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Population: 2,880 Elevation: 3980 feet
A brief Description & History of
"This marsh for three miles is certainly the liveliest place that one could witness in a lifetime. There is some two hundred and fifty wagons here all the time. Trains going out and others coming in and taking their places is the constant order of the day. Cattle and mules by the hundreds are surrounding us, in grass to their knees, all discoursing sweet music with the grinding of their jaws.
"Men are seen hurrying in many different ways and everybody attending to his own business. Some mowing, some reaping, some packing the grass, others spreading it out to dry, or collecting that already dry and fixing it for transportation. In fact the joyous laugh and the familiar sound of the whetted scythe gives an air of happiness and content around that must carry the wearied travelers through to the "Promised Land." The scene reminds one much of a large encampment of the army, divided off into separate and distinct parties, everybody minding his own business and letting other people alone."
Named for an early homesteader and storekeeper in the Big Meadows when the Central Pacific Railroad drove its rails this way in 1868, Lovelock's became a way station of some importance as mining strikes in the surrounding mountains, and agricultural development in the valley combined to encourage the growth of a small settlement. By the turn of the century it had become a town of about a hundred homes, a school, two churches, and a business district of almost three dozen firms, all within a few steps of the railroad tracks.
Lovelock in those days was a part of Humboldt County, and in 1905, Allen Bragg, editor of the daily Silver State in Winnemucca, came to pay his respects. "Lovelock is 'on the trail' to be a city of considerable magnitude," he wrote. "I think if I could come back to this dusty ball 50 years hence I should see a city of at least 50,000 souls, for Lovelock Valley, if put to its highest uses, would support 50,000 or 75,000 busy men and women, and it would be an ideal spot to raise children and start them in life with bright prospects."
Editor Bragg had a severe case of Nevada optimism, but Lovelock did prosper from the nearby mining activity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It achieved 2,803 residents by 1920, but that's the high point so far. Lovelock incorporated as a city in 1917, but was so broke two years later that the City Council laid off the Indian Policeman and the night Jailer. They had the city's Teamster sleep in the jail, cut the Police Chief's salary in half to $25 a month, and instructed the City Clerk to see about turning off the street lights during bright moonlit nights.
Since then Lovelock's economy has become largely agricultural again. The conditions of soil and climate that produced the lush growth of grass for the pioneers is famous as Nevada's "Banana Belt." Lovelock boasts some 40,000 acres under irrigation in Upper and Lower valleys, most of it devoted to grain for feeding livestock, and to the alfalfa seed for which Lovelock is known around the world.
You may not think there is much romance or fascination in alfalfa, but that's only because you haven't met the bees. Alfalfa is not a cross-pollinator, and so its flowers must be tripped by insects in order to propagate. A special strain of bees was developed locally to perform this essential task. Called the leaf-cutter bee, this industrious insect does not live in hives like honey bees do, but in individual nests. Seeking to build these little pellet-shaped nests, the female bees eagerly occupy any pre-existing hole of the appropriate size and shape. Thus soda straws left unattended when the females are feeling the mating urge, will be filled with nest and eggs. So will the corrugations in a piece of cardboard, and so will empty nailholes in a fencepost. One local man had to give up on his outdoor barbecue when the leaf-cutters insisted on nesting in the gas jets of the burner.
Even more wonderful are the alkali bees, which also participate in the pollination of alfalfa. These bees are hiveless too, nesting in little burrows in the ground. They prosper in the alkaline soil of the ancient sea beds. But the alkali bee has a deadly enemy, the bomber fly. This aerial marauder comes whirring out over the desert floor after the alkali bee has laid its eggs, and searches for the little nests. When it finds one, it hovers in the air about a foot above the ground, and with the most amazing and deadly accuracy flips its own eggs into the hole as well. When the fly egg hatches, the larva instinctively digs down and devours the helpless bee larva. The full-grown fly emerges in the spring to begin the cycle again. But when the bomber fly emerges, it is as a wingless adult, and during the 20 or 30 minutes needed to shed its skin, and to dry and activate its wings, the fly isdefenseless.
