Song for children could ready them for life in Silver State

The bill drafts are flying in Carson City, where for the past 150 years legislators have been deeply concerned about the future of our neediest children.

Not so much so that they’ve succeeded in dramatically improving their quality of life, mind you, but then Nevada history tells us that political concern for children only goes so far. A check of a variety of categories bears this out. From the high school dropout rate and the percentage of unwed mothers to drug abuse and teen suicide, Nevada is no playground for young people.

But the least we can do is give them a song.

In New Mexico, another cactus garden for the kiddies, Rep. Bill McCamley of Las Cruces, recently filed a bill calling for the creation of an official state song for children. You know, something playful and lighthearted about “The Land of Enchantment.” The Santa Fe New Mexican’s resident curmudgeon, Steve Terrell, had a good laugh at the idea, noting that a “State Children’s Song” might turn out to be a far more tangled tune than its questionably lyrical author imagined.

The Silver State, of course, already has an official state song, “Home Means Nevada.” Penned in 1932 by Reno community poet Bertha Raffetto, who apparently never traveled south of Fallon, it’s filled with delightful imagery about sagebrush and the Truckee River’s “silvery rills.” School kids have been singing it for decades.

But with more than 70 percent of the state’s population in urban Southern Nevada, where the only silvery rills to be found are in the fountains of Bellagio and Caesars Palace, maybe an official song for children really is what Nevada’s youngsters need to prepare them for the challenges of surviving in the Silver State.

With that, I give you a little rap called, “Welcome to Nevada, Kid”:

Welcome to Nevada, kid,

you are on your own.

You’ll be double lucky

if we give your dog a bone.

Public education

weakest in the nation,

Ask for more funding,

but we’ll probably have to ration.

Dropout rates are high,

they say the figures lie,

been this way for so long

that it makes you want to cry.

Here in the Silver State

we’ll fail to educate you,

but stick around a while

and we’ll incarcerate you.

Foster care is broken,

The experts all have spoken:

“Big improvements needed.”

Yeah, they must be jokin’.

Things are looking lean, oh,

from Vegas up to Reno,

the best that you can hope for

is to work in a casino.

Sister says, “Give me a chance, sir,”

but she gets no answer,

the next thing that you know

she has become a pole dancer.

Little brother’s trying

but there’s no use in crying.

Apply at McDonald’s

where the burgers are frying.

Mortgages are shattered

neighborhoods are tattered,

families forced to act

like it never mattered.

Sidewalk porn,

families are torn.

Is it any wonder

that they call us Battle Born?

What happens in Vegas

continues to plague us.

Leadership is needed,

but all they do is fake us.

Lawmakers in session

try to keep us guessing,

so send them home early

with the People’s blessing.

Deal with the stress, kid,

deal with the strife,

like Little Orphan Annie,

“It’s a hard knock life.”

Welcome to Nevada, kid,

you are on your own.

You’ll be double lucky

if we give your dog a bone.

Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.

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