On occasion, a Monday Mailbag question warrants its own headline and a complete story dedicated to itself, which we call a "Mailbag leftover." I got such a question last week from reader Matt Holihan, who asked what the best Nevada high school mascots/nicknames were. The Silver State has a lot of great options, so let's get to the list.
Before we start, I want to give an honorable mention to the elementary school I attended, C.C. Meneley, which was nicknamed the "SuperStars." Unfortunately, the school changed its mascot to Mountain Lions after I graduated, which was a horrible move (I still love the school, though). SuperStars was an iconic name. Mountain Lions is run-of-the-mill.
Honorable mentions also go to the Green Valley Guardians; Indian Springs Thunderbirds; Sand Valley Sidewinders; Founders Academy Cenurions; Incline Highlanders; Lincoln County Lynx; Silver Stage Nighthawks; Southeast Career Technical Academy Roadrunners; and Fernley Vaqueros. I also like "Dragons" as a nickname, but somehow three schools in Nevada use that as their mascot (Innovations International, Del Sol, Doral Academy), so it's too common to put in the top 10.
10. Lowry Buckaroos: Vaquero, Buckaroo and Cowboy mean roughly the same thing, so it was a tough choice for the 10th spot between the Fernley Vaqueros and Lowry Buckaroos, but I opted for Buckaroo because it's more fun to say than Vaquero. Also, Vaquero is from the Spanish word for cow (vaca), which is the source for buckaroo, with the v being switched to a b. The vaqueros or buckaroos worked cattle in Nevada in the 19th century, and given the state's Western roots, Buckaroo is a perfect nickname for a Nevada high school.
9. Sparks Railroaders: Two Nevada schools are called the Railroaders, the first being Sparks and the second being Carlin, which is 265 miles east of Sparks near Elko. Both schools sit in cities that thrived because of the railroad that ran through it. In 1904, Southern Pacific Railroad built a switch yard east of Reno, which sparked to life the city now called Sparks, which was originally called Harriman after E. H. Harriman, the president of the Southern Pacific, before it was renamed after Mississippi-born John Sparks, Nevada's governor from 1902-08. Sparks High's nickname came when the school's students wanted to start a football team and got some guys who worked at the Southern Pacific Roundhouse to teach them how to play. Sparks won its first game, a 7-0 victory over Yerington in 1922, and the local newspaper wrote, "The Sparks team, taught by Railroaders ..." and the nickname was born.
8. Carson Senators: Carson, the capital city in Nevada, didn't get too fancy with its nickname, opting for Senators, which makes sense since the legislature calls it home every other year, which is a rarity considering the Silver State is one of only four state legislatures that doesn't meet every year (the other states to meet biennially are Montana, North Dakota and Texas). "Senators" isn't as rare as some of the nicknames on this list, but it's a fitting mascot for one of the oldest high schools in the state (and I say that as a proud Douglas Tiger, rival of Carson).
7. Dayton Dust Devils: Nevada is basically a huge desert, and the city of Dayton sits at the western end of the Twenty-Six Mile Desert at a bend in the Carson River, so it makes sense the school would be named the Dust Devils (I believe it's two words, although the NIAA manual labels it "Dustdevils"). The city was originally called Ponderers Rest in the early 1800s before being renamed after John Day, a local surveyor, in 1861. The city was the setting for The Misfits, the last movie to include not only Clark Gable but also Marilyn Monroe.
6. Cheyenne Desert Shield: The North Las Vegas school opened in 1991, one year after the elder George Bush's Iraq War, which was code named Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Legend has it the Desert Shield nickname is a tribute to the soldiers from that war, although others have said it is an homage to the area's Native American heritage as a desert shield is a hiding space decorated with bright designs. Either way, it's a really cool name, and perhaps one-of-a-kind across all of the nation's high schools.
5. Mineral County Serpents: The state of Nevada loves its snake nicknames with the two schools named the Diamondbacks, one the Rattlesnakes and another the Sidewinders, but the best-snake inspired local mascot is the Mineral County Serpents in Hawthorne, which is 125 miles southeast of Reno. There's something sacred and sinister about the Serpent, which has mythological roots and is connected both with fertility and poison. Mineral County's serpent isn't really named after a snake, though. It's named after Walker Lake's mythical, Cecil the Serpent. There are numerous stories dating to the 1860s of Cecil killing those who dared to swim in his lake.
4. Churchill County Greenwave: Churchill County is largely an agricultural area, with the top crops being alfalfa for livestock feed and cantaloupes (and who doesn't love a good cantaloupe?). While the Churchill County Cantaloupes would have been a strong nickname, Alfalfa is the most extensive crop in Nevada and is harvested three or four times a year, and Churchill County opted for "Greenwave" in an ode to the blowing waves of alfalfa crops that grown across the city. It's a unique name with a local tie, so it makes the top five.
3. Virginia City Muckers: Nevada has a pair of Muckers, with Virginia City and Tonopah going by that moniker. We'll pick the Virginia City version because it's closer to Reno. Webster defines "Mucker" as: (a) a vulgar, illbred person; (b) a person who often does or says the wrong thing; bungler; or (c) a person who removes muck (especially in mining). Virginia City's teams were named after the third iteration since it was home to the United States' first silver deposit discovery in 1859 before expanding to a population of 25,000 (currently 855).
2. Equipo Academy Yeti: A rash of prep schools have popped up in Southern Nevada in recent years (Northern Nevada, too, for that matter), and the best nickname of any of those schools goes to East Las Vegas-based Equipo Academy, which calls itself the Yeti. It's going to be impossible to knock off the No. 1 nickname on our list, but Equipo Academy, which opened in 2015, nearly pulled off the feat. The Yeti is a monstrous creature in Himalayan folklore, better known in these parts as the Abominable Snowman. Yeti also makes some killer coolers.
1. Gabbs Tarantulas: In Gabbs, there are more tarantulas than humans, so this nickname is fitting. Gabbs has a population of 269 people and is home to the world's largest tarantula migration. Every fall, the eight-legged spiders crawl through town and trek up to 50 miles seeking maters, which is their essential life goal. And a couple of fun facts here: Gabbs High typically has an enrollment of around 10 students and tarantulas are not as menacing as they look. Yes, they are venomous, but their bites are not considered serious for humans or pets.