its price, I’m good with Baker folk sticking together and leaving me out.

If you were blindfolded and set down in Baker or Silver City and asked to identify where you are the tone of voice and the quality of joy in the voice of the citizen would give the whole guessing game away. Baker occupies a wee little corner of the Snake Valley. If you go half cocked off in any direction you will find yourself in a place that can kill, maim or make misery on your foolishness in a heartbeat. A breakdown out a dirt road could be your last lousy mistake. The paved roads are safest. Some graded dirt roads aren’t too risky, but then there are these other less seldom used two track trails to nowhere you’ve got to think twice about.

Baker now has a reliable cellphone signal. A few years back all you could do is dial to a number and use your voice to talk to someone, since those days they’ve added data so now you can look at your mail or if you’ve got the stomach for it read the news. This may or may not be progress, jury is out on whether the Pony Express might have been a more reliable service. If you do or don’t come here that’s your choice, you are only missing Great Basin beauty and the ugly truth.

A Nevada art’s organization offers a winter long residency here. If you are a writer they’ll set you up in a shack give you enough money for food and let your stew on whatever it is you have swelling up inside that needs expression. Once full-on winter sets in things go from soft core to hardcore. Instead of maybe a dozen or two dozen vehicles arriving by the day you can expect maybe one or two every couple of days. You build fires in the wood stove, watch the weather reports for snow and ice, and hitch a ride to Ely to resupply when its safe to go.

Last few miles before making it to Baker I surprised a coyote crossing the highway. This animal scattered like buckshot into the sagebrush glancing back once just in case I was going to give chase then the critter kept running for its life trying to reclaim its stealth like presence. I slowed then stopped and studied the animals efforts to get away, there was an economy of effort, fast enough to do the work of fleeing but not so much as to risk running the tank of coyote gas empty before the job was done. Since I’m not often running for my life I mean who am I to judge one coyote or another— fast or slow running for your life is running for your life. Hell we’re all running, out here in the high desert that running is just less complicated or disguised. You either make it or you don’t, no hurry, take your time, once you’ve found cover, taken a sip at the watering hole, had a chance to catch your breath, it’s all good, you’ve made it, you are safe, for the moment, eternity can wait—


Green River Hot Stuff

Boom times in Utah swelled the population of Green River. Even before the arms race prospectors came to Southeast Utah digging up vanadium then radium. By the 1940’s the real rush was on, uranium was needed for nuclear weapons.

In 1977 outside Moab on Hwy 128 everyone camped along the Colorado River. You’d try to roll your rig into the salt cedar for privacy. I traveled through unaware the Atlas Uranium Mill was in full operation just downwind of where I was camping. By 1984 the processing facility closed.

Water from the Colorado River is diverted below Moab for use in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Since 1952 the radioactive uranium mills tailings have been spilling into the river. Nothing about digging out uranium from the Morrison Formation of the Jurassic age has ever made any kind of sense.

Walking along Broadway in Green River, passing by the now closed saloons, new buildings erected next to the crumbling ruins from the old days. You can see the intertwining, you have to wonder who had come here and where did these boomtown miners go?

Modern times the river rafting companies put in here. Summertime the cottonwoods spread optimism and shade. Green River watermelons are feast and treasure. About 900 citizens have stuck it out here since the boom times, back when uranium mining was in full swing it was more like 3000.

Back during uranium’s heyday, when a man could still earn a fair wage for his toil, that’s when Green River was a frontier destination, Town was swelled with hard rock miners packing fat wallets, resisting the Mormon tyranny of faith and sobriety, Friday nights on Broadway this is where love came to be lost and found.

At the foot of Broadway is the Green River train station where the California Zephyr travels through. You can get on and go east to Chicago or west to Emeryville, California. Might as well by a ticket to the moon, nothing seems more improbable than thinking you can escape the life you’ve found here.

Green River today is most of all a gas stop. One-hundred and ten miles west in Salina is the next chance. That would be somewhere beyond the San Rafael Swell and Spotted Wolf Canyon. Motoring east you’ll go another 100 miles to Grand Junction. No fool goes off half cocked out here in this desert. You’ll pay with misery and your life.

Geologists, paleontologists, and archeologists are scattered across the remote hinterlands returning to file reports of nowhere else in the world discoveries. Rockhounding and dinosaur bone finds are frequent.

America’s first people, the Anasazi arrived here 12,000 years before present. Rugged doesn’t describe the countryside and how a soul managed to move from one region to another is unimaginable.

Walking with your fresh polished best pair of boots along Broadway in Green River, that’s where the real riot of humanity was found. Long ago they’d ride up by horseback, then Model T’s, Model A’s, Willy’s and then Jeeps.

I was backstage with a pack of musicians, one was Chris Ledoux. Lot of storytelling was going on. An act out of Wyoming had taken up where his grandfather had left off, traveling between towns playing country music. The player had mentioned his grandfather having played Green River back in the 1930’s. Money for a gig in a boomtown was better than what you make in Cheyenne or Casper. Rodeo champion and country music star Chris Ledoux couldn’t put this touring by Model A out of his mind. All of us had a pickup truck out in a parking lot ready for another 400-mile drive.

Environmental Protection Agency studied the radioactive mine tailings problem left behind by the uranium boom days. The more it rained the more material washed into the Colorado. Closed since 1984 it wasn’t until about 10 years back, they finally acted. Custom trailers had been fabricated so that once loaded would not leak one speck of dust. For years now trailers have been hauling tailings 30 miles north burying the contaminated dirt into a pit. The burial site was lined and will be capped when the work is completed. Projects official price tag is about one billion dollars, but that doesn’t include the radioactive damage inflicted on the human populations both near and far.

The craziest part of me would have given anything to have four wheeled off the desert back into Green River after a long day out prospecting for uranium. Take a shower, put on my saloon dancing duds, hop into my Willy’s and head on down to Broadway chase a few of those cute Mormon girls that have come into town looking to strike it up with one of those hot shot hard rock strike-it-rich types they’ve all heard so much about. There’s no way to account for how good the music was or how proud a daring man might feel holding that night’s love of his life in his arms for the first and last first time.

One thing for sure the half-life of this whole being amorous thing has got to have made Friday nights in Green River the one sure place that a good and not so good girl might go missing in search of eternal bliss until she miraculously reappears at sun up the next morning her heart full and with stories she will never be able to tell.



Minting Ghost Towns

Dirt Track up to Ridge for View of Sunset

You can call me at home. I’m home. Home is where I’ve been spending my time.

For example sleeping in the same bed. I haven’t slept in the same bed for months on end since like ever. OK, maybe in some distant past but not like this.

It’s all food preparation all the time now. I miss a good restaurant, but under the circumstances I don’t miss dining out nearly as much as I covet my current health status.

With Some Spare Time You Can Make a Hinge

I rate my favorite walks on the basis of head count now. A good walk in my book is a desolate stretch of trail with nobody else anywhere. Sorry to zero you out, but these are the times we live in.

My wardrobe counts for nothing. I change it up for my wife, but she doesn’t see my clothes, she just sees me.

That gal of mine and I have no more than a few after supper hours to debrief on the busy days we each have concocted in support of our egos desperate attempt to hide from this horror show we find ourselves surrounded by. I’m making the movie, The Fall of the American Empire. It’ll be out soon.

We have just completed our first jump from California to Colorado. We are totally self-contained risking nothing and encountering next to nobody. We can jump twelve hundred miles in two days time. This is in support of my wife’s work. I’m the professional road dog in the family and with show business shut down I’m playing the role of long haul driver.

Lunch beneath cottonwood in a patch of shade

I miss seeing friends. Miss petting strange dogs.

We’re doing as best as can be expected. I spoke at a safe distance with a proprietor in Cold Springs, Nevada. Cold Springs lies two hundred miles east of Reno, one hundred miles north to Elko, three hundred miles south to Las Vegas, this nowhere spot in the Great Basin is plodding along taking life as it is, was, and always will be.

Proprietor was sunny in disposition and because of the remote location skeptical of anything having to do with the price of tea in China. Warned me to stay away from the goat head thorns, watch for rattlesnakes while walking up the ridge to taking in the sunset, and settle in for the night and take noise from the highway and what sleep I might get as it comes.

Something about a good end of day

This proprietor is hopeful they won’t dry up and blow away. His plan is to bide time and wait the stinking hard times out, no hurry, nothing to hurry about out in Cold Springs, Nevada.

In a general sense Cold Springs because of there being so damn few people living there (a handful of hard scrabble souls at most) that the travelers stopping to slake their thirst or rest their weary behinds will right quick learn they have come to a place that time has asked to stand still.

Most of all you should know that chores and living in Nevada are just two sides of the same coin. Fancy britches and pearl snap button western shirts are of no use. A good herd dog, now there is a useful critter to partner up with. Nevadans come in all shapes and colors, some from the casino populated cities and the rest scattered far and wide over an immense confounding landscape.

The next wave of Great Basin ghost towns are being minted as we speak. Still we figure that our fellow citizens will dig out of the corner they are hunkered down in and will be out there on the high desert soon enough. Come see what is likely to never change. Collard lizard, sagebrush and a posse of turquoise miners will be holed up in a boxed canyon waiting for the privilege of your company. Nothing but cat houses, mustang and hard times for as far as an eye can see. Rural Nevada puts nothing and nowhere at the top of the list somewhere lost on a map. And it is this spot if you set boot to dirt, sweat to brow, hike to the top of that ridge where fellow citizen what you’ll find waiting is what is most worth preserving. This is our America out here.


Edward Abbey’s Cathedral

Santa Cruz River Trail
Santa Cruz River Trail

Tubac   Southern Arizona

Forget about Tucson. It has been eaten. People I care about are trapped there in their cars.

We are wasting away just north of Nogales. We are happy hour humbled by the naked truth of unoaked chardonnay as our enlightenment gateway.

The cowboy here is so long ago. The standin stuntman for cowpokes is the resort, the snowbirds digs, then a road, and a riot of Border Patrol vehicles, and never forget the artists, all the deluded desperados who ended up here and for reasons they no longer so certain as they once were.

Edward Abbey was made of brooding. His dusty hopes were all west of here in Arivaca. Abbey’s melancholy was sacrament. He worked His will by word.

Skunk are in full odiferous bloom. Scorpion are in hibernated bliss. Love and adore them all, Edward Abbey especially.

We are beyond Starbuck salvation. We are immigration station bound, star filled- did you ever see so many inexplicables… masquerading beneath a canopy of illicit drug mule trains?

There is no innocence in this era. We are now all dutifully connected to the immeasurable sorrows of what humanity can put on a front page.

If your scar was soul and if soul was desert? What fool bird would you come back to be? I choose raven. They are fat here. They laugh. They have a sense of humor. And they can eat anything.