"Out in the land of the setting sun where the wind blows wild and free..." I'm sure I have a couple of readers who might recognize these opening lines from Nevada's state song. They'll probably also recognize the title of this post as the state's nickname emblazoned upon our flag, since Nevada was rushed into statehood by Abraham Lincoln via telegraph so our silver could help finanace the Union in the War Between the States back in 1864. And this year, as we begin celebrating our sesquicentennial (or, in real-life language, our one-hundred-fiftieth year of statehood), I'd like to take a moment to help clear up a few misconceptions I've encountered about the place my heart calls home.
*Vive Las Vegas! Whenever I say I'm from Nevada, the first thing that tends to pop into people's heads is "Las Vegas." All right, I do concede that Las Vegas is the largest, most well-known city in the state and its greater metropolitan area contains nearly 70% of the entire state's population, but that still leaves about 900,000 of us sprinkled throughout the remaining 92% of the state. If you stop to consider that Nevada covers 109,781 sq. miles while Las Vegas only covers 136 sq. miles, that leaves a lot of ground open to NOT being Las Vegas.
*Years ago when I was visiting British Columbia, I had someone ask about the slot machines in Nevada's restrooms. Okay, this is something I've never seen, but can't really disclaim since I've not visited every restroom in the state (though a person might be taking a gamble if trying to rely upon one of those little "dispenser" machines in some of them). Yes, there are slots in the grocery stores, gas stations, mini-marts, and airports, but I have yet to see one in the john.
*One summer evening as my younger sister and I strolled down the main drag in my hometown, we had to politely set a highly-embarrassed young sailor straight upon his misinformed knowledge about Nevada's legalized prostitution. While prostitution is legal in certain counties, to be legal it must be done in a licensed brothel and it certainly does not mean that every girl who walks down the street is a hooker!
*Nevada is a desert, but it is not flat. I read something not long ago about how, when a man who was driving across the country entered the Great Basin, the landscape became so flat he could see the curvature of the earth! Maybe, perhaps, possibly, in a certain spot somewhere upon the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah one might think such a feat possible, maybe, perhaps, but any good topographical map will prove that the Great Basin, which comprises western Utah and most of Nevada, is really quite mountainous. In fact, Nevada is home to over 300 mountain ranges, with more than 30 peaks that exceed an elevation of 11,000 feet--elevations that can rival the Rockies.
In all fairness, I admit I hold plenty of misconceptions about places I've never been to. It's easy to be led astray by pre-conceived ideas of the places we've only been exposed to through jumbled bits of media. Only by going somewhere for a live experience, or honestly educating ourselves can we begin to truly expand our horizons and go beyond a telescopic view. And everyone's eye beholds a different view.
(About the photo: Me and a friend at Hooten Wells, between the Desert Mts. and the Dead Camel Mts. of Nevada. circa, 1995)