"I've come to pay up," he told Maria Volborth, spreading out money on the counter of her K-million Gallery as stunned customers looked on. "I said I'd make good on the deal."
That scene, not the fact that Reid is credited with bringing caucuses that could have a big bearing on the next presidential election, is what comes to mind when Volborth thinks of Reid.
"He's a character," she says. "Once I closed at night, and I heard a knock. I remember I was glad I had my gun. I looked out, and he was with bodyguards, yelling, 'It's us.'"
Just because she trusted Searchlight's most famous resident to take an antique copper pot home on the promise he would settle the bill later, she says, doesn't mean she always trusts his political judgment.
"I'm a registered Democrat, but I'm looking at (Republican) Ron Paul," she says. "More needs to be done on immigration. It's breaking the back of this country economically. But I doubt I'll get involved in the Republican caucuses. I just won't have the time."
Gold was discovered here in 1897, but more misery than ore has been mined since.
The name of the town might come from an old miner's lament: "If there is in fact gold in these mines, we'd need a searchlight to find it."
"The boom peaked in 1907 and quickly faded along with the town," says a plaque at Harry Reid Elementary School.
No one could have guessed that Reid, born in 1939, the third of four brothers, would even learn the meaning of "caucus." The family was so poor that his toothless mother took in wash from the brothels in town. His father, a hard-drinking miner who pulled his own decaying teeth with pliers, committed suicide.
Though Reid, 67, has won applause from many for having the national spotlight cast on Nevada for more than gambling and prostitution, it would be a stretch to say that people in this town of 600 are enthusiastic about the caucuses.
"People don't have much time for politics because they always have to work," says 42-year-old waitress Leslie Bradshaw, who says she often serves the "good tipping" Reid when he eats at the Nugget Casino, where coffee is only a dime.
It isn't unusual for political junkies from across the country, curious about Reid's hometown, to end up in Volborth's store. She always keeps copies of his book on the town to sell. When he returns to Searchlight from Washington, he autographs them, often remarking that the town of his youth was tough and fights were common.
When the Review-Journal knocked on trailer doors recently, it seemed today's residents also wouldn't mind a fight. Asked for input on the caucuses, four men who opened their doors replied: "What the hell is a caucus?" "What the hell for?" "I don't need any." "Adios, amigo."
The sound of doors slamming caused dogs to bark.