This accounts for one of the most unexpected (and ridiculous) rituals conducted anywhere in the Wild West: Fly stomping.
It hasn't been done in recent years, but not so long ago, over three or four weeks in late May and early June, seed company employees made a huge grid across the desert floor with stakes and string. They hired every able-bodied 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grader in Lovelock, outfitted them with fly swatters and gave each one a patch of desert to patrol.
At the twitch of an emerging fly, the kids pounced and swatted. The sight of all these youngsters, prowling their sections of desert, yelping with excitement and lunging on the attack, is unforgettable. And fly-stomping was one of the growing up experiences that Lovelock kids carried with them to the grave. Regrettably, it was discovered that the trampling of the soil caused more damage to the alkali bees than the bomber flies, and fly-stomping came to an end.
The country around Lovelock is geological exhibit of extraordinary complexity, and provides a variety of outdoor enjoyments. Tufa Formations, the rough-textured remnants from the bottom of the long-dried Lahontan sea, wart the desert floor at several places nearby. The largest and best-known of these coral-like eruptions are to the west seven and 20 miles, within sight of the highway. A smaller bed is easily accessible about a mile north of town on Western Avenue, covered with red and black lichen, and providing an interesting spot for a picnic lunch or simply for contemplating the eons.
Edna Purviance is Lovelock's only movie star so far, but the town has produced at least one semi-hero. Andrew Humbert Scott (Scotty the Assayer) was a familiar, and rather humble figure in Lovelock. In his little assay office near the railroad depot (now moved to the Marzen House Museum), he had analyzed the ore from countless discoveries in the region, including some of the biggest. But his claim to at least local fame is that he had made the first military parachute jump in history.
During World War I, when General Billy Mitchell proposed to a skeptical military establishment that aircraft could deliver fully armed troops to the battlefield by dropping them from airplanes, it was Lt. Scott, rifle, pack and parachute ready, who sat in the forward seat of the little biplane snarling across the soggy winter sky above the Potomac River. Scotty's target was a small island, but he got tangled up in his seatbelt and was late getting out of the plane. He splashed down in the river, and Mitchell was court martialed for not sitting down and shutting up.
Pause for a moment to admire the single stoplight dangling over the intersection with Main street. It was once the last signal light to regulate traffic between San Francisco and New Yorkuntil the freeway bypassed Lovelock in 1983.
The Pershing County Court House is Lovelock's architectural jewel. It is round. Like all Nevada court houses, it is open to visitors during regular office hours, and County offices are located around the perimeter of the building, off the corridor that rings the round court room at its center. "My wife and I were divorced in Lovelock," a Winnemucca man told me, "and we're still going around in circles." The county library and the public swimming pool are only a few steps from the court house. You'll also find a pleasant park with picnic tables and a children's playground.
Broadway was the original business street that grew up along the railroad track in the 1870s. The old depot building is a classic, and the fancy-porched residences, the bright blue Palace Club and the other original structures offer a glimpse, only slightly filtered through stucco and neon, of the frontier west.
Check at the Chamber of Commerce at the Marzen House museum (9 am-1:30 pm) on the west end of town for directions to the nearby historic sites of Vernon and Seven Troughs. There are half a dozen choices for food, lodging, RV hook-ups and automotive services.
And when you're rested, fed and refueled, enjoy one of Lovelock's unexpected pleasures: shopping. The shops listed on the following page provide a far more cosmopolitan combination than you'd expect to find in a small city in the desert. "Oh, yes," said a local lady in The Crow's Nest. "I like to come in here just for the delicious smells."
No doubt the aromas of the soaps, lotions and floral bouquets seem all the sweeter the closer you live to the feeder lots, but the tasteand variety of Lovelock's shopping opportunities is a pleasant surprise to travelers.
Welcome to Lovelock
These businesses are pleased to welcome you
PERSHING COUNTY CHAMBER of Commerce.
RAMADA STURGEON'S Restaurant, Motel and Casino.
CROW'S NEST Gift Shop.