Thursday, August 1, 2013

Giant Cash Cow of Gambling

I've got my money on the big fella to win!

____________

By Lynnette CurtisSPECIAL TO LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNALAMARGOSA VALLEY



Holy cow, that's one big bovine.

We're talking the Mack truck of livestock, with hooves like hubcaps and haunches the size of your car trunk.

He weighs nearly 3,000 pounds and goes by Herman.

The beefy black-and-white Holstein spends his days munching on hay and soaking up sun outside the Longstreet Inn and Casino in lonely Amargosa Valley, at the southwestern edge of Nye County near the California line.

When Herman first got here, eight years ago, he was about 4 feet tall. At last measure, he stood 6 feet, 4 inches from hoof to withers. His owner, Jim Marsh, believes Herman may be the tallest steer in the world.

"He just kept growing and growing," said Marsh, an animal lover and longtime Las Vegas car dealership proprietor known for appearing in commercials with his daughter, Stacy, and his grandson.

Marsh, 78, also is known in small towns and cow counties for being a community booster and historic preservationist. He owns a bunch of rural Nevada properties, including the 60-room Longstreet.

Herman was born at a nearby dairy, where he was briefly kept as a pet by one of the workers. He ended up in Beatty, where a friend of Marsh's was fattening up the animal for slaughter.

"You hate to see a pet steer end up on your dinner table," Marsh said.

So he paid $600 to rescue Herman from the barbecue. Then Marsh had the steer hauled to the Longstreet, built in 1995 on state Route 373 about 95 miles northwest of Las Vegas. There Herman grew. And grew. Soon he was towering over Marsh, who is 6 feet tall.

"I was amazed at how big he got," Marsh said.

Herman shares a corral with Bambi and Jill - both burros - and one nameless goat.

Tourists on their way to and from Death Valley sometimes stop to gawk at Herman. He's good for business.

"It's generally word-of-mouth," Marsh said. "It's good people come to see him."

It's also good Herman's disposition is as sweet as he is large.

"He's very laid-back," Marsh said. "He doesn't have a mean bone in his body."

But Herman doesn't shy away from adventure. He got out of his corral a couple of years ago and "was wandering all over Amargosa," said Monica Chavez, the Longstreet's manager.

Herman likes to eat apples and Saltines. He also shares a bale of hay with his corral mates and downs four bucket-sized scoops of grain each day.

Marsh thought about calling Guinness World Records about Herman, but hasn't gotten around to it.

A Guinness spokeswoman said there is no record holder in the category of "World's Tallest Steer." The famous record-keepers are willing to entertain a proposal if Marsh registers it.

Guinness does have a very tall ox on record. Bellino, a Chianina ox, lives in Italy and measures 6 feet, 7 inches to his withers.

Both steers and oxen are castrated male bovines.

While oxen are known more as work animals, steers are associated with "rodeo and hamburger," said Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, a well-known local cowboy.

"Think the difference between a draft horse and a quarter horse," he said.

Collins was impressed when he heard about Herman. The commissioner also is 6 feet, 4 inches tall.

Herman "might be setting a record," Collins said.

The steer's mammoth size has brought its share of problems. He has arthritis, and his knees swell from carrying all that weight. He gets regular checkups and medication from a veterinarian who visits from Pahrump.

The steer is loaded into a horse trailer and taken to the dairy to get weighed and have his hooves trimmed.

Herman is not the only bovine at the Longstreet. Marsh also bought the 14-foot-tall fiberglass cow that used to stand on the roof of the Holy Cow! casino and brewery at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. He had it shipped to Amargosa Valley and placed outside the hotel.

A few years ago, a man who belonged to a notorious motorcycle club got drunk, stripped off his clothes, climbed a ladder and rode the cow, Chavez said.

Thankfully, nobody's tried that with Herman.

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Editorial Reviews of All or Nothing

New York Times--". . . a cartographer of autodegradation . . . Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu — the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand."

Florida Book Review--". . . Allen examines the flaming abyss compulsive gambling burns in its victims’ guts, self-esteem and bank accounts, the desperate, myopic immediacy it incites, the self-destructive need it feeds on, the families and relationships it destroys. For with gamblers, it really is all or nothing. Usually nothing. Take it from a reviewer who’s been there. Allen is right on the money here."

Foreword Magazine--"Not shame, not assault, not even murder is enough reason to stop. Allen’s second novel, All or Nothing, is funny, relentless, haunting, and highly readable. P’s inner dialogues illuminate the grubby tragedy of addiction, and his actions speak for the train wreck that is gambling."

Library Journal--"Told without preaching or moralizing, the facts of P's life express volumes on the destructive power of gambling. This is strongly recommended and deserves a wide audience; an excellent choice for book discussion groups."—Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH

LEXIS-NEXIS--"By day, P drives a school bus in Miami. But his vocation? He's a gambler who craves every opportunity to steal a few hours to play the numbers, the lottery, at the Indian casinos. Allen has a narrative voice as compelling as feeding the slots is to P." Betsy Willeford is a Miami-based freelance book reviewer. November 4, 2007

Publisher’s Weekly--"Allen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction . . . The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing."

Kirkus Review--"We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno.

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Bio


Preston L. Allen is the recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press 2003). His works have appeared in numerous publications including The Seattle Review, The Crab Orchard Review, Asili, Drum Voices, and Gulfstream Magazine; and he has been anthologized in Here We Are: An Anthology of South Florida Writers, Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction, Miami Noir, and the forthcoming Las Vegas Noir. His fourth novel, All Or Nothing, chronicles the life of a small-time gambler who finally hits it big. Preston Allen teaches English and Creative Writing in Miami, Florida.