Farming in Callao

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Critical Mass and the Depopulation of Spring Valley

by Cecil Garland (Callao, Utah)

[Note: Spring Valley, Nevada, is the next valley west of Snake Valley, also a target of the Las Vegas water grab. SNWA has begun buying ranches in Spring Valley.]

Critical mass in physics is the amount of material that must be present before a chain reaction can sustain itself. Critical mass has also come to mean the size or scale at which a community acquires self-sustaining viability.

Spring Valley, in eastern Nevada, has for over a hundred years been a community of ranchers living not close together, but close enough form friendships and, of course, some animosity but always a community willing to help each other in times of need. Ranching communities are like no other in that living two to 10 miles apart, they do come together often enough to maintain an ongoing critical mass so that they can continue their way of life. The recent purchasing of ranches in Spring Valley at highly inflated prices by Southern Nevada Water Authority is destroying that critical sense of viability. SNWA must know that what they do is destructive to the ranching community and are doing so deliberately. Ranchers need a relationship with their neighbors that is both lasting and mutually beneficial as has been the case in Spring Valley.

Ranchers work together in the spring to gather, brand, mark, vaccinate, and castrate their calves, and in the fall they work together to wean and ship the calves. Helping each other in these endeavors is a long established necessary tradition. Together they build and repair fences. They borrow, rent and exchange machinery, tools and help each other during haying. When going to town, one party may do a multitude of chores for a neighbor saving him a long, expensive trip to town. Older ranchers also depend on the younger people for help which is most often given freely and cheerfully. Phone calls, visits, trips together, social events, and church, the fabric that holds people together, is being torn apart. When ranches are sold to buyers that have no intentions of ranching or replacing the family, then the chain of sustainability and viability is weakened and finally broken. Uneasiness and apprehension will begin to take place in the minds of those who want to remain on the land. Questions will arise. Should I sell now while I can get a big price?

Is it inevitable that SNWA with all their power and wealth will take our water and then will our ranches be nearly worthless? Will our government really protect us, or in fact, can they?

When a valley is being settled by a pioneering, often reclusive individual, there is optimism. The first settlers knew well that others would follow, and that other ranches would come in time. When ranches begin to sell as they are doing today, the opposite psychological effects begin to happen. A foreboding gloom can become pervasive and constant with worry about what is next. Will there be any ranches or community left in a few years? Would any young folks want to come back to the valley? Will the roads, phone service, schools and school buses be maintained or possibly abandoned? It is understandable that young people would be reluctant to return to a valley stripped of its sense of community and the accepted amenities and necessities. These and many more questions of uncertainty are being raised.

Current events of endless hearings and deliberations, often by people who are alien to the ranching way of life, are lessons in how to destroy the critical mass of a valley. These circumstances will send ranching people into burgeoning cities where they are likely to be discontent and unhappy, longing deep in their hearts and souls for the space, the beauty, and the cohesiveness of their former community now gone like the cowboy riding into the sunset.


Cecil C.and Annette H.Garland
Rafter Lazy C Ranch
Callao 225 Pony Express Road
Callao, Utah via Wendover 84083

[Please comment on this post if you wish to contact Cecil by e-mail.]


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