My childhood holiday memories around the Smith house weren’t always pleasant, but for some reason Easter was idyllic. It didn’t hurt that, in addition to the greater message of the special Sunday, for a kid Easter was as sweet as Halloween but without the spooky costumes and dark imagery.
When I became a father, I vowed Easter would always be a special day for daughter Amelia. Usually that means a big basket jammed with treats, windup toys and a stuffed animal or two along with a nice lunch out.
This past Easter found us not in a conventional church contemplating the spiritual message and counting our blessings, or at home chewing the ears off chocolate rabbits, but bouncing along in the Subaru halfway up the White Mountains in search of a trout pond outside Fish Lake Valley.
I was lost as usual. New dirt roads cut by a vacation cabin developer have turned the area into a maze, and it rarely takes much to confuse my sense of direction. Amelia was anxious to return to the tiny body of water where we’d had so much fun hooking rainbows a few years back before she was diagnosed with cancer. Today, she uses a wheelchair to get around.
After 45 minutes, I changed our plans and headed straight for Chiatovich Creek, where the fish are plentiful if you can reach them. Like many Nevada mountain streams, Chiatovich flows down a brush and tree obscured ravine that’s hard for the stoutest angler to negotiate.
Undaunted, I hauled wheelchair, daughter, poles and tackle through the brush to the water’s edge. In a few minutes, our Easter miracle occurred in the form of a 15-inch rainbow trout that Amelia hooked and landed.
If it’s not the biggest fish ever pulled from that creek, you’ll never hear otherwise at the Smith house.
Amelia was beaming, but was getting tired and hungry. Besides, she already had her record fish. Why be greedy?
We bounced off the hillside and onto Nevada 264. It’s not exactly the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there.
I had no confidence anything would be open. It was, after all, Easter Sunday. But as we pulled into Dyer I noticed business was brisk at a place called the Boonies.
Like most Nevada bars worth frequenting, the Boonies featured a couple of dogs resting easily, and a pair of bearded locals toasting the midday. And like most Nevada bars, the dogs and drinkers were far friendlier than they first appeared. Amid the din of country music, we were welcomed liked family, taking our seats in the dining area.
We would have eaten year-old jerky from a vending machine without complaint, but proprietors of the Boonies offered an Easter buffet of ham, chicken, beans, potato salad, cole slaw, cookies, watermelon and lemonade. Set out on a covered sheet of plywood placed over the pool table, it was as grand a spread as any Easter meal I’d eaten in a more conventional location.
The folks at the Boonies even raved at Amelia’s record trout and insisted on seeing it. So, the fish was also welcomed to the bar. (It was not served a shot and a beer, though. You know how fish drink once they get started.)
When it came near time to leave, Amanda the bartender approached Amelia with a bag of plastic eggs filled with candy.
What’s Easter without something sweet?
I know it will surprise many of you to learn that it was the first Easter I’ve spent in a bar. If memory serves, it was a first for Amelia, too.
But sitting there in that welcoming atmosphere, between bites of chicken and baked beans, we added Easter in the Boonies as a moment worth remembering.
John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-383-0295 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.