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Presenting eight ways (and eight seconds) to get in touch with your western side in Nevada.
Photo: Ruth Anne Kocour (Haystack Corral in central Nevada)
Technically, Cowboy Country territory spans a massive chunk of Northern Nevada, minus a skinny western strip extending north from Reno and Lake Tahoe to the Oregon border. But, let’s be honest pardner, we kin purdy dern near call the whole kit and caboodle Cowboy Country, if y’ur talkin’ Nevada.
So that’s what prompted us to cut this here swell to western culture and make a mash on our buckaroo readers. Now, the next time some dude asks, “What’s so cowboy about Nevada?,” you won’t hang fire or have to beat the devil around the stump. Instead, you’ll be game, and the asker won’t get it in the neck and will be dreadful happy with his new fine-as-cream-gravy knowledge of the Silver State.
8. “SHOOT” A GHOST TOWN
If you’re feeling a bit scooped in by this item, don’t fret, we’re working our way up to the most cowboy thing to do in Nevada. So what does snapping ghost-town photos have to do with cowboys? Where do you suppose the horse wanderers of Nevada’s past went to bend an elbow, or the ranchers of yesteryear drove their cattle and tended their stock?
Trust us, if you’ve never set foot in a ghost town like Hamilton or a vacant corral like Virgin Valley Ranch and listened to nothing but a slight breeze whistling through the sagebrush, you don’t yet have a sense of just how rough and hardscrabble these places were.
Imagine, if you can, as many as 20,000 people in the Hamilton area in the late 1800s; today, only a handful of crumbling structures remain. Some hamlets, such as Tuscarora, have cemeteries with headstones nearly as old as Nevada. It’s enough to get one humming the tune to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
WHERE DO I WANDER?
Nevada is riddled with ghost towns—too many to be explored in a lifetime, and too many to list here. Refer to the September/October 2010 issue of Nevada Magazine, or search “ghost towns” at nevadamagazine.com, for more isolated suggestions. If you want some of the banks or bars to be open and upright, we suggest visiting “living ghost towns” such as Jarbidge, Paradise Valley, Pioche, Tuscarora, and Virginia City.
• Natural lighting is typically optimal at dawn or dusk.
• Consider how to incorporate the elements (clouds and flora, for instance).
• Try different angles (don’t just shoot straight on) and some verticals (pretend you are photographing for a magazine cover).
• Experiment with distances; extreme close-ups can make interesting photos.
7. DISH UP A DUTCH-OVEN DELICACY
Long before mom and dad had their highfalutin electric oven with its fancy knobs and burners, cookin’ on the wagon trail was right done in wide-bellied, cast iron pots called Dutch ovens. While they ain’t much to gander at, they are durable and can produce a hearty dish to rival most homemade or restaurant concoctions.
This centuries-old tradition, practiced as early as the 1600s by the original colonists, has survived through generations ranging from Basques and Mormons to the post-Civil War cowboys who drove their cattle marathon distances. Following is a simple recipe and some events to start you on the path—or trail—to fetching gold at your local Dutch-oven cook-off. Photo: Jacob Kepler
TRY YOUR HAND
Black Forest Cake in a Dutch Oven
• 1 box Devil’s Food Cake mix and its ingredients
• 1 can cherries (whole, not in syrup), drained
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup chocolate chips
1. Mix cake according to box directions.
2. Fold in chocolate chips and cherries.
3. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Once oven is greased, pour in cake mix.
4. Follow cooking directions on cake box by placing the appropriate amount of coals over and under the Dutch oven to achieve desired temperatures.
5. Bake until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
COOK-OFFS & DEMONSTRATIONS
California Trail Days
Dutch Oven Society of Nevada in Las Vegas
May 22: Breakfast at Floyd Lamb Park
June 26: Steak Fry at Mount Charleston,
Old Mill Picnic Area
Black Rock Rendezvous
Black Rock Desert
Dutch Oven Cook-Off
Washoe Lake State Park
Dutch Oven Cook-Off
Cathedral Gorge State Park
6. PURDY UP Y’UR WARDROBE
Elko, the unofficial cowboy capital of Nevada, is the place to start for a western shopping spree. The original home of Garcia bits and spurs, J.M. Capriola Company (pictured) on Commercial Street offers the finest in custom saddles and western wear.
Joe Capriola started the business in 1929, after learning the trade from G.S. Garcia, who arrived in Elko in 1896 and opened his Harness and Saddle Shop soon thereafter. Needless to say, J.M. Capriola is steeped in western tradition, and it shows in the labor-intensive craftsmanship that goes into its custom saddles that fetch as much as $10,000.
Only Elko can put a western spin on coffee, as evidenced by Cowboy Joe on Fifth Street. Once you get your cup o’ joe, mosey on over to the Western Folklife Center’s gift shop on Railroad Street for western doodads, then peruse the gallery’s permanent and traveling exhibits. The center also hosts concerts, readings, and workshops. Cedar Creek Clothing on Idaho Street is worth a stop for its unique rustic gear.
Of course Nevada’s stock of bits and spurs doesn’t end in Elko.
