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Irons in the fire: Home means Nevada?

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 27 December 2018

I doubt many travelers would have agreed with my assessment of the beautiful scenery I’d been taking in for several hours, but I genuinely enjoyed my drive across the understated majesty of Nevada’s high desert country.

The sky was clear, except for a few fluffy white, high floating clouds, whose brilliance, contrasted against a turquoise blue sky, nearly matched the brightness of the sun’s reflection off the snow that blanketed endless sage-covered hills.

As I passed the Geyser Ranch, on the Lincoln-White Pine county line, I snapped out of my trance-like state at the sight of Wheeler Peak’s 13,061-foot summit, looming large over the valley floor. Déjà vu slapped me in the face when I noticed 15 or 20 black cows off to the west, their noses buried in the snow as they casually grazed their way southward.

This was Lake Valley, and I had indeed experienced this before. I was shocked as the slow-motion calculator in my head did the math and passed the information to my consciousness. A big pile of years lay between my present awakening and the last time I had passed through this valley – just shy of three decades, to be precise.

My first employment opportunity out of college had led me to this country, and I had spent a lot of time following, gathering and hunting cows in this valley. This was the country that gave my family its start. We brought our toddler son to the Robison Ranch in Spring Valley and later added baby number two, a daughter, to the mix. At the time, I wondered what it would be like to put my kids on a bus in the dark, early morning hours to send them to school in Ely, some 50-plus miles from home. I never found out, as we left in search of greener pastures and higher pay before my kids reached school age. Nevertheless, we left some roots in east-central Nevada.

This particular trip was a byproduct of my county fair board position and the PRCA meetings, held in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. And, while there’s always a little bit of a thrill accompanying the experience of big time rodeo and the in-your-face brashness of Sin City, I’ve found a little bit of Vegas goes a long way.

As we swam upstream down the Strip and waded through the decadence of Fremont Street earlier that week, I found myself marveling at the opposing personalities of Nevada. My guess is the vast majority of people in the chaotic crowds of Vegas are completely oblivious to the Nevada that is regaled in the official state song:

Home means Nevada
Home means the hills,
Home means the sage and the pine.
Out by the Truckee, silvery rills,
Out where the sun always shines,
Here is the land which I love the best,
Fairer than all I can see.
Deep in the heart of the golden West
Home means Nevada to me.

The apathy of the crowded majority notwithstanding, the Silver State’s deep-seated, battle-born roots run deep and are firmly planted in the fascinating dichotomy that is the state of Nevada. The Nevada that’s home to the ranch families of Eureka, Tonopah or Panaca is worlds away from the Nevada that is home to the blackjack dealers and high rollers holding down the gaming tables at the Bellagio or Caesar’s Palace.

My Lake Valley awakening during my 550-mile drive, nearly 500 of which was on a two-lane road, led me to ponder the vast challenges facing rural America. Just as I felt overwhelmed and overrun by the glare and the chaos of the Vegas Strip, it’s easy to imagine our battle for recognition and understanding by the masses will be trampled by the ignorance and arrogance of the uninformed opinions of those who outnumber us by a ratio I can’t even begin to calculate. And while discouragement may sometimes cast a dark shadow, it should never be allowed to fully extinguish the light.

Feeding the world is a tall order under any circumstances. Feeding an ignorant and ungrateful world is something even more daunting. That, however, doesn’t mean we don’t do it anyway. Just take a breath and gather strength from the mountains of Nevada, the Kansas plains or the Iowa cornfields. We’re all in this together, whether we’re doing the feeding or the eating.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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