Phyllis Barber grew up in Las Vegas, in the midst of a devout Mormon family. As a small child, she began to feel uneasy with her faith's all-pervasive certainty and righteousness. As she grew, the tensions between her religious beliefs and her desire for a larger, more cultured life also grew. She studied piano and dance, performed with a high school precision dance team, worked as an accompanist in a ballet studio and as a model.
How I Got Cultured is a moving, candid, and sometimes hilarious account of an American adolescence, negotiated between the strictures of a demanding faith and the allures of one of the most flamboyant cities in the world.
In 1974 Jim Andersen and his wife, tired of the congestion and high taxes in California, decided to start a new life in rural Nevada. They settled on Austin, a town of about 250 people perched on a mountainside along the legendary Highway 50, “the loneliest road in America.” In the middle of the nineteenth century, Austin was a free-wheeling boomtown at the center of a silver bonanza. By the time the Andersens arrived, it had shrunk to a quiet, isolated community of self-sufficient souls who ran their lives, economy, and local government their own way, with ingenuity, wit, and a certain disregard for convention. Andersen’s account of his life in Austin is a charming, sometimes hilarious account of city folks adapting to life in a small town. He addresses such matters as making a living from a variety of odd jobs, some of them odder than others; serving as a deputy sheriff, deputy coroner, and elected justice of the peace, and administering Austin’s unique version of justice; raising a family; finding ways to have fun; and exploring the austerely beautiful backcountry of central Nevada. He also introduces some of Austin’s residents and their stories, and describes the way the community comes together for entertainment or to respond to crises.Lost in Austin is fascinating reading for anyone who cherishes nostalgic memories of living in a small town, or who contemplates moving to one. It offers an engaging portrait of a Nevada that exists far from the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas and Reno, “a happy Bermuda Triangle” where rugged individualism and community spirit flourish amidst sagebrush and vast open spaces.