McDERMITT -- In this struggling town of about 300 that straddles the Oregon border, dependable Internet service was far more difficult to find in the 1990s than coyotes or mountain lions.
That's not surprising given that it is so isolated that expectant mothers often give birth while their husbands speed down U.S. Highway 95 to the nearest hospital in Winnemucca, 75 miles away.
But the city's lack of Internet access bothered school principal John Moddrell and the school's teachers, who were convinced their 240 students were missing out on a valuable learning tool.
"We just started brainstorming out in my backyard one night about how to get it," Moddrell says.
Logging on to the network provided by the state would never really work, they realized, because too many schools and two few modems kept it jammed. And they decided a network provider couldn't be attracted to the secluded area because a couple of hundred households would do nothing for a corporation's profit margin.
The solution, the educators concluded, was to get high-speed service by connecting via satellite through Intellicom, a provider based in Livermore, Calif. Though costly at $1,900 a month, unlimited access could be affordable if the school sold access to its Internet connection to residents.
In other words, they had to go into business.
And so McDermitt-Humboldt Internet Provider was formed and faculty and students found enough customers to cover expenses.
"We became the only provider owned and operated by the student body," Moddrell says.
It wasn't long before the service was making enough money to provide scholarships for students.
"You have to be creative when you live out here in God's country," says Chris Bengoa, the manager of the 10,000-acre Lucky 7 ranch. His two sons, who were both honor students at McDermitt Combined Schools, were able to use the Internet for research.
Because he believes the profit motive unleashes the most creativity, Bengoa will support Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential caucus.
"His background in business is just what this country needs now that the economy is having some difficulties," he says.
McDermitt needs all the creativity it can get. A community of wide-open spaces with mountains rising majestically on the high desert, the economy relies on mining. Hope for an old mine reopening has yet to materialize. A small casino, two motels and bars hang on because of travelers passing through.
As bad as the economy is, Moddrell worries more about another terrorist attack on the United States.
"That's why I'm supporting (Rudy) Giuliani for president," he says. "He did a good job in a crisis before. I'd love to caucus for him but my parents have a wedding anniversary that weekend and I can't miss it."