Home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Basque Festival, Mine Expo, Ruby Mountain (Hot Air) Balloon Festival, and other events with the “Battle Born” flair of Northeastern Nevada, Elko sits amid a high desert landscape along the historic California Trail. Sagebrush and juniper dominate the surrounding area, typical of northern Nevada as well as the Great Basin. Running from east to west is the Humboldt River, which straddles the county seat of Elko County. To the south, stretching from northeast to southwest, lies the Ruby Mountains, “where there are trees.”
That was the big distinction I gathered the day after I came down from Washington. No trees. I don’t count junipers, of course. Those, in my mind, are shrubs. Glorified bushes. When we moved here, the Rubies became my family’s afternoon escape. A drive up to the road’s end in Lamoille Canyon after church provides us a break from the desert, a break from the sagebrush covered basin below. Makes us eager to explore similar ranges in the area, including the East Humboldt range and Sulpher Spring range. Nevada is nothing more than a series of basins and ranges. We have only begun to explore.
Back in the Rubies, limber and pinion pine, as well as quaking aspen and mountain mahogany trees blanket the glaciated mountains and hanging valleys in the higher elevations. To my surprise, there are choke cherry, elder berry and service berry bushes up there as well. Familiar things, excepting the pinion pine, we thought we left behind in the Evergreen state. As newcomers, the pinion pine tree is interesting. Harvesting the pine nuts is high on our list of things to try. I just have this mental image of climbing up to the tops of some of the taller trees and fighting off a squirrel for the precious cones. That would be pretty extreme. Maybe that might explain the high price people charge for the pine nuts they sell out of their cars on the roadsides or at gas stations. They all have scars and crazy squirrel stories.
I started working for Major Drilling America, the US arm of Major Drilling Group International in February of 2012. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, the company is one of the larger core and rotary drilling companies in the world. I had some experience with core drilling from 2008 to 2010 but not wanting to travel all over from job contract to contract, I decided it wasn’t a family friendly industry and went looking for a job that stayed around the region I called home. After two years of seasonal work and low-paying work, after talking with my wife about it, we decided we needed a more financially sustainable source of income. Drilling definitely pays well (especially compared with the $10 an hour jobs I was only able to find at the time), so I applied with several larger drilling companies including Boart Longyear and Major.
With a couple weeks of applying, I got a call from Major’s recruitment department. I was asked about prior experience and who I knew in their company and if I wanted a job. Before long, a week later, I was on a plane to Salt Lake City for a week long new hire training. Not long after I returned home, I got a call to go to work as a driller’s helper in Northeastern Nevada. After getting established in my job, we were finally able to find a house in Spring Creek (near Elko) to rent. We moved in July. I worked rotating shifts of 20 days on and 10 days off for almost a year and then was laid off in January of this year. Gold prices, as most people know, have tumbled since last year. Even though the price per ounce has recently plateaued somewhat, mining has been hit hard by all the economic uncertainty.
When I got the lay off notice, I didn’t know what to think. We had just got caught up, started building up our savings again and acquired a car loan, when the boom for us ended. Since January, I went to a truck driving school in Reno, paid for by JOIN (Job Opportunities in Nevada) and the Elko Nevada Job Connect. I learned a lot and after three weeks I took the drive test and passed, gaining a class A commercial driver’s license in March. Within two weeks I got a job with Lostra Brother’s Towing, a local tow company, and that’s where I am now.