Nevada’s Sesquicentennial takes place during my own golden anniversary, or 50th birthday, and causes me to pause and reflect on what my lifetime in a one-square mile town, in the great State of Nevada, has meant to me. Much like the Nevada State Tree, the mighty Bristlecone Pine, my family has an extensive root system in Nevada; five generations, spanning ages 2 to 93 are within my reach.
Each day, outside my office window, I am in awe of the community’s mighty protector: Mt. Grant. At 11,400 feet, this mountain stands as the tallest point in the county along the Wassuk Range. For the past couple of years, the community has sponsored a Memorial Challenge, a 17-mile hike up the mountain, to honor those who lost their lives in the 9-11 attacks and to support the Veterans of Foreign Wars flying one of the largest American flags in the state. Twice, I’ve completed this challenging hike up Mt. Grant and feel a very special connection to this great mountain. I am in awe of the 200 mile view (on a clear day) that can be seen from its crest.
From Mt. Grant’s pinnacle one can see the grandeur of Walker Lake. In the 1940s my grandfather worked for Dodge Brothers Construction helping build a road around that lake. As a child, I learned to swim, water ski and fish at Walker Lake. During my youth, we hosted professional boat races and ski meets, fishing derbies and later loon festivals. As painful as it is to watch this beautiful body of water shrink, I feel compelled to wade through the now constant seaweed growth and ignore the high salt content, to relax on my tube or swim on a warm summer’s day. “Not in your lifetime,” is the assurance that my father offers when I lament about the decline of our lake and worry about my swimming hole becoming a mud bog. Thankfully, Senator Harry Reid and the Walker Lake Working Group continue to work diligently to assure that the next generation of Nevadans might enjoy this body of water.
The expanse of the valley and the world’s largest army ammunition depot splay below Mt. Grant’s mountaintop. Protector of the nation through all major conflicts, my grandmother remembers working the production line at the Hawthorne Army Depot during World War II assembling warheads to send to the men in the field. Other conflicts would follow and the Depot sustained a community and instilled a patriotic sense of duty that continues today.
“America’s Patriotic Home” the residents of Hawthorne have proclaimed, and each year we host the state’s longest running Armed Forces Day Celebration in May. Armed Forces Days of my childhood included one of the few opportunities for civilians to visit the historic housing district located on the Main Base, take a train ride tour of the Depot and shake the Lt. Colonel’s hand. I’ve grown up surrounded by a certain “risk” but feel safe and protected in my hometown.
My sense of community patriotism turns into pride regarding my alma mater, Mineral County High School (Class of 1981) as both of my parents, and all three of my children received their diplomas from the home of the Serpents. My grandson walks down these hallowed halls as a freshman this year and proudly carries on the family’s basketball tradition. We still cheer to the gold and the black and delight when our town’s mascot, Cecil the Sea Serpent, makes his way down the Homecoming Parade route. A 100-foot long float, it is hoped that Cecil will make an appearance at the 150th Nevada Day parade even though he has grown “long in the tooth.”
I don’t often contemplate my life in a one-square mile town; I live it, and find not enough hours in the day to do the many things that I would like. I feel a sense of loyalty and pride that is hard to describe; lately I sometimes feel loss as the old-timer’s pass, the landmarks change and the population shrinks. But thus, these are the emotions that one feels when they have fallen in love with a way of life, with a community and state. I write my story as a way to say “Happy Birthday Nevada,” and many happy returns.