Being from Tonopah, a small town with plenty of desert terrain, I can place myself in almost every country song about backroads and open space. Two of them being overplayed on the radio right now are “Dirt Road Anthem” and “Fly Over States” by Jason Aldean, which discuss the best part about being from a rural place: knowing that city dwellers will never understand.
As Mr. Aldean points out, people who have never driven through an open state such as ours cannot understand that there is so much more to being in the desert than meets the eye. The open space is exhilarating to those who cannot spend their time at the local movie theater, bowling alley or golf course —because they do not exist.
You make your own fun when you have dusty backroads at your disposal and you become one with the land and develop an appreciation for it. That appreciation, as discussed in my literature class, eventually evolves into a respect for the desert that leads you to defend it when someone approaches you with a “what do you do for fun out there?” question.
Your attitude becomes complex in the sense that you want people to experience the freedom you feel when you’re cruising the unmarked trails with your window down and stereo cranked up, but you also want to make sure that they do not try to populate your space or town or roads. Your deepest fear is that they will fall in love with it just as you have and then they will show another person, starting a vicious cycle that ends in the demise of your private utopia.
The solution, I have found, is to simply accept the attitudes of those who do not understand or appreciate the desert and instead be proud to be from the middle of nowhere. I have met others with similar characteristics and they, like country singers, are able to proudly articulate the unique stamp that being from the desert gives us.
The stamp is effectively transferable to all open spaces, at least between here and Missouri, which was a 2,000-mile experience I hope to never have again. Some of the most open, barren landscapes in states such as Kansas and Wyoming seemed daunting at the time of my travel. Looking back, I can imagine the smile on the face of the person who was making that single trail of dust along the base of the hills far from the highway. Maybe they were looking toward the highway, laughing to themselves, thinking about how every car passing by was missing out on the adventure that cannot be found on the pavement.
It’s a small town thing, I guess.
Garrett Valenzuela is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.