THE FOUNDING OF THE CITY OF PAWS VEGAS
researched and written by Joshiah Warbaum
If you were silly enough to believe any of the legends that a stranger told you as you walked down the fanciful streets of Paws Vegas, you might actually think that a giant poker chip landed in the middle of the desert, and as it sunk into the sand, the cracks left between the giant shelves of fallen ceramic created the roads that would ultimately lay the framework for the gambling capital of the world.
You might also harken to another myth, that the city arose from the need for a hotel, and in the back of that hotel, desert travelers gambled away their gold and riches for even just a chance to find pure, clean drinking water, and shelter from the brutal, unforgiving sun.
No matter how many myths there actually were, the real story behind the creation of Paws Vegas was less to do with a group of people, and more to do with one person in the right place, at the right time, just as it was for so many of the other great cities in the world.
If you dug deep enough, you’d find the dark and seedy underbelly of history, where the city was little more than a fort in the middle of the desert, built around a land that was once rich with rivers and marshes. The rivers went underground, as well, and the marshes dried up, leaving plenty of water to be drilled for in wells, but also leaving behind a climate that was simply inhospitable for the average living thing. For years and years, the fort was used as a point of deception during times of war and socio-political change, until finally, Octavius Gass took control of the fort on government orders.
Long after the days of John Furmont, for whom one of the main strips in the city was named, control over the fort continued to change hands, but it was Gass who first named the land the “Paws Vegas Ranchero,” and the wine that he made on his newly irrigated land turned Paws Vegas into one of the finest stops in the old west for weary travelers and gold fanatics.
The land stayed with Gass until he lost it in the form of a lien to Archibald Mewart, and it stayed with his family until the land was bought entirely by the Paws Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad company, in a project that was overseen by William Andrews Bark. The old dog was famous for his desire to bring railroads to the country like never before, and bringing more commuters to the Paws Vegas outpost would be helpful beyond the growth of commerce and population.
Despite the horrid, arid climate of the land, there were still enough marsh beds left in the desert for farming to become the primary source of income for most people living around the outpost, and shortly after William Andrews Bark passed, the land that he helped to bring prosperity to was made into an official county. In honor of all that he did to bring Paws Vegas to world, the county was called Bark County, and the world was quickly learning that the budding area had a far worse bite than anything.
As it grew from a water stop, to a wagon train station, to an actual train station, Paws Vegas continued to expand not just in size, but in technological advancement. Like all cities that grew in the early 1900’s on the west coast, the railroads were essential to the survival of Paws Vegas, and as they continued to spread, smaller railroad lines went between the main hub of Paws Vegas and smaller towns, like Bullfrog and Tonopah. Many people fled their simpler lives in smaller towns for the supposed glitz and glamor that Paws Vegas had to offer, and that was long before such words could be used to describe the place.
Like most other places that lived through the great depression, however, the late teens and early 20’s brought small ruin to Paws Vegas, and with railroad bankruptcy looming over the heads of all who thought they’d found the promised land, it was up to some less than savory people to save the city from the burden of its own growth.
Once again, what you believed about the growth of Paws Vegas would be up to myth, but within all of the stories that swelled, much like the population of the city, there was always a grain of truth to the myth, and a grain of reason to why so many people would flock to a town that was fighting a failing economy.
The construction of the Hoofer Dam was just the thing that the west needed to be reborn, and while credit could be given to President Herbert Hoofer for giving the order to build it, more credit may have been due to the flocks of single, lonely furs that made their way across the desert, hopeful to find any kind of a job waiting for them when they arrived. The population of Paws Vegas quintupled in that span of time, and as the dam went up, so did the demand for entertainment from a new wealth of tired, ornery men.
The descendants of the late Susan Collie still live in the Paws Vegas area to this day, but she was just as responsible as anyone for the survival of the city of sin. She was the first, and perhaps most famous showgirl to grace the stages of the saloons and hotels that began to pop up over Paws Vegas in the early 30’s, and after a long day of sweating in the desert sun and working in deplorable conditions, her voice of passionate silk and hypnotic movements were the only thing that seemed to bring the men of the city any joy.
It was just enough to keep the peace in Paws Vegas, for a time, but where there were saloons, there was alcohol, and where there was alcohol, there would certainly be excessive consumption, and someone looking to take advantage of a few drunken workers.
Jobs at the dam were plentiful, and cheap housing began popping up where farms once ruled the desert, but the jobs didn’t pay the best, the houses were of a poor quality, and when you’d seen Susan Collie dancing across the stage so many times without so much as catching a wink from her eye, it was enough to drive some men to criminal lives. Where legend and myth meet, the mafia is often present, and no doubt, William Andrews Bark would have turned in his grave if he saw the way that his city was expanding.
Growth of a person often came through hard work and overcoming adversity, both internal and external. Growth of a city, whether or not the people wanted to accept it, was going to come through something a bit more sinister.
