Calendar of Annual Events
Cow Country Cutting
Sponsored by Casino West775-463-2481
Mother's Day Madness
Nevada Women's Team Roping775-463-4841
Spring Fling Car Show
including Sock Hop, Poker Run, crafts and food.775-463-2245
Dance Parade, Mass, Sopa lunch and Auction775-463-2763
Pizen Switch Round-Up
Community picnic and potluck775-463-2245
Back Alley Fights
Professional Boxing in an outdoor ring on Main Street775-463-2481
Lyon County Fair & Rodeo
Nevada-style Rodeo and Fair775-463-2245
Spirit of Wovoka Days Pow Wow
Celebration of the originator of the Ghost Dance775-463-2350
Sundae in the Park
Art, quilts, crafts and food from the local area775-463-3066
A brief History & Description of
David W. Toll
to Yerington is like taking a day off. It's a half hour away from the
nearest east-west and north-south highways, and getting here is like taking
a Sunday drive to a home town you never had. Drive in from the north through
Wabuska, down the cottonwood-bowered two-lane highway, with family farms
(including the magnificent Masini ranch house on the west side of the road)
spread out across the valley on both sides. Or come in through Wellington
and Smith from the south and traverse the rich pasturelands of the Smith
and Mason Valleys.
in Mason Valley on the Walker River, Yerington began its existence as a small
trading post and whiskey store called Pizen Switch, a reflection on the poor
quality of the whiskey. When the tiny settlement had grown to hamlet size,
municipal pride demanded a more genteel handle and the citizens agreed on
few years later, in the 1870s, townspeople gambled that renaming their modest
burg in his honor would be the decisive enticement for H.M. Yerington to
extend a branch line of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad their way. Greenfield
became Yerington, but H.M. did not extend the railroad. A railroad finally
did materialize in Yerington, but not until the second decade of the 20th
century when copper deposits worked briefly in the 1860s were brought back
into production. Smelters were built and the Nevada Copper Belt Railroad
extended from the mines west of town around the Singatse Range to connect
with the Southern Pacific at Wabuska. In the 1920s the district produced
copper valued at several millions, but production dwindled after the end
of the decade.
the outbreak of World War II the Anaconda Mining Co. bought control of the
major mines, but decided against bringing them into large-scale production
because of the long lag time required. When the Korean War broke out in 1950,
however, Anaconda brought the mines into production under government contract.
company built 255 houses on a hillside west of town, creating a rather prim company town called Weed Heights
in honor of the mine manager. Digging began in 1952 and
two years later the big shovels uncovered the ore. The mining revival came
too late to save the N.C.R.R., however, which had torn up its tracks and
expired in 1947.
1978 copper mining ceased again, and Weed Heights became a sudden ghost town.
Bright turquoise-colored water began seeping into the great pit, slowly rising
to provide a home for bass and trout.
the mine has been developed as an industrial site and an RV park, with campsites
around the lip of the spectacular pit and on the benches down deep inside
it. Tricycles have appeared on the patchy lawns in front of some of the Weed
Heights houses again and the community is coming back to life.
the Indian Colony there is a monument to Yerington's only famous native,
the Paiute prophet Wovoka. He was a major figure during the final downfall
of the Indian nations; his Ghost Dance movement led to the slaughter at Wounded
Knee. His vision of the return of the buffalo, and of the Native American
lifeways, was an attractive prophecy to a people whose culture was melting
inexorably away, and it was fervently believed and spread through the Indian
world. The granite monument that sketches his life stands within sight of
the fields where his wickiup was a common sight before his death in 1932.
of Wovoka's memorabilia is at the Badlands Museum in North Dakota, but the
Lyon County Museum at 215 S. Main displays an interesting variety of frontier
relics, from dolls to shooting irons, and including a case devoted to Chinese
antiquities found in the area. The museum also includes some standing structures:
a one-room eight-grade school house where generations of ranch children were
educated, and a 19th century grocery store, stocked and with cash register
at the ready. The museum is open week-ends, but on weekdays you can stop in at the Information Center next door and they'll call a volunteer to come over and give your party the
boasts the largest trap shooting range in central Nevada, the golf course
is open all year, and a weeks-long summer softball tournament attracts teams
from all around Nevada and the West. But one of Yerington's principal attractions
is subtler: the unhurried, friendly way people here go about their business.
I have watched a man spend ten minutes getting down a single block, amiably
passing the time of day with four different neighbors.
the best view of Yerington and its green valley setting, find a friendly
native and ask the way to the dump. Pass the cemetery (after a visit, perhaps)
and climb the lumpy hill that rises behind it. No need to go all the way
to the dump, unless you've accumulated some travel debris; you'll see a
convenient pull-off near the top of the hill where you can park and enjoy
a picnic lunch overlooking the little paradise spread below.
its small-town lifestyle, Yerington's Casino West offers the traditional
enjoyments of dice, cards and video slot machines, and a variety of food
and lodging is available. Joe Dini's Lucky Club is another Yerington tradition,
along with the historical footnote that Jack Dempsey helped lay the tile
floor during his Nevada roustabout years.
if you are traveling with boys (of any age), stop in at the Yerington Tire
Shop on north Main Street and take in the miniature wind-up automobiles made
in Germany by Schuco. These are the creme de la creme of toy cars, the fastest
clockwork drive models in the world. Some are made with working gearshifts,
differential and/or rack and pinion steering. Some, like the 1917 Model T
Coupe, with mainspring wound, brake lever set and clutch released, will stand
and "idle," rattling and shaking on their miniature suspensions. They're
all brand new, but some are now out of production and quite rare -- toys
that any grown-up would be proud to own.
The Great Yerington Sack Race
intermittently hosts what must be the most grueling single competition staged
anywhere in the west. It doesn't appear in the list of annual events because
it isn't held every year -- contestants can't be found that often. It's the
World Championship Sack Race, and it dates back more than 80 years when a
young farm hand named Harry Warren made local history.
was working as a ranch hand near Wabuska. He and some other men were loading
a wagon with 120-lb. grain sacks, and in the process they got to talking
about how far a man could carry one of the sacks without having to put it
down and rest. Harry made the outrageous claim that he could carry one all
the way to Yerington, about ten miles away.
his fellow workers challenged his wild statement, Harry said, "Oh, I can
do it all right. But you'll have to make it worth my while."
some of the biggest and strongest men in the valley experimented with carrying
the heavy sacks, and none of them made it more than a quarter mile. Harry's
challenge spread around the valleys, and a fund of $1,500 was accumulated
to call Harry's bluff.
the day of the great event Harry heaved the sack up onto his shoulders and
started off rapidly toward Yerington at a rapid walk. To the utter astonishment
of every witness, Harry made the ten miles to Yerington in about two hours,
stopping to rest only once, and never slowing his relentless pace. One of
the amazed backers of the bet was a local bee keeper. "The bees never stung
me," he said ruefully, "but Harry Warren sure did."