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Recently I got a chance to travel to Elko, Nevada, a modest sized town whose economy is focused mainly on ranching and mining. Elko is also home to some of Nevada’s larger herds of deer, elk and rocky mountain big horn sheep. Elko, however, isn’t just about ranching, mining and wildlife, but Elko’s got some culture going on as well. Elko is the home to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held during the first week of February of each year. Here is a tiny but modest sample of some classic cowboy poetry:

 “…It gives a man a sorter different feelin’ in his heart. 
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didn’t act so smart,
It kinda makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes.

And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin’, well, you come to realize
You’re a mighty common feller after all.”

—Alone by Bruce Kiskaddon

The reason I had to travel to Elko was to visit the good people working at the Elko Friends in Service Helping (F.I.S.H), an organization that works to help those who are homeless and hungry. They do great work up there. You’d think that in such an independent-minded and conservative community with a historically strong work ethic that they wouldn’t have homeless or hungry people at all. But they do.

Elko actually has a campground by the Humboldt River dedicated to helping the homeless, where a shuttle will come by a couple times a day to take them to job interviews, doctor’s appointment, and other services. This is progressive compared to some of our other rural counties who do not acknowledge that they have homeless people in their areas. And in some cases they might technically be right. Esmeralda County has a population of about 800 people in area of about 3600 square miles (if you have driven through Goldfield on 1-95, then you have driven through Esmeralda County).  If you are homeless in Esmeralda County the may literally not be able to find you if are camping out in the boonies. Heck, it might be easier to find a wild horse or a wild ass than it might be to find a homeless person in Esmeralda County.

However, it’s interesting to me to note that even out in the rural areas no community is immune from the effects of drugs and alcohol, which tends to play a large part in homelessness.

Lovelock

For some unknown reason, I like the drive out to Elko. The first stretch of the drive runs parallel to the Truckee River as it find its way to Pyramid Lake, the last remnant of the Lake Lahontan that covered most of Nevada during the Pleistocene era (contrary to what my children believe I was not alive then). Somewhere around Fernley the river goes another path and the landscape is a barren until you get to Lovelock, a small farming community, which is also the home of the Lovelock Correctional Center the current home to O.J. Simpson.

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I don’t know if it is still true but when I first came to the state they used to tell me that the Lovelock Correctional Center was where they decided to put all the sex offenders because they were having problems housing them with the general prison population. So I found it odd that he was sent there.

This is no knock on Lovelock, but there is not much out there and the correctional center is even more isolated than the town as it sits by itself, away from the community, at the base of one of Nevada’s many, many lonely brown mountains. You can’t help to kind of feel bad for O.J. for a moment because his current lifestyle is quite the fall from his lifestyle at his Rockingham home in Brentwood. But he did commit a double murder of two innocent people, nearly decapitating Nicole Brown Simpson, so the sympathy is short-lived.

Although the murders are not why he is up there, he is up there because a Clark County (Las Vegas) judge gave him the maximum for armed robbery and kidnapping in his an attempt to reclaim some of his memorabilia. I guess the maximum sentencing could be seen as payback for the verdict of innocent he got when he was on trial for murder. Memo to self: If you get off for a double-murder that 90% of population clearly thinks you committed, don’t commit an armed robbery afterwards. Don’t be felonious, for heaven’s sake.

Note: We have to give a shout out to Rob Bates, our brother-in law. Rob sits on the Nevada Parole Board and is briefly filmed, conducting O.J.’s parole board hearing, in the opening scene of Part 1 of ESPN’s O.J. Simpson: Made In American series.

Winnemucca

Around Lovelock the Humboldt River, Nevada’s longest river, empties into the Humboldt sink (basically a dry lake bed). This river was named by John C. Fremont after the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and was the route that the California Trail followed as migrants headed to the California gold fields. I am always impressed by the Humboldt River’s determination to be a river.

