Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Columnist Susan Snyder: The history of Nevada in tartan

Kate Maddox's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach her at 259-2309 or [email protected]

Richard Zygmunt Pawlowski's name is obviously Polish, and he's the first to admit his link to the Scottish Wallace Clan is a small, 500-year-old one.

But he's about as dedicated as any Scot can be. He spent two years designing a tartan -- a Scottish plaid -- in hopes of making it Nevada's official state tartan. State Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, has submitted a draft bill for the legislative session that opens next month.

"I never really expected this to get this far," Pawlowski, who tends bar at the Aladdin, said. "It's just dumb luck that it happened."

Not hardly, said his friend Mike Steele of Clan Davidson.

"This guy worked his rear off for two years creating this thing," Steele said.

Pawlowski came up with the idea a couple of years ago after attending the Mesa, Ariz., highland games and clan gathering. He saw Arizona's state tartan and wondered what Nevada's looked like.

He soon discovered Nevada didn't have one, even though April 6 has been State Tartan Day since 1997. So he set out to design one, not realizing how complicated the task would be.

"Every color means something. Every pattern means something. The number of changes in the threads means something," Pawlowski said.

The explanation could make a person dizzy.

The dark blue represents one of Nevada's state colors, Lake Tahoe's water and the mountain bluebird (our state bird). Four of the blue lines represent Nevada's four main rivers. And a blue line intersecting the gray field stands for the Colorado River as it meets the Hoover Dam and creates Lake Mead.

Scarlet red is for fire opal and Southern Nevada's red rocks. Silver-gray represents the state mineral and the Sierra-Nevada range's granite.

Yellow is for the sagebrush flower and the Great Basin region. White is for snowcaps, a translation of "Nevada." Yellow crossing red represents sandstone, the state rock.

The 13 solid-color sections represent the 13,143-foot Boundary Peak, Nevada's highest. And the 16 solid silver sections in the center stand for Nevada's 16 counties.

After garnering support from eight Scottish organizations around the state, Pawlowski submitted the design to millers in Canada and Scotland to make sure it could be registered. There are thousands of registered tartans in the world, he said. New ones can't look too much like existing ones.

At least 15 states have official tartans, according to Pawlowski's research and my own perusal of state websites. Don't laugh. Having a tartan is far more dignified than having a state dog (Louisiana) or a state nut (Oregon).

Tartanless Alabama also has a state nut. Texas, which has a state tartan, had a state nut before it sent him to the White House. And Arkansas once had a state tart, as a result of an act instituted by its former governor.

But I digress ...

The tartan draft must survive committee meetings to become a real bill. Pawlowski knows many drafts fail the first time around, but he's hopeful.

"I'm sure there are more important issues in the world, but our whole American culture is based on the heritage of where we come from," he said. "And I could do something about this."