Las Vegas, the city where scams are born and matured into cash cows, is nonetheless a wonder-filled “Never Never Land” for adults the world over. World class entertainment and restaurants support an ever flourishing tourist industry. Didn’t see it on Broadway? Chances are, you can catch it in Vegas.
When the massive advertising campaign to turn Vegas into a family vacation spot fell short, hotel owners reverted to calling the city an adult playground. The catchy phrase, “What happens in Vegas; stays in Vegas,” became a new mantra. It’s the mecca of choice for dozens of major business conventions every year.
In spite of abundant security cameras on the streets and in the hotels, criminals try every which way to cheat the casinos, steal credit cards and disguise themselves from their photos on black lists. Identity theft was so successful a few years ago, that an hour’s drive from Vegas in the little town of Pahrump, located in Nye County, the Sheriff at the time had his identity stolen.
Prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, but high rollers who gamble fortunes there on any given night can find a gorgeous woman to soothe away their losses or celebrate their winnings. In Pahrump and all of Nye County, brothels are legal. Shiny black limos transport pleasure seekers from Vegas over the mountains far into the desert to the famous Chicken Ranch or the elegant, Resort and Spa at Sheri’s Ranch where coyotes are their only neighbors.
Beautifully landscaped subdivisions are home to a growing number of families in both Pahrump and Las Vegas. When the Nevada building boom started decades ago, people came for the work and stayed to take advantage of inexpensive home prices and good schools along with the many parks, lakes, hiking trails, movie theaters and great restaurants.
Away from the hotels and casinos, everyday living in Southern Nevada is a surprising study in American normalcy. Families go to church every Sunday and enthusiastically support their kid’s activities.
In the midst of the stories of lust, greed and gluttony said to be inspired by gambling, 67 year old Realtor Vickey Decker lives her life through her heart, her God, and a quietly relentless pursuit of the good in people and situations. Although she’s no stranger to personal heartache and loss, her invincible joie de vivre can brighten any room. A majority of her real estate clients for the past 25 years have become her friends.
“I try and see the good in people. I normally trust them until they prove they can’t be trusted. Some people think that’s naïve and stupid; I don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I always made right choices.”
Vickey moved to Vegas for the work in 1987, got hired as a change girl at one of the casinos and was soon earning over $100 a day in tips. With family to help support, it took her two years to save enough money to pass the Nevada State licensing exams in 1989 and get her real estate salesperson license.
Working only on weekends at first as a real estate rental consultant, she soon graduated to helping people buy and sell homes. “It’s not about the money; it’s about the people, but I earned more money in real estate that year than I had in any of my full time jobs,” she smiles.
Born in San Bernardino, California, Vickey spent her formative years in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She says she found God at 15 and has lived her life by Christian principles ever since. You can hear the Oklahoma twang in her voice when she talks about her love of her job. As she recalls her rocky road to a successful real estate career, you get a hint of the cast-iron backbone behind that gentle gaze.
She quit school in grade 8 to help support her family by working as a Car-hop at the Sonic Burger in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Years later, she got her GED. By 17 she was married and pregnant. At 19 she discovered that her husband had been cheating on her.
“He spent three days with prostitutes and came home all drugged out. He raped me and that was that.”
With $200, one suitcase and a baby in her arms, Vickey left Stillwater and took a bus as far away as she could get, to Tacoma Washington, where she landed a job as a housekeeper.
One day, she came back from work to collect her daughter from the sitter to find that her husband had followed her from Oklahoma and kidnapped the baby. Vickey travelled back to Stillwater, moved in with her Mom and filed for divorce. She was awarded custody of her daughter by the Court.
Unyielding in the search for her daughter, she says, “I spent four and a half years tracking down my ex-husband. Our family attorney helped a lot using DMV records. I just missed him in St. Louis Missouri, then Arkansas, and finally found him in Fort Worth, Texas with his new wife. I went in and took my daughter back from the baby sitter while he was at work.”
Married again at 32, after 12 years living with her second husband, Vickey found him cheating on her with other women and left him. “It’s a matter of the covenant of marriage talked about in the Bible. Adultery is just not okay,” she states.
Vickey moved to Pahrump, Nevada with her third husband. After 21 years of marriage, her husband’s increased drinking and drug use led Vickey to AA meetings for the spouses of addicts to try and understand the disease.
She says, “I went to Alcoholics Anonymous to understand my husband and ended up understanding myself.”
Although that marriage ended in her third divorce, Vickey rose from the proverbial ashes and continued on. Her life hasn’t been easy, but personal tragedies have left her with an acute awareness of the need for kindness in this world.
“I believe in living a purpose-filled life. 30 years ago, I realized that my life’s purpose was to help others,” she says.
Whether it’s the 70 year old couple who needed help moving into their new home, the friend whose marriage collapsed and needed a bed for a while or the cat in need of a home Vickey Decker is the angel who rescued them. Nobody’s been able to clip her wings yet