Cowboy Poet Sings Ode to Nevada Opera House

Despite its name, the newly restored Eureka Opera House hosts all kinds of musicians. Alex Chadwick talks to cowboy poet, singer and songwriter Richard Elloyan, who performs a song about the opera house, which was originally built during the mining boom in 1880.

What's So Special About Eureka, Nevada?

Eureka Courthouse

Eureka's courthouse. The town in Eureka County may be tiny, but it enjoys a certain largess, thanks to two large gold mines that have filled the county coffers. The annual budget is about $17 million — or about $100,000 per person. Steve Proffitt, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Proffitt, NPR
The Loneliest Road

Twenty years ago, a writer for Life Magazine dubbed this "The Loneliest Road in America." The name stuck. Steve Proffitt, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Proffitt, NPR
The Opera House

The town of Eureka recently spent $2.5 million to restore its opera house, originally built during the mining boom in 1880. Steve Proffitt, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Proffitt, NPR

When most people think of Nevada, they think of Las Vegas. About 70 percent of the state's population lives in the Las Vegas valley, and the hotel casinos that line the Las Vegas Strip dominate the state's business activity.

Day to Day wanted to learn more about people living in the far-flung regions of Nevada — the tough, libertarian farmers, ranchers and miners of the "get government off my back" variety.

Heading east from Reno on Nevada Highway 50, beautiful, isolated territory stretches for miles and miles. It's easy to go a half-hour without spotting another car — it's just snow-covered vistas and desert valleys. Twenty years ago, a writer for Life Magazine dubbed this "The Loneliest Road in America." That was meant to be an insult, but the locals embraced the designation as a sort of badge of distinction.

Our final destination is Eureka, a small oasis of political activity about 250 miles east of Reno. There are about 900 registered voters in Eureka County, and about 800 of them usually show up at the polls, according to Bob Dyer, chairman of the Eureka County Republicans.

Of those 900 registered voters in the county, about 150 are Democrats. Still, they'll be holding caucuses this weekend, and at least one Democratic campaign has invested attention in the region. Barack Obama supporters from his office in Elko, Nev., recently visited Eureka. It seems they're not taking a single vote for granted — or perhaps it's the fundraising potential.

Although the town of Eureka in Eureka County may be tiny, it enjoys a certain largess, thanks to two large gold mines in the northern part of the county that have filled the county coffers. The annual budget is about $17 million, which pans out to about $100,000 per person.

High prices for gold have allowed the residents to take unusual measures for a small town. Recently they spent $2.5 million to restore their opera house. Yes, their opera house. Originally built during the mining boom in 1880, it may not draw the biggest stars in the world, but it helps ensure that the loneliest road is a little less lonely.

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