Elko Porker
In the early days of Elko, about one hundred thirty years ago, a family's bacon was often raised in the backyard. As it frequently happens, some porker owners ignored the rights of their neighbors and allowed their pigs to roam loose in the streets. Such a situation was bound to have repercussions.

A suffering citizen penned his complaints in a letter to the editor of the Weekly Elko Independent:

"A serious drawback to the improvement of the town is the fearful scourge of the porcine family which is investing our precincts, prowling around our premises, forcing entrance into our yards, committing nightly depredations on our vegetable gardens and amongst our flower beds, and thus utterly destroying weeks of labor.

"Pickets (fences) are no impediment to their intrusion for their elephantine tushes and giving daily demonstrations of the power of their proboscis. In a refined society of many families, the unseemly sights of these filthy animals, daily occurring, are most disgusting."

In response to a numerously signed petition, Elko County Commissioners passed an ordinance compelling owners of hogs to take care of them. County bosses passing a law was, in itself, a rare act. Until 1917, when Elko became a city, commissioners governed the town using the motto: "The least government is the best government."

The new law stated that every citizen has a right to be protected and that no one has the right to prey upon his neighbor's person and property. The law provided fines and jail terms for those who allowed their grunter to roam from its home premises.

A local editor noted: "The law gives ample protection to all and we do not attempt to justify the wounding and maiming of loose hogs, even when they root down fences and trespass upon the grounds of anyone. It is disheartening, of course, to have one's vegetable or flower garden rooted up an destroyed; but instead of peppering porcine vandals with small shot, a better way of preventing a repetition of the offense would be to kill the animal outright. Bear in mind that hogs are not free commoners."

A week after the ordinance passed, the Independent editor wrote: "The new hog ordinance does not produce any perceptible diminishing of the numbers of those animals to be seen on our streets. Perhaps the porkers don't read the paper and have not heard of the passage of the ordinance."

Drawing of a sad pig.

Elko's roaming livestock problem didn't end. Next was an onslaught of cattle on the town streets. After enduring ten years of stepping in cow byproducts commissioners passed another ordinance relating to livestock in 1890. Bovines were, thereafter, denied the use of the streets from April 15 to October 15.

No, that wasn't tourist season back then. Those were the hottest days that made cow manure smell even worse and provided ideal conditions for breeding and growing flies. Did I have to explain that? Ugh!

Another thought. Personally, I'm glad we select bacon today by peeking under the flap on the back of the package.

Howard Hickson 
May 11, 1999 
 ©1999 by Howard Hickson. If any portion or all of this article is used or quoted proper credit must be given to the authors.

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