Some Nevada Day reflections to remind us why we live here
Special to the Appeal
One of the things I like best about Nevada Day is that it always reminds me that I don’t live in California. As a great philosopher once said, Thank the Lord for small blessings.
Nevada Day is sort of a hometown celebration of our state’s unique history and traditions, and I always enjoy the parade and other related activities including the political chili feed at the Nugget, where politicians of all known persuasions rub elbows with the voters. It’s a truly democratic (small “d”) event where you can shake and howdy with the U.S. Senate minority leader and city supervisors at the same time in the same place. It’s a Nevada thing.
The late Bob Laxalt, a highly respected Nevada author, described what makes our state different in a U.S. bicentennial history published in 1977. “But now, older, I find myself reflecting whimsically on how very much like the sagebrush the people are, at least in the hinterland that makes up most of Nevada, setting down roots and thriving in unlikely places, hardy and resilient, stubborn and independent, restrained by environment and yet able to grow free.” I hope we never lose the Nevada spirit that Laxalt wrote about so eloquently.
Things have changed dramatically since those poetic words were written. Today, there are fewer of those hardy souls living in the hinterlands and more people living in cities, especially in Las Vegas and elsewhere in Southern Nevada, and that fact has changed the political landscape of our state. Some of these newcomers, many of them from our large, populous and very liberal neighbor to the west, forget that they’re no longer in California, where a nanny government guarantees that everyone is a victim.
Justice of the Peace Robey Willis had a sign on the wall of his old downtown courtroom warning defendants that California law doesn’t apply in Nevada. I was sorry he took the sign down when the courts moved to the new courthouse on East Musser Street. I thought of that sign when native American activists from the Bay Area came to Carson a few years ago and tried to stir up trouble at the trial of local tribal members accused of murdering an Hispanic immigrant. We heard a lot of nonsense about how the Indian defendants couldn’t get a fair trial in our city. Nevertheless, justice was served when most of the defendants accepted guilty plea deals and the activists went away, ending that particularly egregious attempt at imposing California values on Nevada.
A current example of that disturbing trend is Question 7, the marijuana legalization initiative on the November general election ballot. This is yet another clumsy attempt by out-of-staters who don’t understand Nevada or Nevadans to impose their ultra-liberal values on a moderately conservative state. I think they’ll fail again unless enough California leftists have moved here in the past two years to change the outcome.
Some old-timers call it the Californication of Nevada. I’m not that extreme about it, however, because some of my best friends, and a few close relatives, are Californians and I don’t want to write them out of my life. But a former state civil defense director was on to something when he proposed stationing the Nevada National Guard at Donner Pass to head off the hordes of fleeing Californians who’d be coming over the pass in case of emergency or natural disaster in the Bay Area.
So, you might ask, what does all of this have to do with Nevada Day? Well, it’s just my feeble attempt to explain what makes Nevada different and why we should remind ourselves from time to time why we choose to live here rather than in some urban megalopolis elsewhere in this great nation of ours. I just returned from a family visit to Seattle, where rainy weather and horrendous traffic jams are a daily reality. No thanks! After more than 40 years in Carson City, I can honestly say that Seattle is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Back in the 1960s the Nevada Day Parade featured as many horses as people. Although people probably outnumber horses by now, the parade still retains its hometown roots with high school bands and amateur gunslingers competing to see who can make the most noise. And the politicians are always good for some comic relief as they vie to see who can look most like an authentic Nevada cowboy. I haven’t seen a politician who could pull that off, however, since Lt. Gov. Rex Bell, a former cowboy movie star, rode in the parade in the early 1960s – although local boy Paul Laxalt did a pretty good Rex Bell imitation a few years later.
When I worked for Gov. Grant Sawyer in the mid-1960s, nothing was left to chance on Nevada Day. Bob Faiss, Chris Schaller and I would sprint down the parade route in order to stay ahead of the governor and give him a rousing welcome at every street corner along the way. That was our athletic version of grassroots politics, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
One of the best Nevada Day parades was in the state centennial year of 1964 when the Cartwrights of TV’s “Bonanza” served as grand marshals. Everyone went nuts when Pa Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his boys came riding by on their Hollywood show horses. These days we get the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jr. and the Moonlite Bunnyranch ladies. But no matter. Long live Nevada Day, and thanks to those who continue the tradition.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has been enjoying Nevada Day festivities for more than 40 years. This year is no exception.