Renaissance woman


Patty Cafferata has been a state legislator, state treasurer, Republican nominee for governor, and has been a district attorney four times in three counties. She also writes industriously. She co-authored the autobiography of her mother, former U.S. Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, has written a newspaper column, and has published a number of monographs on historical topics. She is now working on another book.

How many monographs have you done?

I have done six, plus my mother’s memoirs with the University Press.

Why do you write?

I like doing the research and discovering things, and then I like to write them up to share them with people.

Do you enjoy the writing?

I’m right in the middle of my book on—have I told you about this, Christmas in Nevada? … It’s how Nevada celebrates Christmas. Of course, we do the same things everybody else does, but also we’re a unique state and have some unique history and celebrations or events that we do. So I’ve been struggling with the miners who were trapped underground in Ely in 1907. Do you know this story? There was a cave-in at one of the copper mines. It happened December 4, and they were rescued on January 18, I think—the next year. So they were underground for 45 days, which is, you know, absolutely amazing when you think back to that time. So anyway, I’ve been writing and rewriting and rewriting the story. You know how writing is. The best writing is rewriting.

Which do you prefer, the research or the writing?

I actually like the research better. That’s easier, for some reason. The writing is always a struggle to make it a good story.

Do you remember the subjects of your monographs?

The Goldfield Hotel, the Mapes Hotel, the Lake Mansion, Piper’s Opera House—and those were the order I wrote those in. … I have three Tales of the Biggest Little City in the World, which are collections of my newspaper columns from the previous years.

Do you know what you’ll do after you finish the Christmas book?

I have a couple of other things that I have thought about doing, and I started one on the history of hotels in Nevada as a way of telling the state’s history. Because if you pick a hotel from, like, Virginia City or Carson City or Reno, Las Vegas, Boulder City, Elko, Ely, you can pull in a lot of history using that as a theme. I actually had written three or four—not counting the Mapes or the Goldfield Hotel—three or four other hotel stories. And of course, they’re important because who was there, who owned them, what things transpired in the hotel, plus their architecture and their ownership. And then when the University Press called me and … asked me if I would consider writing the Christmas in Nevada book, I put that aside. So that’s waiting for me to go back to it.

Have you given up on being a district attorney?

[Laughs] Well, you never know. Some one might call and I …

How many counties have you done so far?

Three, and I am the only woman who has done three. And I went back to Goldfield in Esmeralda County and actually served there twice, once for two and a half years and once for three months. … I’ve been D.A. in Lincoln, Lander and Esmeralda counties.

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About Dennis Myers 1397 Articles
Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely Nevada, a children’s history textbook, and a contributor to the books The Mythical West and Covering the Courts in Nevada. In September, 2020, he was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame.