John Tyson glances at his right hand - at the colorless scars from the second-degree burns he sustained while reporting from the front lines of the Waterfall fire in 2004.
The 60-year-old Vietnam veteran talks of places along Nevada's back roads where a man's worth is still judged by his ability to handle a horse and he talks about the state's future - the future he's riding into along with more than 2 million fellow Nevadans.
"You've got to look over your shoulder once in a while to know where you've been," he figures. "That's the best way to know where you're going."
The theme of the 2005 Nevada Day parade is "The Wild West," and few Nevadans have embraced it, lived it and traveled so extensively through it as KOLO-TV reporter, former Storey County deputy, and real-life cowboy John Tyson, the man named as this year's grand marshal by the Nevada Day Board.
Many will recognize him for his news travelogue series, "John Tyson's Journal," where he scours the sagebrush and narrows in the wide-open spaces of the west, telling the stories of the Silver State.
"I drive an average of 3,000 miles a month reporting on Nevada," he says, gesturing with a toothpick that he quickly places back in his mouth.
"Nevada is a study in contrasts," he says. "You've got the booming high-tech economies of Reno and Carson City and yet you can go 20 miles from here and still see the wagon tracks of the pioneers and the trails of the Pony Express."
Tyson is humbled by the board's decision to name him grand marshal.
"They could've chosen a movie star or a political figure," he says. "I can't begin to tell you what an honor it is."
Tyson, who first claimed the honor as grand marshal in 1984, has watched the state boom and bloom, all the while trying to keep the past at the forefront of the future.
"It's vital that all the newcomers know the state's history," he said.
This year's Nevada Day parade will take place Saturday, Oct. 29.
Nevada was admitted as the nation's 36th state on Oct. 31, 1864.
The Nevada Day celebration began in 1939 and takes place in Carson City.
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.