STOP ON IN
1203 S. Carson St., Carson City
1920 E. Idaho St., Elko
7265 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas
6322 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas
4250 E. Bonanza Ave., Suite 104, Las Vegas
1955 S. Casino Drive, Suite 228, Laughlin
3345 S. Kietzke Ln., Reno
1460 W. Winnemucca Blvd., Winnemucca
Claire’s Western Wear
497 6th St., Wells
D Bar M Western Store
1020 E. 4th St., Reno
255 E. Plumb Ln., Reno
4700 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas
5111 Boulder Hwy., Las Vegas
185 Melarkey St., Winnemucca
WORTH A CLICK
5. OUTDRAW THE COMPETITION
When we ponder the Old West, the image of two gunslingers staring each other down on a sun-baked dusty street, hands hovering over their holsters anticipating who will draw first, is one that unequivocally comes to mind.
Well, modern gunslingers have turned the cold-blooded challenge into sport in annual fast-draw competitions in which shooters use wax bullets. “There’s nothing that duplicates the feeling of drawing a single-action revolver out of a holster and making that clean shot,” says “Quick” Cal Eilrich, Fernley city councilman and director of the Cowboy Fast Draw Association.
SEE FOR Y’URSELF
Grand National Competition of the Old West
Nevada State Championship
Hosted By Sage Hill Reno Rustlers & Great Basin Gun Hawks
Sept. 30-Oct. 2
Beretta’s Fastest Gun Alive CFDA World Championship
Hosted By Cowboy Fast Draw Association
4. FASHION A COWBOY POEM OR SONG
Who says the bronco-bustin’ cowboys and cowgirls of the West don’t have a soft side? Those squishy—and oftentimes comedic—personas come out in these family-friendly celebrations of western art and culture featuring lectures, music, poetry, and other educational means of exploring the West.
Having attended two National Cowboy Poetry Gatherings in Elko, I can attest that any westerner at heart should plan to partake in such a celebration at least once. Although famous in cowboy poetry circles, performers such as longtime Nevadan Waddie Mitchell are just as down to earth as the non-lyrical folks and won’t hesitate to say “howdy.” And when he does, there’s a good chance Mitchell will complement his trademark handlebar mustache with a big-ol’ country smile.
In the below video, Randy Rieman recites “Boomer Johnson” at the 2011 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Below are four events where you can hone your cowboy-poetry skills.
LEARN THE ART
Genoa Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival
Reno Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering
Jan. 28-Feb. 4, 2012
National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
3. BE A DUDE
The 2011 Elko Visitor’s Guide sums it up plumb right: Western-style food, entertainment, spectacular scenery, hunting, fishing, pack trips, photography, bird-watching, trail rides, and cattle drives are among the activities ranch vacations have to offer.
In the same guide, northeastern Nevada’s 71 Ranch teases our inner cowboy: “Imagine the freedom of riding your horse over 38,000 acres of privately owned ranch land, in wide-open ranges, and driving cattle from our meadows to the high-mountain pastures.”
Fittingly, Cowboy Country territory is the ranch vacation hub, but you can learn to loft a lariat in just about every corner of this fine state. Photo: Dan Dry
STAY A WHILE
Badlands Wilderness Ranch
North of Wells
Cottonwood Guest Ranch
O’Neil Basin, Wells
Hidden Canyon Ranch
Hidden Lake Outfitters
Old Yella Dog Ranch & Cattle Co.
Ruby Crest Ranch
Sandy Valley Ranch
Seven Mile Canyon Ranch
Soldier Meadows Ranch & Lodge
Black Rock Desert
Spur Cross Ranch
Tent Mountain Guest Ranch
2. HEAD ’EM UP, MOVE ’EM OUT
There are a handful of cattle drives available in Nevada for the rearing rustler who wants to prove his or her western mettle. Warning, a cattle drive will cost you a fair bit of dinero—$1,600 per rider for the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive, for instance—but you won’t be able to put a price on the experience. “Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on what an outstanding western experience the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive is,” Barbara Nill professes on nevadamagazine.com.
Photo: Ruth Anne Kocour
Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive
Northwestern Nevada, ends in Reno
July 10-16 (visit website for more dates)
Cottonwood Guest Ranch Horse/Cattle Drives
Northeastern Nevada, ends near Wells
Hunewill Ranch Cattle Drive
Bridgeport, California to Smith Valley
1. TAKE IN A RODEO
Paul Zarzyski, known today for his creative, sometimes sidesplitting cowboy poetry, spent 15 years riding bareback broncs on various rodeo circuits including the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “There are lots of good rodeo hands in this old world and a fair number of good poets,” fellow cowboy entertainer Ian Tyson is quoted on codeofthewestentertainment.com. “To find a man who is both is as rare as a wet summer in eastern Montana. Paul Zarzyski knows the jerk of the bareback riggin’ and the surge and flow of classic narrative poetry in the Masefield tradition.”
Tyson’s words, and Zarzyski’s career path, remind us that these cowboy pastimes are not individual or selective. Rather, they weave together to form the fabric of our western culture, which is alive and well in the Silver State. Attending a Nevada rodeo is a surefire way to appreciate that culture. Photo: Dini Esplin
Apr. 30-May 1
Tournament Charro—Mexican Rodeo
Helldorado Days Rodeo
Donnie Waters Invitational Roping Classic
Senior Pro Rodeo
National Senior Pro Rodeo
Nevada State High School Rodeo
Silver State International Rodeo
Silver State Stampede
Rocky Mountain Professional Association Rodeo
Shakespeare Ranch Rodeo
Lincoln County Fair & Rodeo
Oasis Stampede & Country Fair
Eureka County Fair & Rodeo
Fallon Senior Pro Rodeo
Indian National Finals Rodeo 2011
National Finals Rodeo
Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo
River Stampede PRCA Rodeo
Clark County Fair & Rodeo
SCA Ranch Rodeo