The sign says it all, “Nevada: alcohol-legal, gambling-legal, prostitution-legal, lobsters-illegal” . nestled in the wide open valley, a group of dusty houses and shuttered buildings appears, and an anachronism: a large boat, with portholes and a door in the side, and a sign “Desert lobster café-open”. I pull into the parking lot, and a new building appears behind the boat, a wheelchair ramp and a car and beaten up pickup show signs of life.
The usual debris lies around, a blackened washtub upside down on top of a pile of half-burned firewood, with no obvious purpose, but im sure a story lurks somewhere. Enter the swinging door with sign, no credit cards, and look in my wallet, 4 forlorn dollar bills appear, and im in trouble if I want to eat anything. A cheery hello from the back of a neat, new kitchen, and a lol comes up offering food.
Id love something to eat, but have no cash, I just came in from Benton looking for Sam.
You gotta check?
Is it good?
Yep, but its on a sonoma county bank
That’s ok, whaddya want?
I settle on fish and chips on the recommendation of the lol and a guy starts whipping up my feast.
Im looking for a guy named sam, anyone around here?
Oh ya, hes one street over, give him a call if you want.
I get the number and dial and a voice comes over the wires.
Are you the friend of bert finney in Benton? Im here to buy you lunch.
Ill be right over-the reply
After casing the joint, I look into the boat and behold a veritable museum, complete with display case of revolvers, a sherrifs badge and some articles on the town. Above, perched on a tree limb is a stuffed cougar, and deers heads and antlers protrude from the walls like so many tree limbs. A big table sits there and I re enter the back room and this older guy comes in looking around, for me, it is sam, but not the right sam, but wtf? I invite him to sit down and we talk, in the easy desert way of things important to all. Water supply, weather, the job situation, places to explore, heart problems and on, an easy guy to talk to.
I am still trying to get ahold of the real sam, and the people know him, the big bald guy works for dot, but not his last name, so I call charlotte at the café in Benton and she fills me in sam Compton is the name, so I call him, and get the answering machine, oh well. More coffee and delicate fish and delicious coleslaw, not too sweet as sam had told me, and more conversation.
At least you got to talk to one sam-his parting comment.
I fill in a check for 8.75 including a 1$ tip, and enquire about the lobsters. The story bert told me is that they had a great business growing lobsters here and selling them to the casinos in reno, but the state shut them down for lack of permits and sanitation, and they are now working on getting that operation going again, lobsters in the desert, wow, what a concept.
My eye catches a sign for consulting geologist as I pass down the main drag, and I see what looks like sams truck in front. Hook a u ie and park to barking of dog and two blonde girl kids at the fence. I ask for sam, and they get mom, an older smiling, but suspicious face, she doesn’t have sam there, but her husband is a geologist, consulting in mexico looking for gold, I give her my card and we talk, the kids and dogs milling around.
Im off to hawthorne and on to greater glory with mitch in Carson city, lunch with canyon in auburn, on through the rain to my warm bed in Forestville.
copyright 2009 terry wright