Last year I did a massive, solo road-trip through the deserts of California and Nevada to take pictures for my Strange Geographies photo essay column (I know, it's been awhile since I wrote one ... I've been chained to my desk!). One of the towns I visited was a dusty little half-abandoned mining/brothel town called Mina, Nevada. I couldn't figure out why this little town a hundred miles from anywhere had an air strip until, as I was leaving, I found a couple of brothels -- the Playmate Ranch and the WildKat. (I guess it's a short flight to the middle of nowhere from Las Vegas, relatively speaking.) Anyway, since it was published, the column's comments have become a kind of informal meet-up for people who used to live and work in Mina, and they are fascinating. Here are my favorites (slightly edited for brevity/clarity's sake):
I lived in Mina for 7 months through 30 below winter months in 1990-91. I got to know a lot of old timers that are long gone now. They longed for the big strike in the hills to revive the poor little town. The people are real. I still talk to a man that lives there. It is about the same now. People drift in and out of town, not unlike the tumble weeds.
Most of the former residents' comments are speculation about what may or may not have become of "Little Bill," the owner of the Playmate Ranch. I get the feeling a lot of these are bordering on "tall tale" territory ... but you never know.
"The Playmate Ranch was closed almost as soon as it was opened. No one seems to know what happened to the owner, Bill. It’s been empty ever since he disappeared." - Rick
"hi I just wanted to say I like mina and i did bussiness in mina with Bill paymate he was a Gambler he owed mager taxes he sold billys day and night (another local brothel) for 950000 lost it all in about 8mounths I just wanted to let you know the real story" - joe
From one of the Playmates:
"I worked briefly at the playmate ranch in october of 2005, i left soon thereafter and next thing i hear is that Bill had disappeared and never to be heard of again, does anybody know what happened to him? He was a great guy and after all this time i would love to know that he is okay, he really looked after me out there and i really thought his business was going to be a success, what a loss…"
Then finally, a word from Bill himself:
"I am still alive and kicking just not as high..The ranch is for sale I just can’t run it right now. And for those people that say they know the real story it’s not real at all they have me confused with the tourist."
(I'm not sure what tourist Bill's talking about -- not this one, presumably -- but I'd love to hear the real story.)
Then Rick pops back in and writes:
Hey, “lil” Bill,remember me? Helped put in the jacuzzi with your good buddy, Larry. Long time,no see. I’m gonna try to get to the El Crap on New Years…depends if I can scrounge up enough gas money, Construction isn’t what it used to be. Been a REAL struggle for the last 2 years. Glad to hear that you’re “still kickin”. You were chained to an O2 bottle last time we met. Gotta quit smokin’.
In any case, I think we can safely assume that this is the most colorful exchange we've ever had here in the comments at mentalfloss. If anyone else has tall tales about Mina, or its various entrepreneurs, leave 'em in the comments!
Bonus: I dug up this awesome photo / advertisement (sic!) of the WildKat on their website (though I'll stay classy and not link to it here). Note Grecian columns.