After passing Lovelock, I generally make my first stop on the way to Elko in Winnemucca. A town named after Chief Winnemucca of the Northern Paiute and father to one of Nevada’s most famous historical figures, Sarah Winnemucca. She was the first female Native American to write an autobiography, using her education to argue for Native American civil rights in this region. For a small town Winnemucca seems to have a lot going on, they even have a Wal-Mart.

On a less positive note, Winnemucca used to be somewhat infamous for having a brothel district and these businesses where not shy about advertising it on big billboards as you were approaching town. My family used to joke about one particular brothel, which I think was named the Kitty Katt Klub, pretending it was literally a cat house where big burly truck drivers could go and snuggle up to kittens. Such is the humor we had to develop when you are forced to explain that crap to your young kids.

Battle Mountain

In between Winnemucca and Elko is a hard scrabble mining town called Battle Mountain. Because I don’t stop too often at Battle Mountain, I can’t tell you how lively Battle Mountain is. I mean it does have a McDonald’s but the old downtown is pretty sleepy. One of things I do like about Battle Mountain is that they are unashamed of their town’s initials and proudly display the initials “BM” on the side of a big hill just outside of town. Ironically, the road that takes you to the hill with the town’s initials on it is the road to Battle Mountain’s landfill.

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Basque Food and Going Home

The trip from Winnemucca to Elko is not too bad and usually goes quick. Usually, I stay at the Americas Best Value Gold Country Inn & Casino. I am not sure why. I think it’s because when I would travel with the kids from Carson City to Provo, Utah this hotel had a nice pool where the kids could play in when they were little.

Elko has some good restaurants, like the Star Restaurant, which serves Basque-style food. Now, don’t ask me what Basque cuisine is. I still haven’t figured out what makes it so different. My first introduction to Basque food was a slice of hard cheese on a dry roll with no butter or mayonnaise on it. Ever since that time I’ve been a little skeptical about what makes this food so unique. Nevertheless, I can give two thumbs up to the Star Restaurant. I am not a big steak eater but their steaks are worth giving a try.

The spell of the Great Basin landscape has normally worn off by the time I need to leave Elko. Usually, I am less patient on the way back occasionally finding myself driving a desperately brisk 90 mph. I try not to go any faster than that and only in spots. I did once get a ticket for going 95 mph and that was costly. But no matter the cost, coming home is always worth it.

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Kitchen is Done

Tammy painted the kitchen last week. She did it all by herself and it looks soooo good! I figured it was a labor of love so I didn’t help out at all and I think she didn’t mind at all. She accentuated the paint job with some new Hobby Lobby accessories including a large metal H for Hansen.

The kitchen walls are now a light yellow and I believe the color is called Cotton-Linen yellow. Next to being the tester of Fancy Ketchups, I would love to be the guy who gets to name paint colors. I could come up with some pretty good names like Troglodyte Tan, Dorian Grey, or Obliging Orange.

Evolution and God

I am no expert on Evolution or God, but since this is the Internet I will not let my ignorance on both stop me from commenting on them. I was just reading a book on Evolution where the author argues that the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution did away with the notion of design and purpose in the creation of the earth and the idea of God manifesting himself in the creation.

Sure I see how it dealt a blow to the mechanistic view of the creation, but I am not sure how evolution, natural selection, gradualism, and speciation mean that there wasn’t a creator behind the creation or that there is no design or purpose to His creations. I mean what is so random about processes that take millions of years to bring about any change. Isn’t time a key component to deliberation? It seems to me that the universe and nature scream design and purpose and point to an intelligence behind the creation.

“But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”—Alma 30:44

I don’t know why a general belief in Evolution (change) would mean to people like Richard Dawkins that I would have to cast aside my faith in God, if anything it would affirm my belief in God as the master Biologist. I am just glad that whether or not I believe in evolution will not be a criterion for getting into the gates of heaven. However, if they ask me what the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is I’m in trouble.