Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Town Reunion

Downtown McGill, Nevada  (Photo credit: Finetooth, Wikipedia)

Wish I could say there was no post last week because my dog ate it, but the truth is I was in Nevada for a town reunion. Yes, a town reunion. The town of McGill was, and is, that small. My wife always tells people she was raised in a small Nevada town called Ely, which is eleven miles from McGill. She doesn’t say McGill because few people have ever heard of it. Ely, at about 4,500 people, is big doings compared to McGill. In its heyday, McGill might have boasted half that population, but that was in 1920. When my wife lived there it was closer to 1,200. And after the smelter closed, McGill just about shriveled up.

Every Labor Day weekend those who still live in McGill throw a town reunion, and former residents return to join in the festivities. Things start with a parade on Friday, a town picnic on Saturday and wind up with fireworks Sunday night. We decided to check out the action. 

For an Alaskan, going to Las Vegas at the end of August is not at all unlike taking a stroll through the burning flames of hell. When my wife’s brother, Mike, came to pick us up at the airport I thought I’d stepped on a wad of gum in the road. My mistake, it was the soles of my shoes melting to the blacktop. Fortunately, McGill and Ely are at higher altitudes, and cooler (if ninety degrees can really be considered cool).

The parade got started in a thunderstorm.

Friday night’s parade kicked off with an impressive thunderstorm. Drenched, but undaunted, those in the parade carried on in high spirits. Everyone, that is, but the horses. For some reason the horses were skittish about walking on wet pavement. Two of the horses were finally cooperative, but the third stubbornly refused to be part of the parade. (Never let it be said McGill is a one horse town… there are three.) The parade was very similar to all small town parades, complete with elected officials stumping for the vote.

"No way I'm in the parade, lady!"

“Are you a registered voter?” a friendly young man asked me as he walked up to shake hands. When I nodded to the affirmative, he handed me a key ring and continued, “I’m Stephen Bishop, and I’m running for reelection to Justice of the Peace for the Ely Justice Court. I’d appreciate your vote in November.”

“I am a registered voter, but in Alaska.” 

The good judge was visibly taken aback for a moment, no doubt regretting the waste of a perfectly good key ring. I offered to give it back, but he insisted I keep it before wandering down the street to find local voters. The key ring was a bottle opener. Perhaps Judge Bishop was doing his part to get some drunk driving business for the court.

Some cowboys rode motorcycles, with saddle & lariat

The street dance scheduled to follow the parade was also hampered by stormy weather. The crowd congregated to visit in the town bar, the McGill Club (built in 1907), and in the covered entryways for the café and post office. The band milled around on their makeshift stage, debating whether they were more likely to be killed by lightning, or electrocution if they cranked up their sound system.

Aside from the reunion activities in McGill, there was a chance to see one of the natural wonders of Ely, Nevada. You have, no doubt, heard about the swallows of Capistrano, the migrating humpback whales of Hawaii, and the Monarch butterflies of Mexico. They’ve got nothing on the buzzards of Ely. We were tipped off to this daily event by one of the desk clerks at the Hotel Nevada. 

“You guys need to check out the cemetery at nightfall. Buzzards come from all over to roost in the trees at the cemetery. I think it’s neat, but it really creeps out my kids.”

The buzzards of Ely at roost

She wasn’t kidding. Scores of buzzards start circling over Ely as the sun begins to set. Then, one by one, they silently descend to settle into the trees in the Ely cemetery as the sunlight fades. The countryside surrounding Ely does not lack for excellent, alternative roosting sites. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how and why the buzzards started settling into the graveyard. Don't think about it too long, or it will creep you out.

Buzzards in the treetops at Ely Cemetery

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in McGill, and was the kid wbo was always bringing home injured critters to mend. I once found a big chick that I nursed back to health, ugliest thing, and we concluded that as it grew its identity woukd be revealed. It turned out to be a Turkey buzzard. I never knew they were at the Ely cemetery.