Nevada The Wide Open State (Extract), Published 7 May 1937You hear so much about the West being a place of wide open spaces. I'm going to vary that a bit and talk of Nevada, the state with the wide open minds. What this world most needs today is a state of wide open mind, and you've only got to look at Europe to prove it. Nevada is a place where you can go to church, take up the collection, lead in prayer, and become Sunday school superintendent, or, if you want it another way, Nevada is a spot where you can divorce your wife in six weeks, live openly in a brothel, and gamble your last cent away, and no one will stop you from doing the former nor the latter, nor laugh at you for doing both or either or neither. Nevada doesn't care what you do as long as you obey the laws, and that gives you a pretty wide margin. Nevada is a state where churches have never had much weight, and I often have wondered if that is why Nevada has so few criminals. If you want the real truth, people live in Nevada just as they do in Ottawa, the only difference being that a lot of what is against the law in Ottawa and is perforce done in stealth, is gone about quite openly in Nevada.
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I had a good chance to sound out Nevada mentally, and I find you can get a state or a city's mental range in very short time, and on exceedingly quick notice. It is the first impressions after all which are true with anything except individuals, for if you stay around long enough, things begin to grow on you. I suppose you could even learn to like Saint John, but the thing is to look at any city or institution quickly, give it the look-see-hear, and then write the verdict. My verdict on Nevada is that it is a great place, where people love their homes, save their money, and where there are twice as many marriages as divorces.
But here I am away over in the heart of Nevada, and I have only struck the first town. I would like to be able to tell you that I saw a lot of interesting scenery, but I cannot truthfully say that. I did see a lot of snow. We put on an extra engine at Montello to take you up over to Cobre, a climb of over 1,000 feet in 17 miles, but for the most part, we just seemed to go and go and go. How that engineer could keep her stepping delighted me. We didn't have so awfully fast a schedule, but the Southern Pacific sure do railroad through here. Once I got off at Cobre and saw, on the Nevada Northern, a coach that had three classes within its four walls. There were leather seats for the lowest, then plush for the day-coach type, and a green upholstered observation end for the high mucky-mucks.
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The Western Pacific joined us some place en route, and for what seemed a couple of hundred miles they ran alongside us, first on one side and then the other. The day that never did amount to much anyway, died, and still we kept on going. I recall stopping at Wells and seeing the small frame house where Jack Dempsey lived when he got his first divorce. Then there was the cross near Battle Mountain where the first white woman in that region lost her life to the Indians. Finally dark came, and Winnemucca. named after the old Indian chief. Here there got on to the train A. D. Welty. Southern Pacific passenger agent, and he being Nevada-born, made it more agreeable. I asked him a mere 500 or so questions about Nevada, and really had an enjoyable visit. He told me for instance, that most of the sheep ranchers around northern Nevada there were Basques, they being selected because they knew best how to handle the rams and ewes in that kind of country.
I meant to tell you that earlier in the day I photographed a salt cross, which was owned by Frank Forte, the porter. He had told a friend to stick a wire cross in Salt Lake. Two weeks later, so quickly does the salt crystallize, that he had a beautiful white salt cross, perfectly formed, and with crystals in places as big as a quarter-inch square. From Mr. Welty I picked up a great deal of Nevadiana, and except for a quick stop by the engineer which put some coffee on my lap, the Southern Pacific had handled me very well In their all-day 541 mile run. Montreal and Windsor are about as far apart as Ogden and Reno.
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