The Good Country

Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

My writing assignments took me north to Elko last week, and I was so glad for an excuse to revisit the country where my whole Nevada adventure began five years ago, when I left northern California to work on the Van Norman ranch. I drove 70 miles north of town to the Spanish Ranch to research an article I’m working on for the American Cowboy magazine, and the big, fluffy white clouds and tall, green grass made for a beautiful drive.

I pulled over on Mountain City Highway to snap a picture of Lone Mountain. Just look at all that feed! Cows from where we live in central Nevada would bloat and tip over just looking at that abundant grass. The horses would founder if we waved a few blades of it under their noses. Homemakers would hyperventilate with excitement  at all the dust-control possibilities offered by living vegetation in close proximity to their houses.

Lone Mountain

I turned left (west, for you technical people out there) just past Lone Mountain at Larry Goicoechea’s bar and Basque restaurant. That was almost the site of my first date with my husband. On the Saturday night we were going to go, we heard that Larry was in Texas at his daughter’s wedding and we weren’t going to settle for anyone else’s cooking but Larry’s at that establishment on prime rib night, so we headed into Elko. We ate at another Basque restaurant, Biltoki, then played pool at the Silver Dollar. I won every game, sometimes just because Jim sunk the cue on the eight ball, and I felt pretty cool. After we got married, we shot a few games and I totally lost every single one. Hmm….

My first Nevada address ended in 89834, Tuscarora’s zip code. If you keep going on the dirt road (always make sure you have a spare tire, maybe two) past that tiny town, you’ll go past the Wilson Reservoir, aka “the dam at Squaw Valley,” and end up in the tiny town (really, it’s just a bar and a road sign) of Midas.

Tuscarora sign

I didn’t have any business in Midas during this drive, but I did drive past Taylor Canyon, the local hangout for buckaroos, ranch families, small children, miners, schoolteachers, basically everyone in the Independence Valley.Taylor Canyon

I’ve been to some really fun dances at TC, driven cows down the road in front of the bar/up the hill behind it, and drank some truly delicious gin and tonics on the porch. I hear they’ve had a big trading party there the last couple of springs, too.

Just past the bar, I drove past the turn to the Van Norman’s Roseberry Ranch. When I worked for them, I lived at the Quarter Circle S for a while, which is down the same turn and just across the valley. The first time I drove out there, I thought “Wow, this is SO FAR from town!” Now, I laugh at my 23-year-old self. If I lived a mere 70 miles from town today, I’d drive in every day for lunch just because it’s so close. Now, I’m 160 miles from the nearest sizable grocery-getting and errand-running destination.

I drove past the turn and kept going straight, north toward the Span. Just before the ranch headquarters, I saw the Spanish Ranch’s fall cavvy turned out alongside the highway. They were loafing around in several different bunches, all segregated into their various equine cliques like horses are.

Spanish Ranch cavvy

What a bunch of bums, just hanging out in the grass and sagebrush. I’m kind of jealous.

I enjoyed my day touring the Span and learning about the ranch’s history. I even got general manager Bill Hall to joke a little, which made the whole article project worthwhile for me. Even more so, I enjoyed driving down the road that started it all, through the state where I decided to make my adult life and met my husband, who gave me my family and our future. Thank you, Elko County.



Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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