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Zeit: Random excerpts from a new book about Nevada

In the book Rants From the Hill, Michael P. Branch describes his family’s life in the outback of the Great Basin, an area he dubs Silver Hills. A sampling:

• But the best thing about mud season in Silver Hills is the “gumbo luge” ... (Page 39)

• The most surprising item in this remarkable, wild digs was stacked neatly beneath one corner of the tarp: an impressive cache of surprisingly well-preserved Nixon-era Playboy magazines. In effect, I had made the astounding anthropological discovery of a western Great Basin Mancave, circa 1973. (Page 3)

• I realize that this kind of self-righteous, tree-hugging sermonizing dodges the central issue, which is that cell phone towers are just plain ugly. (Page 156)

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• He began to swing the feathered bob back and forth hypnotically over the sand, apparently feeling for the water through some invisible vibration along that feathered string, listening for the life-giving water percolating in its rock sanctuary far below the desiccated surface of the Great Basin. “You’ll go 400 feet and get twenty-six gallons a minute,” he declared, “and that water will be sweet as honey in the rock.” (Page 100)

• I have made close observations of cattle out on the BLM land here in Silver Hills, and I do not like what I see. (Page 165)

• Communities around Yreka, California, have tried to leave the Union to form the State of Jefferson, an ongoing effort since 1941, when some independent-minded folks declared they would attempt to secede from the United States “every Thursday until further notice.” (Page 82)

Rants From the Hill: On Packrats, Bobcats, Wildfires, Curmudgeons, a Drunken Mary Kay Lady & Other Encounters With the Wild in the High Desert, by Michael P. Branch (Roost Books, $14.95)