NevadaGram #5 – Battle Mountain, “The Ghost Train of Old Ely” Goes to the Olympics


Our travels have been somewhat curtailed by heavy workload in January. One product of the work is the spiffy new website for the Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall in Ely, featuring the dancing burro. Click him and he’ll dance again. Click the link to visit the site.

When the Washington Post named Battle Mountain the Armpit of America, the local folks were stunned and angry. They had been minding their own business, and out of nowhere they’d been blindsided, mugged in the national press.

The first Armpit T-Shirt.
The first Armpit T-Shirt.

Or had they? Now that the shock has passed, Battle Mountaineers are beginning to think they were floored by the unfamiliar knock of opportunity. Armpit t-shirts are already available at the drug store, and planning is underway for an Armpit Festival this summer. The Battle Mountain Chamber of Commerce has sent a blanket invitation to any community that has been considered an armpit: they can have free booths at the festival if they’ll just show up and man them. The Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce is already chartering a bus to bring members to Battle Mountain to see what they’ve got that Bakersfield doesn’t.

Want one? Call the Battle Mountain Chamber, (775)635-8245
Want one? Call the Battle Mountain Chamber, (775)635-8245

CNN broadcast some footage of celebrity journalist John Tyson interviewing a lively crowd of more than 100 Battle Mountaineers on the topic. The United States Chamber of Commerce is watching anxiously, hoping Battle Mountain will be the “poster child” for the other ugly ducklings around America. Various armpit icons are being proposed for display, from the Statue of Liberty to Adolph Hitler. And not only did USA Today run an article on the situation, they’ve offered to make bumper stickers saying ‘Don’t roll on by. Make Battle Mountain your next pit stop.'” .

Battle Mountain is responding with good humor to the Post's insult: this amiable sign was the first public reply.
Battle Mountain is responding with good humor to the Post’s insult: this amiable sign was the first public reply.

In the meantime, Battle Mountain Bugle owner Lee Denmark fired the newspaper’s editor over her casual acceptance of the armpit description. As soon as Gene Weingarten (the author of the Post’s article) heard about that, he applied for the vacant job.

“Please accept my application for the job of editor in chief, an opening that was recently advertised in your newspaper,” he wrote with earnest facetiousness.

Engine No. 93 is bound for Utah and the Olympics
The 93-year-old steam engine, its coal tender and two passenger cars are being trucked from East Ely to Heber City to be part of the 2002 Winter Games Steam Team in partnership with the Heber Creeper tourist railroad.

The trains will carry Olympic spectators from Heber City to Soldier Hollow, site of the biathlon and cross-country ski events, and on special excursions.

Celebrity Engineer John Tyson, known for his TV program, will take his turn at the throttle. The Nevada Commission on Tourism and The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority together put $50,000 toward the project. Other money came from private and corporate donations and from ad sales.

When the Olympics are completed, No. 93 will resume a regular schedule and special charters from the Nevada Northern Railway depot at East Ely.

“You say you seek a person with writing skills and ‘a strong sense of community.’ Well, I think I am your man. I write swell. Plus, not long ago when I dropped by your town to do a magazine cover story, I got so strong a sense of the community that I called it the Armpit of America. When your editor playfully agreed, you fired her.

“Well, relax. Your search for a successor is over. I have long dreamed of having a job like this because it seems to me the editor of a small-town newspaper can get away with just about anything.”

Nominations are Open

Maid Marian, spokesburner for Burning Man, has conducted considerable research on the topic of Nevada Margaritas, and declares those at Las Margaritas in Winnemucca to be the best in the state. McAvoy Layne, however, speaks up in favor of the savory elixir at El Charro Avitia in Carson City. Pleaseforward your nomination as well.

Gene’s application was rejected, but one local man thought Lee Denmark missed a bet. “He should have offered him the job: $20,000 a year and you live in Battle Mountain.”

A fellow named Dave Woodson got the job. He moved to Battle Mountain without a qualm.

After untold years, the “S” in the Shell Station’s sign has been fixed.

And the Chamber of Commerce has hired NevadaWeb to build a website so they can take full advantage of all the new attention being paid to them on account of the armpit hubbub. Watch for it soon.

Overheard at the Gold Hill Hotel bar: “People who keep dogs are cowards who haven’t got the guts to bite people themselves.”

Waaaaaaah! The Walls Are Bare at Sharkey’s!

When Robin and I walked into Sharkey’s Casino in Gardnerville a few days ago we were saddened to see that one of Nevada’s great attractions is no more. When Sharkey Begovitch sold his landmark casino a few weeks ago, he took down the collections of circus, rodeo and boxing memorabilia he had collected over 32 years, and consigned them to auction.

The new owners (they have the Silver Club in Sparks and the El Capitan in Hawthorne) promise to maintain the prime rib tradition. But one question has yet to be answered: what are they going to put up on those walls. Our suggestion: Nevada art.

You can feast your eyes on the magnificent clutter one last time at the website of the auctioneers, Anchor Auctions, Inc., 601 E. 4th Street, Reno. If you’d like to have a part of it for yourself, the auction will be held February 22 – 24, 10 am – 5 pm. The preview, Feb 19 – 21, 10 am – 5 pm, will be one of the great art shows in the state this year.

David W. Toll

[A special “Thank You” to Kent Beedles for the Battle Mountain photos above]



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