My current novel in progress is set during the building of the Hoover Dam. As much as I would like to say that my fascination with the dam and its construction was the inspiration for the book, the truth is, the project evolved from a short story I was writing about dog named Nig.
During the construction, a small black dog, abandoned by his mother, became the “mascot” of the dam. He was loved by the workers and the townspeople and was known as “everyone’s dog and nobody’s dog.” His name was Nig.
When Nig died, he was buried at the site (contrary to rumors, the only body buried there), and the workers hung a plaque over his gravesite to honor their friend. In the early 1970’s, a visitor to the dam was offended by the dog’s name and made it his mission to have the plaque removed. The Bureau of Reclamation did just that, replacing it with another plaque that does not include his name.
Nig was an important character in the dam’s history. His name, while it may not be considered “politically correct” today, was the name that was given to him by the workers who loved him. It is also a reminder of the times and should be viewed in its historical context. Offensive?
History is offensive. But it is our history, the good and the bad. And the more we try to filter historical accuracies to be better aligned with current day beliefs, the more we dilute the richness of our past and the challenges we have overcome.
Read more about Nig: