The first evidence of castoff fever started when the early explorers and miners either allowed their horses and burros to wander off into the desert or they just turned them loose. In any event, now have inherited the romantic notion that these wild mustangs should be as much a part of the desert of modern day Nevada as the native sagebrush itself. If you look closely at some of the 2,500 horses (mustangs), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is rounding up you’ll see some pretty fine horse flesh, albeit malnourished in some cases. Basically, very few of the herd that the BLM is rounding up are the true Mustang as all the romantics would have you think meaning that the majority of those horses are castoffs. Their owners don’t want them any more, or they escaped.
The next castoff example, following the historic trail of cast-offs to the present day, would be all the romantic ghost towns around Nevada. I maintain there is nothing romantic about any of these derelict settlements. If anything, they point to how much hard work mining was and is and those ruins that some think of so romantically are actually a trail of tears of broken dreams and aspirations of the miners of old. All that is left in the wake of the bust and boom of the mining era is a bunch of dilapidated buildings or structures and rusting metal heaps of various types of equipment used in those failed attempts to discover a glory hole in the Nevada desert.
Following the historic castoff trail to the present day, we find everything from car bodies to dishwashers decorating our desert, especially near towns, where people have thrown or tossed their unwanted junk into the desert. Groups of people gather together and put on a valiant effort to clean the desert of those eyesores, but they come back again and again despite the efforts of these groups.
It doesn’t help the castoff situation when our local landfill, which is owned by Waste Management, hauls multiple semi-tractor trailer loads of garbage and trash from Sacramento 24/7, which is filling our local land fill as well. Another group wants to put a huge landfill 28 miles west of Winnemucca to bring even more trash and garbage from California. To date, those efforts have not been met with success, but given time and persistence that project might come to fruition.
Another group wants to put a coal fired power plant near Gerlach in northwestern Nevada. Gerlach has a small population, but those folks put up a fuss and the power company people have crawled back in their hole for the time being. But Gerlach doesn’t want the pollution from that coal fired generation plant any more than the more populated areas want it.
The all time, costliest example of how Nevada might really suffer from terminal castoff-itis is the infamous project in southern Nevada, Yucca Mountain. Not only would Nevada receive the whole country’s cast-off nuclear fuel and God knows whatever else, but we might also all have an additional benefit of glowing in the dark should any of that expended nuclear castoff material spew from the casks they will be hauling the stuff across Nevada in. Chernobyl will look better every day if that should happen.
While we’re discussing nuclear cast-offs, how about all the people in eastern Nevada who are still suffering from an increased incidence of various cancers thought to have been brought on by the fallout from the nuclear blasts at the Nevada test site in the early '50s and '60s. It’s only the Nevada desert, it won’t hurt a thing to let that stuff float around.
I think if Gov. Jim Gibbons is going to have a special session of our Legislature, one of the items for discussion should be re-thinking our state’s official seal. It should include a bullet ridden, rusty old carcass of a car or washing machine to show the true romanticism of our beautiful Nevada desert. Maybe they could even make it glow in the dark at special times of the year, such as Nevada Day. Wouldn’t we be proud though?
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.