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Desert Companion

Voices from the past!

Millions of years of Nevada history rendered as a series of improbable conversations


Ancient seas cover Nevada



Cambrian Era: Hey, let’s fill this joint with water! Invite some Paleozoic invertebrates and party like it’s 543 million years B.C.! *Puts “Surfin’ USA” on turntable*

Devonian Era: Pool party! I’ll bring the plankton. Oh, damn — who invited the freshwater mollusks?

Carboniferous Era: Do I always have to be the sensible one? Let’s start draining this mess before it gets out of hand.

Mesozoic Era: Don’t pull the plug yet — I brought ichthyosaurs!

Cenozoic Era: Time’s up, suckas! I’m dropping some basin-and-range geology on ya! And mammals, too. Pool time’s over!


Mormon settlement of Las Vegas


William Bringhurst: Water … trader route … this looks like a godly spot. Let’s build a 150-square-foot adobe fort here!

His 29 followers: That’s five square feet apiece! Yay!

Random settler: The elders sure seem to squabble a lot. Bet you $5 this settlement don’t last two years.

Support comes from

Bringhurst: Maybe, but 160 years from now our fort will get great Yelp reviews!

His 29 followers: Yay!


Nevada statehood

Oct. 31, 1864

Abe Lincoln: Oh, ninnyfiddles! I’m up against two other candidates for president and the election’s just around the corner! I need to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and rebuild the South!

Nevada: Grant us statehood! We’ll give you three congressmen to support your cause!

Abe: Verily, it is done! *Waves magic statehood wand*


City-founding land auction

May 15, 1905

Montana Sen. William Clark: *pauses swimming in jacuzzi filled with gold* I’m rich! I run banks, own mines, newspapers and railroads! But know what I want? AN ENTIRE CITY! I know! I’ll auction off the land where my railroad stops in Las Vegas and see if those suckers are dumb enough to buy parcels! Clark County ... I like the sound of that! *resumes swimming in gold-filled jacuzzi*


Hoover Dam approved, gambling legalized, divorce laws loosened

March 1931

Nevada: This Great Depression sucks.

U.S. government: We’ll throw in a $49 million dam. That should help.

Shecky Green, dialing in from the future: And that was when $49 million was a lot of money! *rim shot*

Nevada: Great! Now, what if we legalize stuff other places outlaw? Moneymakers like easy divorce and gambling!

Gov. Fred Balzer (grabbing law-signing pen): Let’s do this!

Some guys just in from Chicago: Well, well, what do we have here …


The mob era


Mobster: Guys, guys! Check out this genius new method of funding ourselves! We take the house winnings into this special back room before we put it in the ledger and steal a chunk of it from ourselves for ourselves, sort of! *Catches on for, like, 20 years*


Dunes implosion

October 27, 1993

Dunes: Hey! Why are so many people crowded around? And TV cameras! Wait — a party?! For me?! Aww, you guys, you shouldn’t have, this feels so wonder—


The Foreclosure Crisis


The economy: Unhh, I shouldn’t have eaten those collateralized debt obligations …

Wall Street: Heh-heh …

Beleaguered homeowners: So, about my mortgage —

Banks: Get out.

Beleaguered homeowners: But where will we —

Banks: Don’t let the screen door hit ya where Wall Street just split ya!

Justice Department: We’re going to issue some stern rhetoric …

Wall Street: We’re so very sorry!

Justice Department: … and assess serious fines …

Wall Street: *Tinkle of pocket change*

Justice Department: … but not put anyone in jail.

Wall Street: Heh-heh *Sound of huge bonuses slipping into wallets*

The economy: Hey, they’re too big to fail. (Shrugs) What’re you gonna do?

Beleaguered homeowners: Maybe we can get a room at Budget Suites. 

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