Thursday April 2 marked a presentation of the Twain Lecture Series, the Environmental Citizenship Lecture Series, and the Voices Reading Series, featuring nature writer, humorist, father, and self-described “desert rat” Mike Branch, a Professor of Literature and Environment at the University of Nevada, Reno. A well-published author and essayist, Branch brought some of his latest material to the students and faculty who filled the hall of Daugherty Palmer Commons for an engaging and entertaining sample of creative non-fiction writing.
Branch, the author of over 175 articles and essays, offered a glimpse of life at high altitude in the Sierra Nevada from various perspectives. Distancing himself from the transcendental and romantic tones of Henry David Thoreau, his readings offered an appreciative, yet humorous insider’s glance into life in the harsh conditions of the Nevada desert.
Branch’s three readings spanned topics such as the ever-present menace of mud during the wet season (affectionately called “gumbo”), stranded pink Cadillacs, the trials and tribulations of earning Boy Scout badges, and hiking into the mountains with his daughters to re-enact a scene from “The Sound Of Music”, despite his utter contempt for musicals. His witty accounts of experiences that only the desert life could provide left the audience with a new appreciation for an environment that some would consider to be too harsh and without charm.
In perhaps one of the most entertaining presentations this year, Mike Branch presented a reading unlike any other. While accurately detailing the complexities of the desert way of life, Branch kept audiences engaged with relatable humor and quick wit. In a departure from traditional nature writing, Branch treated students and faculty alike to an evening of entertaining prose.