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What does it mean intrinsically to those who call the Silver State home?
Photo: PR (Harry Reid)
Most people can easily expel a laundry list of reasons of why they’re proud to be an American. But what about something more intimate and stately?
Defining “Nevadan” is not your standard black-and-white issue. There are many shades of gray to this silver and blue topic.
For instance, when you type it into Google, the only credible results refer to the 1950 film “The Nevadan” on imdb.com and a semi-political blog called Hidden Rants of a Nevadan. Dictionaries define Nevadan as “one who lives in Nevada.”
Guy Clifton, author of You Know You’re a Nevadan If…, only offers suggestions like if you’ve eaten an Awful Awful (hamburger), if you’ve parked on the dirt lot at Meadowood Mall in Reno to holiday shop, and if you can correctly pronounce the towns of Ely, Genoa, and Wabuska.
“To be a true Nevadan,” Sparks Mayor Geno Martini says, “you must be honest, hard working, fun loving, full of life, friendly, enjoy the outdoors, able to fire any kind of gun, drive a four-wheel-drive pickup, and know how to pronounce Nevada.”
And if you were a true Nevadan, you’d know the most important latter part of that sentence! Even former president George W. Bush made that faux pas when he campaigned in Reno in 2004. He promptly corrected his mistake the next time he visited. Admit it, how many times have you yelled at the TV when you hear that other pronunciation, “Ne-VAH-da”?
Martin Smith, the creator of the regionally popular Nevada Trivia: The Game, calls himself “an adopted Nevadan”—a term that intrigues me. Not all of us are native (like me), but we breathe and share the same air. There’s even a website catered to Reno newcomers called newtoreno.com.
So what, then, attracts outsiders to move from their original home to the Silver State? Reno Mayor Bob Cashell is one of those so-called adopted Nevadans. “For me, Nevada has been the land of opportunity,” he says. “It is a place where a person with an entrepreneurial spirit can follow a dream and thrive. Nevada is a lucky place for me. It’s been good to me, and I’m happy to raise my family here.” Family seems to be a common thread.
When I visited the Nevada Store in south Reno, an employee, Lindsey Faulkner, told me some of her customers hold Nevada-only Christmases with blue and silver tinsel-covered trees. Other customers buy locally made products like honey, soap, and literature.
Faulkner’s parents moved to Nevada in the 1960s. She was born in Reno. “Being born in a desert on top of a mountain can make you into a special kind of person,” she says. “Because with a view like this one, you can almost see the meaning of life.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to share the same sentiment. He e-mailed me this answer: “As someone who was born and raised in [Searchlight] Nevada, I’ve seen the state change and grow over the years. But what hasn’t changed is that we’re survivors. The people of Nevada take chances and fight through difficult times. Right now is a perfect example. We’ll get through this economic downturn and come out stronger than we were before. It’s what Nevadans do.”
I attended the University of Nevada, Reno, as did my parents and maternal grandmother. In fact, by the time I studied journalism there, the word “Reno” was added to all diplomas (my mother’s picture still hangs in the Orvis School of Nursing).
A few years back I learned both my grandmothers worked at the former Harold’s Club in downtown Reno. A concrete courtyard now stands where they dealt cards. So it only makes sense it’s already ingrained in me to play Megabucks after it hits $10 million. And it sounds crazy, but I actually miss the sounds of coin/ticket payouts when I leave the state for an extended period of time.
For me, being a Nevadan also means never hearing “last call” at bars and believing 3 a.m. Steak and Eggs is a birthright.
James Gallagher moved to Northern Nevada after serving in World War II. He agrees food shares a common thread among state residents. He cited examples of eating apple pies with sauce at the Wigwam in Fernley, sipping drinks at the Dog House in Reno, and eating waffles at Tiny’s Waffle Shop.
As you can see, it’s a very personal answer. So, let me ask you—what do you think it means to be a Nevadan?