Unlike Reno, Sparks and Las Vegas, rural Nevada is doing well economically, thanks mainly to the rise in gold prices. Mining and mining exploration is still going strong, and the rural Nevada communities tied to it are doing just fine.
Eureka in fact is about to almost double in size. Sitting last night in the Owl Club enjoying a delicious steak dinner, my wife and I visited with an old family friend, Owl Club owner and one of the principal businessmen here, Ron Carrion.
As we drove into Eureka we noticed what I thought was an extension of a mine on the east side of the highway. Rather it was the site work being done for a 200-house tract to house the miners needed for the new Molybdenum mine going in north of Eureka.
Considering tiny Eureka has a population of roughly 800, adding this housing tract alone will nearly double its population. Molybdenum, or in slang “moly,” is used as a hardener in steel and the Eureka deposit is one of the largest in the world.
I have close family ties to Eureka thanks to my wife. Her father, Johnson “Bud” Lloyd, was the district attorney for Eureka County for 30 years. In fact, when he died in at the age of 83 he was still a deputy D.A.
Eureka still represents a Nevada from the past, one dependent on mining with no Wal-Marts, Home Depots or shopping malls. The local grocery store, Raines Market, is like the once common small family-owned stores now nearly gone in America, killed off by all the giant chain stores. In it you find everything essential, even hats and coats, and all sorts of little do-dads and knickknacks along with of course fruits, vegetables and meat. Hanging on the walls are all sorts of big game animal trophies, mostly taken locally with several exotics from around the globe. It has a nice atmosphere, right out of the best of small-town America.
The owner of Raines Market, Scott Raines, was recently appointed to the Nevada State Wildlife Commission by Governor Jim Gibbons, and Scott’s interest in wildlife and related issues is lifelong as his store clearly attests.
Eureka, like most of rural America, is a “red” county. President-elect Obama is not held in high regard here. There is a deep concern the environmental wacko faction will do to rural Nevada what they did to the Northwest; i.e. find a “spotted owl” excuse to destroy the economic bedrock that keeps small-town places like Eureka alive.
Still, history is on Eureka’s side. Her beautiful multi-story courthouse, red colored brick with a huge “1879” in white at the top, is a testament to the city’s longevity in the face of economic ups and downs.
The Nevada most new Nevadans have never known still exists in places like Eureka and, for those who like to travel a bit and see the state, a drive on Highway 50, “The Loneliest Road in America,” is a must. Pass through Fallon, visit equally old Nevada Austin, and spend the night in Eureka, roughly 240 miles east of Reno, and you will drive into a living remnant of a Nevada fast passing away. The vastness of it all, the immense spaces with nothing but an occasional ranch on the horizon, gives you a sensation of being remarkably alone in a world populated by more than 6 billion people. (Incidentally, there are several motels, including a Best Western, to accommodate your stay in Eureka).
It is refreshing in these worrying economic times to feel a sense of optimism and get a dose of “the future looks great” outlook currently permeating Eureka. Rural Nevada had her slumps while her bigger urban sisters were going gangbusters. Now, hopefully, it will be her time in the sun.
Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks and owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing.