Wild horses could drag tourists into Mustang Ranch
It’s a brilliant idea, really.
Not in a million years would I have thought to turn a boarded-up bordello into a home for homeless horses.
For once, someone in the federal government is actually using his noggin for something more than a hat rack.
According to the latest stories from Storey County, the federal government has hatched a plan to reopen the famed Mustang Ranch brothel as a wild horse and burro learning center and refuge.
The feds took over the brothel and closed it after convicting its owners of fraud and racketeering a couple of months ago. The Bureau of Land Management reportedly sent a plan to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vegas that would convert the Mustang Ranch into a wild horse adoption agency.
“It’s an idea that’s easy to make jokes about,” said John Singlaub of the BLM office in Carson City.
Actually, it wasn’t that easy. It took me 15 minutes.
Some local government officials wonder if the fed’s new Mustang Ranch will have the same tourist draw as the old one.
“Maybe it has some merit,” said Washoe County Commissioner Joanne Bond. “But if you were a tourist to the area, would you make a stop at a facility like that to study wild horses?”
I’d say it depended upon the marketing plan.
Just a week ago I went to the circus and paid $5 to see a snake eat a rabbit. The sign outside the trailer begged me to come in and “see the amazing disappearing bunny.”
A good marketing guy ought to be able to come up with something that will draw visitors to the new ranch.
“Mustang Ranch: Still Wild And Ready For a Ride.”
“Mustang Ranch: Think You Can Tame Us?”
“Mustang Ranch: Boots Are Still Optional”
“Mustang Ranch: This Time We Mean It”
If they play it right, the feds ought to see some pretty good attendance figures right off the bat. Especially if they low-key the fact that there’s been a shift in business philosophy.
They could put up a billboard on Interstate 80 stating the Mustang Ranch is open again and when customers start to show up simply explain the subtle changes.
“For half the money you would have spent on a girl you can take home a wild burro,” ranch hands could explain.
“But I don’t want a wild burro,” the perplexed customer might argue. “I want Mary.”
“We’re sorry,” the ranch hand might reply. “Mary was laid off two months ago. Can we interest you in a horse named Sue?”
If the customer gets too unruly, the federal government ranch hands could threaten to turn his name over to the IRS, or simply confiscate his car, truck, or home. That’s the beauty of having the feds in charge of a tourist attraction.
Storey County Commission Chairman Chuck Haynes was reportedly suspicious of the plan. “I see it as a touchy, feely kind of thing to rationalize the federal seizure of county property,” he told one reporter.
I don’t think the commissioner really meant to describe the plan as “touchy, feely,” though. The old Mustang Ranch was a lot more “touchy, feely” than the new one proposes to be.
Even the wild horse advocates are looking at the BLM plan with a skeptic’s eye. Seems no one wants to trust the federal government these days. What has our country come to when we can’t trust the government?
“I’m afraid it’s just another gimmick to promote the idea of getting rid of our wild horses,” one member of the Wild Horse Spirit told a reporter. “The BLM is removing wild horses from public lands at an alarming rate under pressure from ranchers.”
The original Mustang Ranch was opened under a similar pretext: Get women off the streets and away from the ranchers.
Yet another wild horse advocate said the horses would be at risk at the Mustang Ranch because it sits in a flood plain along the Truckee River.
Never mind that the women of Mustang Ranch worked in that same flood plain for 32 years and not one of them drowned. And they didn’t have advocates watching out for their safety.
We ought to really give this BLM plan a chance to materialize. The alternative might be a nuclear dump site, or Bill Clinton museum, where tourists could pay $5 to see things they thought existed only inside brothels.
Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.