Englishwoman in Elko

Rachel Hopkin

Last week, I attended the Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the first time. It’s an annual event that takes place each year in Elko, Nevada, and as an Englishwoman who has only been living in the state for a few months, I can say that its plethora of poetry, prose and musical performances, panel discussions, exhibits and workshops, all provided a splendid means of getting acquainted with traditional Western culture. Among the highlights was having the chance to chat with two of the finest cowboy poets around – Paul Zarzyski and Wally McRae.

“Rachel with Wally McRae (left) and Paul Zarzyski"

However, even before I had reached the Gathering, the journey there had provided an education in and of itself. I drove from my home in Las Vegas to Elko mostly by way of Highway 93, and it was my first real experience of seeing rural Nevada. England, where I am from, is so densely populated and so relatively small that it just doesn’t have anything to compare with the wide-open spaces that make up much of Nevada. I went for mile after mile without passing either a house or a car and it gave me a whole new concept of what rural is. It also gave me the opportunity to stop off at places such as Caliente, Pioche, and Ely and meet with residents to ask how Nevada Humanities might best serve them. I’m not sure there’s any substitute for such on-the-ground learning and it’s going to be so important to me as I go about my work as a Program Manager. After all, we are a state-wide agency and I need to make sure that when I’m thinking about programs to put in place, I keep ALL of Nevada in mind.

“A view of Nevada from Highway 93”