Life in the small towns of Nevada has a rhythm all its own

Friday I worked on an odd case. Not one of my usual cases, involving weighty economic, technical and policy analysis. I actually volunteered for this case for its novelty and unusual human value.

It involves the town of Ione, reached by a seven-mile dirt road off a long two-lane blacktop deep into the back country. In 1865, during Nevada's first gold rush, Ione was Nevada's second largest city. Now it has only a couple dozen folks.

Because no utility power lines go there, folks in Ione have struggled to keep the lights on with small generators. Louise, one of our lawyers, and the technical staff are helping them meet state regulatory requirements that were not written with such a situation in mind.

After work, I got a haircut. Adam, my barber, had a construction worker from Phoenix ahead of me. The talk of three guys late on a summer afternoon turned to a small matter in which we all took pleasure: the warmth, humor and sweetness of the commentaries of radio's Grand Old Man, Paul Harvey, especially his "Rest of the Story" pieces. Adam, a gifted self-taught portrait artist and former seminary student, as well as a great barber, diagnosed Paul's formula perfectly; the Phoenix man and I agreed.

After more conversation and haircutting, I left just in time to catch Paul's Story anecdote for the day on the car radio. What a neat coincidence, I thought. And then Paul told the story of a young fellow named Dave who was born many years ago on a large ranch near Ione, Nevada!

Dave grew up riding, roping and learning other ranching skills, all of which he did well and loved. He loved the foothills, the sage and the rural life. As Paul explained, Dave especially developed a great sense of the rhythm of the range.

In that remote place, his cultured mother taught Dave and his siblings to play the large piano in their parlor. Dave loved to play, and loved music in general for which he also had a great knack. As a teenager, Dave and friends formed a band and played the towns of the Sierra and range area, from Angel's Camp to Fernley to points south.

But Dave's mom also emphasized that he needed to go college to learn skills that would help him manage well the ranch. So they packed him off to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

Although a good student, Dave became thoroughly distracted there because his classes were in a building next to the music conservatory, and so often he'd sit in front of his blank notebook the whole hour dreamily listening to the music. A sympathetic professor recognized the problem and gave him some advice: give up the classes he was taking and take music classes at the conservatory.

Dave did, and he became a world-renowned musician - in jazz, of all things! Folks noted the sophistication, the subtleness, the rhythm, even the "urbaneness (!)" of Dave's composition and his playing. As sometimes happens, and despite my very meager knowledge and appreciation of jazz, I guessed from Paul's clues who he was describing.

And he closed noting that, the next time you hear the sounds of Dave Brubeck, you might enjoy them even more ... for now knowing ... the rest of the story.

I exited the car, dressed out and went for a good three-mile run with my buddy Bill, pushed some weights, and went home for a typical delicious dinner from Kathy and her mom. After I finished the dishes, our precious 4-year old daughter, Karyn, wanted to sit on daddy's lap to watch The Simpsons and King of the Hill. During a commercial, she wanted to jump and rough-house together on the rug.

As we sat back down to watch again, I reflected that Dave Brubeck left Nevada and the rhythms of the range to find what he needed in California and the urban world. Life in Nevada offers some challenges, including keeping the lights on in Ione. But, as Karyn and I watched our favorite shows, I counted my many blessings and reaffirmed once again that I left a California megalopolis to find what I needed in Nevada: the rhythms of a small town.

And now you know ... the rest of the story.

n Ron Knecht is an economist, engineer, law school grad and very blessed husband, father and son-in-law in Carson City.


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