Lincoln County has more than water beckoning Las Vegans

Gary Reese is conflicted between his love of Lincoln County and his job as a Las Vegas city councilman.

He’s certainly not happy at the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s ongoing efforts to take water from Lincoln County to ship to thirsty Southern Nevada. As he drove me around Lincoln County, he contended the large county isn’t well represented in the Legislature because the state senator lives in Churchill County in Fallon and the assemblyman lives in Nye County in Pahrump.

“It’s the forgotten county,” Reese said.

It’s a far cry from when state Sen. Floyd Lamb from Alamo was looking after Lincoln County. He brought home more legislative goodies to Lincoln County (although he took a little off the top for himself).

Lincoln County has only 4,352 people, and they are spread out over more than 10,000 square miles, one-tenth of Nevada’s land mass. There are only five actual towns: Alamo, Caliente, Panaca, Pioche and Rachel. (Calling Rachel a town seems like a stretch. Caliente is the largest town, with 1,132 people.)

Reese and his wife drive the 165 miles nearly every weekend to their place outside Panaca, where he raises quail, pheasants and chukars, then turns them loose where it’s their job to outsmart the hunters to survive.

His family came to Nevada from Utah in 1941 when he was a 2-month-old baby. His dad worked first in the copper mines in Ely, then moved to Lincoln County to work the lead, zinc and silver mines because the pay was better.

The mines closed while Reese was in Lincoln County High School. After graduating in 1959, he went to college in Utah on a football scholarship but quit after a knee injury. Going back to Lincoln County didn’t offer him many job opportunities (true today as well as then), so he moved to Las Vegas and worked at the Nevada Test Site, eventually quitting that and going to barber school. For 45 years, he has been a barber and co-owner of Gary & Derrill’s Plaza Barbershop on Bonanza Road.

Meeting up at the Shell Station outside Panaca, we drove first to Caselton, where his dad worked the Prince Mine, on to Pioche, then back to Panaca. Along the way, Reese knew who lived in what homes; and we stopped when we saw people on the street so he could say hello.

In Caselton, he showed the family’s rock home and shared a story about the first and last time he ever lied to his father, and how the family vehicle became known as “The Deerslayer.”

Reese went on a date using the family car, a 1958 Chevy. His dad told him not to speed, but Reese didn’t listen. Speeding over one of those easy-gliding roads, he ran into a herd of about 30 deer. He killed three deer, damaged the car and left no skid marks.

When he drove the car home, his dad was concerned about the safety of the two teenagers in the car. He asked how fast his son was going and Reese lied, telling him 50 or 55 miles an hour. But he felt so bad about the lie and his dad’s concern for him, Reese said, “I never lied again to my father, or drove so fast.”

Soon afterward, his mom hit two does driving the same car. His dad dubbed the Chevy, “The Deerslayer.”

Reese spoke with affection about his boyhood hunting in the hills, walking six or seven miles to get home to Caselton, eating watermelon and roasting corn on the cob with friends at Cathedral Gorge, and participating in football, basketball and track because the school was so small it was easy to make the team.

If he had grown up in Las Vegas, he might have been more challenged by tougher competition to make the teams, but in Lincoln County it was easy to be involved.

Involvement is part of Lincoln County’s philosophy. Be involved, be busy, and be active with family, school and church, usually the Mormon Church.

Based on the influx of retirees moving to Lincoln County, Reese isn’t the only Las Vegan who finds it a refuge from the hurly-burly of Las Vegas.

And that’s no lie.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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