National Geographic : 1946 Jan
Nevada, Desert Treasure House fields were using bale loaders. This novel farm implement was designed as a labor saver during the war. It is an inclined wheeled elevator which can be attached to the side of a truck. As the truck moves across the field, the heavy bales are mechanically scooped up and borne on the sloping elevator by carrier chains to the men loading the truck. From blueprints provided by the Agricul tural Extension Division of the University of Nevada, these bale loaders are easily built by local blacksmiths; they require only the rear axles of old automobiles, some gear chain, and a few pieces of metal and wood. Extensive acreage about Yerington on the Walker River, the "Big Meadows" around Lovelock, fed by the Rye Patch Reservoir on the Humboldt, the Owyhee River district, and watered valleys at the foot of the Ruby Moun tains are among other sizable oases of cultiva tion in the State. Many smaller watered areas form vivid splashes of green against the surrounding dun colored desert. Altogether, Nevada has approximately 500, 000 acres of crop land, of which about 90 per cent is devoted to alfalfa and other hay crops. Nearly Half a Million Cattle The preponderance of hay in the State's agriculture is directly linked with her large livestock industry. In early days some of the soldiers who came to man the forts against Indian attacks settled down and started raising stock. Cattle then were the rangy Texas longhorns-more head, horns, and tail than thick, juicy steaks. Now you see the ranges alive with plump white faced Herefords. In all, Nevada normally runs some 400, 000 cattle on its vast ranch lands. Large herds graze in the northern portion of the State where moisture is somewhat more plentiful and better grass grows. Big Elko County, par ticularly, is a cattlemen's land. Roughly seven-eighths of the State is Gov ernment-owned, and much of it is adminis tered by either the United States Forest Serv ice or Grazing Service. Stockmen gain grazing privileges to these lands by Federal permit. Only watered valley pasture and agricultural districts are privately owned. Some herds roam the range all year round. Others graze in the high mountain pastures during the summer and then winter in the valleys and eat hay. Although cattlemen do not pamper their stock here, as in some States, they have found that it is sound economics to feed, and protect it against "winterkilling." "We have fewer big fall drives to railway loading yards now," explained a cattleman in Elko. "It is cheaper to truck them from the ranches to the railroad than it is to have them walk off their fat." Nevada's ranges echo not only to the bawl ing of cattle and plaintive wail of lost calves but also to the bleating of more than 800,000 sheep. Herded largely by Basques, or Boscos as they are called locally, flocks browse on the high hill slopes and isolated grassy canyons during the summer months and move to warmer lowlands when snows blanket the mountains. Not so many years ago recriminations and open feuds flared persistently between cattle and sheepmen over pasturage. Rifles were used to force decisions. Both sides even poisoned waterholes where opponents' stock drank. Under grazing control, however, old conflicts have been eliminated, and today some ranches run both sheep and cattle. An often-told tale in Nevada deals with a prospector who came upon a sheepherder high up in a remote mountain valley and fell into conversation with him. "I should think that the perpetual baa baaing of all these sheep would drive you crazy," remarked the prospector, used to the solitude of his task. "Sometimes it does," admitted the herder. "What do you do then?" asked the pros pector. "Well," drawled the sheepherder with a chuckle, "then I go prospecting!" Today the traditional old grubstaked pros pector with floppy-eared burro toting his bean pot, blanket, and sampling kit has almost vanished from the Nevada scene. But some are roaming the countryside in old high wheeled flivvers looking for another Comstock or Tonopah. Most Are Prospectors at Heart Most Nevadans are prospectors at heart, either amateur or professional. It's in their blood. Few persons out in the country can resist picking up an interesting rock and examining it. "Every year we get 5,000 to 6,000 samples of minerals sent from practically every post office in the State," said one of the assay chemists at the State Analytical Laboratory at the university in Reno. "When men go hunting deer they send in numerous samples for assay. Many persons who have regular jobs go out to prospect dur ing holidays. Women also join rock and mineral clubs and listen to experts who give them lectures on the ores of the State.