To this day, no one was quite sure who founded the first gambling den in Paws Vegas. To think of police and city officials trying to chase casino owners and gamblers from the streets of Bark County would have been laughable in the modern day, but in the mid 30’s, it was a very real sight, and the growing presence of crime forced the government to erect a new place for Hoofer Dam workers to live, called Rover City.
The efforts did little to smother the growing need for entertainment, and even hurt the growth of businesses in the desert’s favorite city. As such, problems continued to persist through the late 30’s and into the early 40’s. Even when things appeared to improve with the first proper resort being built on the Paws Vegas strip, an equal and opposite pillar of criminal activity popped up just down the street, in the form of The Flamingo.
Even after Bunny Sergal, one of the most notorious mafia bosses in the west, met his end to a hail of bullets in front of his own casino, the criminal influence continued to push itself on Paws Vegas, to great and terrible ends. Gambling was there to stay, and throughout the 50’s and 60’s, growth continued in such a measurable way that the government couldn’t possibly fathom shutting the location down. Through legitimate and illegitimate channels, the gambling money and tax funds were making their way back to the federal government, and for most, that was good enough.
For the so-called ‘King of Aviation,’ Howard Roo, it was nowhere near good enough.
“There’s no reason that this has to end violently, but I’m not leaving this room. I like it here. I’m staying here. You’re the ones that need to leave.”
Perhaps the tallest legend of Paws Vegas, and one that was steeped in truth, was the story of Howard Roo, then known as the hero of the American aviation industry. In the late 60’s, with Paws Vegas growing faster than ever under mafia rule, the Howard Roo decided to spend the night in the Dachshund Inn. He was so taken with the room, the atmosphere, and the exciting, fast-paced world of the city around him that he awoke with a new sense of purpose.
He’d conquered the skies; goodness knew that he owned them, but there was somewhere that his planes couldn’t quite reach, and more than anything, he awoke with a sense of purpose to change all of that.
The mob, however, wasn’t quite so accepting of his presence.
“We own this city, we own this room, and if you don’t vacate so another person can come and spend the night in this bed, we’re gonna own you, too. Beat it.”
“Do you own this place?”
“Tell you what. Send for your boss, okay? I’ve got a proposition for him.”
If not for his title, it was likely that Howard Roo wouldn’t have survived that conversation, much less the rest of his stay, but he wasn’t the kind of person who could be swept under the rug.
As was his wish, the owner of the hotel, and a prominent mafia boss was standing in his room only minutes later, with a bloodthirsty scowl upon his muzzle.
“And to what do I owe the pleasure of being summoned by the King of Aviation, hm? I’m sure you can understand that I’m a very busy man, and I’d hate to have you take a bite out of my time.”
The man standing there, pressed up in a black suit with white pinstripes, too clean and too luxurious to be real, was none other than Kenneth Wolfburn, a canine who thought that he ruled the Dachshund Inn, and the rest of the desert along with it.
After years of owning his hotel, he thought he’d seen everything that the world could throw at him, but when push came to shove, he’d never been in the presence of such a powerful man as Howard Roo.
“Violence won’t be necessary, Mr. Wolfburn. I’d like to buy your hotel.”
Had a stereotypical cigar been hanging from the side of Kenneth’s muzzle, it would have fallen to the ground as his jaw dropped.
“Y-you…you really got no idea who you’re talking to, do you?”
“I know very well who I’m talking to, and I’m sure that you know who I am. Are you worried that the check might bounce?”
There was no clever ploy or delicate, foolish gamble behind Howard’s words. The pitch to buy the hotel was the gamble, and the entirety of the deal took place in the secret comfort of his hotel room, the one that would become his for the many years to follow.
The exchange took place completely off the table. Kenneth Wolfburn retired as a man who escaped the mob before it had a chance to consume him, and in his place, Howard Roo took over not only the Dachshund Inn, but several other properties around it with the finances he generated. His name was revered as a real estate mogul in the annals of Paws Vegas history, but no one truly knew how instrumental he was to ridding the city of its criminal influence.
Others followed his lead over the 70’s and 80’s, and finally, Paws Vegas stepped into the super-resort era that so many people know it for today. The gambling, showgirls, flowing liquor and entertainment have lingered around, and though the mob is no longer an issue for those who walk the gold-lined streets of what many considered the greatest city on Earth, there are still troubles to take care of, and things to be done that the average tourist can’t possibly know about.
After all, a city in the desert, overflowing with gamblers, loan sharks, boozers and lechers is always just one step away from disaster…
Joshiah Warbaum is an author living in the not quite as frozen Midwest, and has been a part of the furry fandom for nearly a decade. His published works span ten novels and a variety of genres, and his weakness for poutine makes him an easily bribed writer of Fur-Eh! convention stories!