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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




WHEN we finally left for Esmeralda, horseback, we had
an addition to the company in the person of Capt.
John Nye, the Governor's brother. He had a good memory,
and a tongue hung in the middle. This is a combination
which gives immortality to conversation. Capt. John never
suffered the talk to flag or falter once during the hundred and
twenty miles of the journey. In addition to his conversational
powers, he had one or two other endowments of a
marked character. One was a singular “handiness” about
doing anything and everything, from laying out a railroad or
organizing a political party, down to sewing on buttons, shoeing
a horse, or setting a broken leg, or a hen. Another was a
spirit of accommodation that prompted him to take the needs,
difficulties and perplexities of anybody and everybody upon
his own shoulders at any and all times, and dispose of them
with admirable facility and alacrity—hence he always managed
to find vacant beds in crowded inns, and plenty to eat in the
emptiest larders. And finally, wherever he met a man,
woman or child, in camp, inn or desert, he either knew such
parties personally or had been acquainted with a relative of
the same. Such another traveling comrade was never seen
before. I cannot forbear giving a specimen of the way in
which he overcame difficulties. On the second day out, we
arrived, very tired and hungry, at a poor little inn in the
desert, and were told that the house was full, no provisions on
hand, and neither hay nor barley to spare for the horses—we
must move on. The rest of us wanted to hurry on while it


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 249. In-line image of a crowd outside of a house. At one end there is a man on a horse with a sword.]
was yet light, but Capt. John insisted on stopping awhile.
We dismounted and entered. There was no welcome for us
on any face. Capt. John began his blandishments, and within
twenty minutes he had accomplished the following things,
viz.: found old acquaintances in three teamsters; discovered
that he used to go to school with the landlord's mother;
recognized his wife as a lady whose life he had saved once in
California, by stopping her runaway horse; mended a child's
broken toy and won the favor of its mother, a guest of the
inn; helped the hostler bleed a horse, and prescribed for
another horse that had the “heaves”; treated the entire party
three times at the landlord's bar; produced a later paper than
anybody had seen for a week and sat himself down to read the
news to a deeply interested audience. The result, summed
up, was as follows: The hostler found plenty of feed for our
horses; we had a trout supper, an exceedingly sociable time after
it, good beds to sleep in, and a surprising breakfast in the
morning—and when we left, we left lamented by all! Capt.
John had some bad traits, but he had some uncommonly valuable
ones to offset them with.

Esmeralda was in many respects another Humboldt, but
in a little more forward state. The claims we had been
paying assessments on were entirely worthless, and we threw
them away. The principal one cropped out of the top of a
knoll that was fourteen feet high, and the inspired Board of


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 250. In-line image of two men sitting down on a mound. A third man is standing and talking to them.]
Directors were running a tunnel under that knoll to strike the
ledge. The tunnel would have to be seventy feet long, and
would then strike the ledge at the same depth that a shaft
twelve feet deep would have reached! The Board were living
on the “assessments.” [N. B.—This hint comes too late for the
enlightenment of New York silver miners; they have already
learned all about this neat trick by experience.] The Board
had no desire to strike the ledge, knowing that it was as barren
of silver as a curbstone. This reminiscence calls to mind Jim
Townsend's tunnel. He had paid assessments on a mine
called the “Daley” till he was well-night penniless. Finally
an assessment was levied to run a tunnel two hundred and fifty
feet on the Daley, and Townsend went up on the hill to look
into matters. He found the Daley cropping out of the apex
of an exceedingly sharp-pointed peak, and a couple of men up
there “facing” the proposed tunnel. Townsend made a calculation.
Then he said to the men:

“So you have taken a contract to run a tunnel into this
hill two hundred and fifty feet to strike this ledge?”

“Yes, sir.”


Page 251

“Well, do you know that you have got one of the most
expensive and arduous undertakings before you that was ever
conceived by man?”

“Why no—how is that?”

“Because this hill is only twenty-five feet through from
side to side; and so you have got to build two hundred and
twenty-five feet of your tunnel on trestle-work!”

The ways of silver mining Boards are exceedingly dark
and sinuous.

We took up various claims, and commenced shafts and
tunnels on them, but never finished any of them. We had to
do a certain amount of work on each to “hold” it, else other
parties could seize our property after the expiration of ten
days. We were always hunting up new claims and doing a
little work on them and then waiting for a buyer—who never
came. We never found any ore that would yield more than
fifty dollars a ton; and as the mills charged fifty dollars a
ton for working ore and extracting the silver, our pocket-money
melted steadily away and none returned to take its
place. We lived in a little cabin and cooked for ourselves;
and altogether it was a hard life, though a hopeful one—for
we never ceased to expect fortune and a customer to burst
upon us some day.

At last, when flour reached a dollar a pound, and money
could not be borrowed on the best security at less than eight
per cent a month
(I being without the security, too), I abandoned
mining and went to milling. That is to say, I went to
work as a common laborer in a quartz mill, at ten dollars a
week and board.