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ZipUSA: 89801
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ZipUSA: 89801 @ National Geographic Magazine
   
By Kate KrautkramerPhotographs by Robb Kendrick



It seems no one wants to leave Elko, Nevada. Here are 50 reasons why.



Read or print the full article.

Take in the scene. Register the commanding Western mystique. Note iconoclastic characters: gold miner, prostitute, cowboy. Be dazzled by the casino lights. Close your eyes and try to locate a rhythm in the ping-ping-ping of the slot machines. Play slots in the grocery store, the gas stations, the hotels.
 
Explore the Pioneer Hotel—home of the Western Folklife Center and Elko's most famous event, the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which this year drew a crowd of 8,000 people. Wonder if there are 8,000 extra beds. Witness Elko's native son, cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell, demonstrate his penchant for metaphor when he says, "That buckaroo was squealing like a piglet on caffeine, madder than a constipated badger on the fight." Listen to him talk about leaving a life of working cattle and riding out on the Nevada range. Notice his voice goes low, like he's eulogizing an old friend. Invite Waddie Mitchell to lunch at the Star Hotel dining hall, where he's greeted by a waitress who knows his name and what he'll likely order, which is a plate made heavy with beef lost in the wrinkles of gravy, otherwise known as the boarders' lunch, the boarders being a few elderly Basque gentlemen who occupy the upstairs bedrooms and come down for meals when a bell is rung. Try to pronounce the boarders' vowel-laden names. Learn how Basques have stayed on here in Elko—once a railroad town, once a cattle town, once a Nevada town that, before Reno and Las Vegas caught on, was the locus of big-name entertainment and the part-time home of honorary mayor Bing Crosby, who occasionally showed up at a Catholic Mass, much to the delight of the congregation, which silenced itself in favor of his singing. Try to recall Crosby's voice, possibly just as silky and clear as the Nevada sky this afternoon as it segued into horizon just beyond I-80 to the north, past the Elko High School football field where the team was practicing, anticipating another game against the Green Wave, their closest rivals, 250 miles (400 kilometers) away in Fallon. Try to stare down the school mascot, a Native American in a war bonnet, painted on the neat red bricks of the outside gym wall. Remark on the students of many races wearing their Indian jerseys with no apparent cultural qualms. Find out that the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone has not only given its sanction for the school to keep Indians as the mascot, it's also endorsed the school's marching band, "Pride of Nevada, the Band of Indians," as an organization that casts the Te-Moak people in a positive light. Observe the blank looks when you ask a group of high school kids if they ever venture onto the three Native American colonies, the urban equivalent of reservations, inside Elko city limits. Realize that they think of the colonies as a good place to purchase fireworks. Try to memorize their smooth, young faces. Lament your lost youth. Recall your unrequited desire to become a cowgirl.

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VIDEO Photographer Robb Kendrick shows how he's reviving the 19th-century art of tintype.

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More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Elko has a large Basque population, but why? When the gold rush of California started in 1848, many Basques who were living in South America came north to find fortune. Around 1871 the Altube brothers, who were Basque, noticed a need for food east of California so they went to Elko and started a cattle ranch. Soon after, the Garat family, also Basque, started a cattle ranch in the area as well.  Both ranches brought Basque families from Spain and France as cattlemen and broncos.  Later Basques came over as sheepherders.  The last big immigration of Basques was in the mid-1900s.  No longer just cowboys or shepherds, Basques in Elko have diversified into every occupation.  Because of its large Basque population, Elko hosts the National Basque Festival every year.
 
—Marisa J. Larson
Did You Know?

Related Links
A History of Photography by Dr. Robert Leggat
www.rleggat.com/photohistory
This site covers the first 80 years of photographic history with information on the important photographers of the period and the most significant processes used at that time.
 
Elko, Nevada, Chamber of Commerce
www.elkonevada.com
Everything you want to know about Elko—from its history to current attractions—can be found here.
 
Bureau of Land Management Elko Field Office
www.nv.blm.gov/elko
Learn about Elko's place in the Great Basin and about all the outdoor adventures available in the region.

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Bibliography
Crawford, William. Keepers of the Light: A History and Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes. Morgan and Morgan, Inc. 1980.
 
Crum, Steven. The Road on Which We Came: A History of the Western Shoshone. University of Utah Press, 1996.
 
Hall, Shawn. Connecting the West: Historic Railroad Stops and Stage Stations in Elko County, Nevada. University of Nevada Press, 2002.
 
James, Christopher. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. Delmar Publishers, 2001.

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NGS Resources
"Events Here and Abroad." National Geographic Traveler (January/February 2004), 83.
 
"Poet Lariats." National Geographic Traveler (January/February 2004), 13.

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