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Entertaining the flatlanders

Vivian Herron
Vivian Herron, Columnist
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While all Nevada Countians have a responsibility to give the city slickers what they want – rural flavor, local color – the obligation is much heavier for those of us living in more remote areas like North San Juan, Alleghany and Washington.

Flatlanders know that country/mountain people like us don’t have a thang in this world to do all day but hang out, maybe chew a blade of grass. I think I could gather up 20 or 30 Littletowners for some serious loafing/learning/hunkering time, especially if visitors tip them occasionally. When lunchtime rolls around or chores have to be done, substitutes can move in and take their places. We have lots of substitutes.

Another sure-fire role to keep the tourists’ interest is that of survivalist/religious fanatic who lives just a hoot ‘n’ a holler down the pike from the ex-corporate success mentioned last week. This fella’s been livin’ in the hills since the gummint stopped the Duck and Cover Program in the schools, and he’s expecting Armageddon next Tuesday afternoon.

He blew 4 tons of winter wheat into the walls of his cabin for insulation and food storage, and he’s got enough home protection equipment in his bomb shelter to throw his very own gun show. (The bomb shelter is under the kitchen area of the cabin: move table, pull up trapdoor, and there you are.) Power and running water? Oh puh-leeze – that’s a CIA plot to weaken the American spirit.

The wife, God bless ‘er, kept a two-acre garden, canned any produce thereof, made all the family clothing on a Singer treadle, and home-schooled most of their eight kids. Then, in ’81, for no reason whatsoever, she took the four youngest and ran off with a tourist who got lost and wandered by. Go figure.

Of course, a true survivalist type wouldn’t let you past the 10-foot rock wall surrounding his fortress, but I’m sure there’s a couple of residents who wouldn’t mind strangers a-traipsin’ through the house at $5 per each for the thrill of looking at stacked 100-pound bags of powdered milk and a few barrels labeled “dried watermelon rinds.” A member of the family might sit at the kitchen table, cleaning miscellaneous gun parts, and looking suspicious. There’s a lot of potential here, folks!

Wood chopping is an exotic kind of activity; you never see that in the city. It’s a hard, hot, dirty job, though. My idea is to throw down a medium-size pile of wood chunks in somebody’s front yard and have four guys just stand around flourishing axes and splitting mauls. Oh, they might could split a few sticks for the oohs and aahs of their audience, but they could also request a modest donation to give volunteers hands-on experience as to exactly how firewood is born.

I think the most profitable (and enjoyable) of all local yokel roles would be that of the mountain man/gold prospector who could successfully track the same five-legged ant 20 miles through the wilderness. At night. In a snowstorm.

This person would do four shows a day in the middle of the street, demonstrating to impressed flatlanders how to start a campfire using two toothpicks and a dry leaf, how to make squirrel stew (using boneless chicken breasts from Bigtown), and the art of whittling Michelangelo’s Pieta out of a branch ripped off a nearby tree.

Besides these roles, there are always the usual run-of-the-mill characters so beloved of summer visitors: hippies, hermits, potheads, cranksters, bikers, grouchy touch-me-nots and some locals who really and truly are strange.

I’m not one of these, however, and neither are you – but I don’t know about your neighbor.

Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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