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Many people don’t feel part of the community

by Jacques Etchegoyhen

I recently read an article, using broadly collected survey data, which aptly pointed out that newcomers to a community do not really feel a part of that community for eight years. Almost a decade! What this means is that in our state, in our county, a majority of us do not yet really feel at home.

The sense of history, community and attachment to a place, because of our staggering growth rate, exists almost nowhere in our state. A Minden resident recently told me of riding his bicycle on the first day the first street was paved in his hometown, Fremont Street in Las Vegas. It makes me shudder to think that a majority of Nevadans might think that a historical building in our largest city might have been built in the 1970s.

In Douglas County, we are very fortunate. We’ve the oldest settlement in Nevada. We have the oldest ranching tradition in the state. Still standing in the cow pasture across from Caesars at Tahoe is the hotel in which Mark Twain wrote much of his book “Roughing It.” I could go on and on with examples, but the one component of our community which really stands out as having endured and survived staggering change are the ranchers. When Virginia City was nearly deserted in the 1880s, they kept on. Through the Depression and legalization of gaming in the 1930s, they kept on. Nearly every other place in the state has experienced the boom and bust cycles synonymous with so many western states’ economies.

For my short number of years here, I’ve watched and learned quite a lot from the sages who descend from the early families, both Washo and Caucasian. Often very intelligent and quite eloquent, they watched our state’s quickening rate of change, and they endure.

I learned a little about ranching and a lot about life from a Stanford law student/rancher who once told a scientist who was giving him advice on how to ranch better, “I hope Ph.D. stands for post hole digger because that’s how you can really be of help.”

I think for our community to endure with true character and class we should try and replicate the recipe that got us here. Talk to an “old-timer” about staying power and grit. We all should revel in the history and sense of place these families have given us. As we “imagineer” our future as a community, we might consider those attributes which mimic the past.

n Jacques Etchegoyhen is chairman of the Douglas County Commission and represents District No. X.