The Nevada Traveler: New book tells the stories of real Nevadans

Journalist John Gilonna’s book, “Outback Nevada: Real Stories from the Silver State,” spotlights the places and people that make Nevada special, including folks who live in the McDermitt area.

Journalist John Gilonna’s book, “Outback Nevada: Real Stories from the Silver State,” spotlights the places and people that make Nevada special, including folks who live in the McDermitt area.

John Glionna clearly enjoys wandering Nevada. Writing for a variety of publications over the past several decades, including the Los Angeles Times and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Glionna has sought out stories that speak to him — and his readers.
Fortunately, many of his best articles are now collected in a new book titled, “Outback Nevada: Real Stories from the Silver State,” which was recently published by the University of Nevada Press.
The book collects some 45 features spotlighting everything from “The Rural Football Team That Rarely Scores,” about the eight-man football team at the remote McDermitt Combined School to “The Last Sheepherder,” a profile of White Pine County sheepherder Hank Vogler, who has herded sheep for more than three-and-a-half decades.
The stories are divided into five geographic sections (the North, the South, the Center, the East, and the West), with each containing seven to 10 features.
In his preface, Glionna said he began exploring Nevada’s hinterlands in response to people — who didn’t know any better — saying there was nothing out there. Those hinterlands, he wrote, are “where the real Nevada lies.”
Among those appearing in the book are Nathan Robertson and Daniel Corona, the youthful mayors, respectively, of Ely and Wendover. In addition to being under 40 years old, both are openly gay.
Others profiled included Val Trucksa and Nancy Knighten, two emergency medical technicians operating in Esmeralda County, a place big in size and small in population, who wanted to retire but couldn’t find anyone to take their places, and Boyd Graham, a native Shoshone who is trying desperately to keep his people’s dying Native American language alive.
The stories reflect Glionna’s keen eye for recognizing a good story and admirable ability to write something that is poignant when it needs to be, humorous when appropriate, and always respectful of the subject.
He has sought out not only the unusual, such as Father Charles Urnick, who conducts weekly mass in the Riverside Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, and Frank Van Zant, who built the bizarre Thunder Mountain art project located between Lovelock and Winnemucca, to the inspirational, like historian Wendell Huffman, who is devoted to preserving Nevada’s rich railroad history, and Melissa Mevis, a former addict who is helping other addicts to stay clean in Pahrump.
As for why he likes writing about these folks and places, Glionna provided the answer “Driving north from Las Vegas along U.S. Route 95, I don’t feel I’ve really entered the outback until I’m well north of Indian Springs, when four-lanes narrow to two, as the turnoff toward mysterious Mercury and its tall tales of green men and secret government programs.
“Only then does my mind get right, do I stretch my emotional legs and begin to unwind. I see dirt roads that jettison from the blacktop, exploding like laser beams toward the far horizon, and fight the urge to drive every one of them.”
For those who appreciate Nevada’s open space, with its majestic mountains and wide valleys, its individualistic and often quirky people, and rich, colorful history, “Outback Nevada” is something to savor and enjoy.
“Outback Nevada” is available at local bookstores and from the University of Nevada Press website at www.unpress.nevada.edu/books/?isbn=9781647790448

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