Elko: The Unexpected in Small Town Nevada
After rolling along through miles and miles of scrub, dust, and howling winds, we rambled into Elko. Its motto is “The Best Small Town in America.” We’ve visited many rural communities that have made such a claim. Usually that translates into Little League, farming, and an ambitious number of churches. However, with its ties to Bing Crosby and Hunter S. Thompson and Cornish pasties, Elko caught us off guard.
Cornish pasties are thick, doughy turnovers, filled with ground meat and diced vegetables like onion and potato. They are the national dish of Cornwall, where the miners found them to be the perfect lunch. Pasties are folded over and sealed with a thick dough rim. The miners, with their soot-covered hands, held onto the rim and ate the rest of the meal, thereby avoiding food seasoned with coal.
Elko’s other unexpected connection is with Hunter S. Thompson, who once visited and wrote of the town.
“The federal government owns 90% of this land, and most of it is useless for anything except weapons testing and poison-gas experiments.”
For his full rant about the town, its people and the harsh landscape, check out his article “Fear and Loathing in Elko.”
Thompson’s bitter attitude towards little old Elko is surprising since the town still has LEGAL prostitutes and active brothels. The state of Nevada allows for prostitution – if your town has fewer than 400,000 people (which excludes only Vegas). This great law website explains Nevada’s laws and comes with ladies of questionable reputation across the header.
For a more friendly opinion of the town, head over to Sherman Station (700 Moren Way). Today, it contains the visitor’s center but, in 1903, it was a homestead on Sherman Creek (sixty miles to the south). The complex has multiple historic buildings relocated from around the state.
Before the trains
I can see for miles and miles…
The grasslands surrounding Elko held thousands of ranches, including seven owned by Bing Crosby. It seems that the crooner famous for “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” wanted to keep his sons from Hollywood’s temptations, so they spent their summers in small town Nevada during the 1940s-1950s.
Bing singing “Swinging on a Star” in “Going My Way”:
Interior of the station… Cozy, wasn’t it?
P.S. If you want to complain about today’s mail prices, in 1861 it cost $5 for a 1/2 ounce letter!
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.