There is more to Nevada than the elaborate hotels, casinos, and fabulous entertainment along The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada has a huge history. Beauty. And yes, a vast barren land. An emptiness. So, you ask, where is the beauty? In some parts of Nevada it is obvious. In others, it is in the “eye of the beholder.” Yet, in even other areas, it is a combination of both. Take for instance a passage from my latest book, Dust Devil Darlin’ as we get inside the mind of my hero, Lee Jiles.
The sun scorched the roof of Lee Jiles four-wheel drive Ford as it bounced over a country dirt road at a fast clip. He cursed the sun, the road, the empty land. What really rattled Lee the most was the absolute dry-bone of the land. Not a tree in sight, but plenty of sagebrush. A stray match would make short work of it all, he thought. The frown left Lee’s face as two miniature dust devils cut in front of him, skirting across the barren desert floor. His eyes followed their crooked path, intrigued by the swirling dirt. As quickly as they had appeared, the dust devils vanished, swept up into an invisible abyss.
Lee stretched his gaze across the boundaries of the desert to the San Antonio Mountains in the distance. A faint hint of a smile twitched the corners of his mouth as he studied the long “gray-iron” train, the range of mountains extending twenty-five miles along the skyline. His eyes softened as his smile grew. Mountains. Something about them lent beauty to their surroundings, however bleak they seemed.
Lee was a man who gave credit where credit was due. The unmerciful sun, the nothingness of the land flying by his window in a flurry of dust, were all part of central Nevada and had to be tolerated, even loved by some. The mountains gave it substance in a way nothing else could.
That is one example of Nevada’s beauty. The wilderness is another. To a miner’s wife who is brought to the hard and barren earth, it can be desolate and depressing, with nothing to see but sagebrush and mesquite brush. To another it can be honest, raw beauty with mountainous meadows, pine trees, wildflowers, lakes, streams of trout, wildlife in abundance. It all depends on where you stand, what you have come to see, and what you gain from the experience.
Nevada’s history, as many other states, includes early Indian tribes, emigrants, gold mining, and consequently, immigration from all countries here and abroad. With the miners came the prostitutes and politicians. Ranches can be found throughout the state, in a plush greenness or the vastness of desert. Horses and cows feed on both. Cowboys and cowgirls prevail. An excerpt from my book, The Watermelon Patch, seems fitting against this backdrop.
The cottonwoods were just beginning to turn and a soft breeze whispered through the trees, warm with the promise of a lingering Indian summer. There was a lulling quiet in the valley, traffic practically nonexistent at this time of day. Dawn faded and the sun started its climb high into the azure sky.
The modest one-story building, made out of stone, the color of the red earth, rested on a dry patch of ground, barren of everything save the trees—wonderful big trees standing tall and apart, like protective sentries on the rooftop of an old west fort.
The valley was a busy, profitable place, the quarters of dairy farms, hay growers, cattle ranches, groves of cottonwood and elm, one great watermelon patch and rich, red earth.
The history of the town was both shameful and glorious. First inhabited by the Paiute Indians, and in the days of Butch Cassidy and his “Hole in the Wall” gang, the valley became a regular robber’s roost. Bands of horse thieves and cattle rustlers hid from the law in the hills and caves covered with pinon pine that looped up and down the valley. Two small lakes, plenty of pastureland, trees, and meadows made this a haven for the outlaws and their animals.
I’m a native Nevadan. I was born a miner’s daughter in Tonopah, Nevada in a small white house. I spent a lot of my summers as a young girl to teenager in the middle of the desert with only a doll for my companion. My summers were lonely, but I was raised to understand a miner’s passion, even one who never found that wonderful vein of gold. Which brings me to my current work-in-progress, The Outlaw(s) and the Mail-Order Bride, which I hope to finish by the end of this year. I can’t wait to share that one with you!
Since I have emphasized Nevada’s beauty, and her empty-land, I would like to leave you with a quote from one of our most famous president’s. Theodore Roosevelt. “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work and man can only mar it.”