Making UFOs -- Tonopah, Nevada

Bobbie Ann Howell

Recently on my travels I was able to spend some time in Tonopah, Nevada.  I used to go to Tonopah quite a bit when my sister Sherry lived there and we had more than one “ghost filled” New Year's Eve at the famous Mizpah Hotel. Well, we told a lot of ghost stories, but I'm not sure we saw the resident ghost -- though we did see amazing things fly in the sky.

On this trip we stayed at the historic and beautiful Mizpah again, had a good meal, enjoyed talking with the staff, and relaxed from our drive that, over the course of the week, had led us up through Amargosa Valley, Death Valley, Beatty and Goldfield, and, on the way back home, from Reno.  The high bed with soft pillows, the handmade soap, and the deep claw foot bathtub were a welcomed luxury.

We stopped in to visit the Library, the Central Nevada Museum, and on the way back hiked around the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. The mining park was active with workers rigging up to put new lights down the Mizpah mine shaft (very exciting!), so soon you will be able to see down the deep shaft into the mine. We also spent a good deal of time enjoying the books the library was getting ready for the upcoming book sale fundraiser. Needless to say, getting to shop for books by the bag is pretty exciting, especially, for me, in a library. Some of my fondest childhood memories surround the cool interior of the book mobile that came weekly to Indian Springs, Nevada, where you could sit on the floor and look at books all afternoon after school.  I also love shopping for books at library and used book sales because I am a bit obsessed with finding books for sale that still have their library sign out card in the inside cover. Growing up I always liked to read who had signed out the book before me and on what date, and how many times the same person may have signed out a book. Sometimes it was my own name and I would think "wow, no one else had signed this book out since I did the last time," especially if a year or so had past.  I often took time to look inside some of my favorite books just to examine the check out card.

I have a collection of books with library cards that include the signatures of people who have shared a book with me.  As a child the idea of getting to sign my name on the card, and, on the honor of my signature, take the book home was amazing.  For most of us of a certain age, it was the first time our signature was given such valued weight, and I remember being excited to sign my new, much practiced, cursive signature at the library.   If I had my way, children would still get to do this at the library. Yes I know the way it is done now is more efficient, but signing out a book can still be of value, learning who we are as we grow up and feeling the small bit of pride in being given the responsibility to care for something we are borrowing.  

In the sale pile of youth books I hit the jackpot and found several treasures -- cool books with library check-out cards inside, complete with a long list of signatures. One of my favorites, from the Round Mountain Library, is a how to project book titled MAKING UFOs, written and illustrated by Dave Ross. This was a great book to find in Tonopah -- a place that has as some of the darkest night skies in which to see the heavens, and the town nearest the home base of the Stealth Fighter plane, which, during its top secret development, on occasion streaked though the Tonopah skies in its black angular form far faster than sound. Nevada has a long association with UFO stories and the book has a full card of careful young signatures, of what looks like mostly boys' names, who most likely did their best to build their own UFO and, I am sure, looked up into the deep night sky and let their imaginations fly.