-So what's the American Dream for the people out here?" I asked.
"To be left alone," Baker
"Just to be left alone?" I asked. "But
that's not possible, is it?"
"How do they react when they find it's not
possible?" I asked.
"They get really mad," and
(she) broke up laughing. "They get really, really mad."
* Craig Denton,
People of the
In the West
Desert, few visitors venture beyond Highway 50 - -the loneliest
highway in America' - and the relatively well-traveled trails of
Great Basin National Park. But Highway 50 isn't lonely enough for
most residents of western Utah and eastern Nevada, who feel lucky
to be far from the casinos of Las Vegas and the sprawl of the
A new book, People of the West
Desert, is a sympathetic documentary of the quirky, stubborn people
who inhabit one of the West's emptiest places. Author and
photographer Craig Denton profiles the region's diverse people and
institutions, including fundamentalist religious communities,
federal land managers and nomadic teams of sheep-shearers. His
language can be over-formal, but Denton has uncovered some
fascinating details of desert life: A tiny public school district
where kids from a polygamist community struggle to coexist with the
outside world; a justice of the peace who sometimes orders
violators to write "I Will Not Speed Through Baker" on a chalkboard
as penance; a tongue-in-cheek parade of worn-out cars on the Walker
River Paiute Reservation; and a traditional Halloween party where
anti-nuke activists, cowboys and motel owners all let down their
guard. While these communities can be closed and suspicious at
times, Denton shows that an odd sort of tolerance persists. When
your nearest neighbor lives 25 miles downvalley, it doesn't much
matter whether she's a survivalist, a polygamist or a member of the
Sierra Club - as long as she's got a spare tire.
* Michelle Nijhuis