University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


expand section 
1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




HOWEVER, as I grew better acquainted with the business
and learned the run of the sources of information I
ceased to require the aid of fancy to any large extent, and
became able to fill my columns without diverging noticeably
from the domain of fact.

I struck up friendships with the reporters of the other
journals, and we swapped “regulars” with each other and
thus economized work. “Regulars” are permanent sources of
news, like courts, bullion returns, “clean-ups” at the quartz
mills, and inquests. Inasmuch as everybody went armed, we
had an inquest about every day, and so this department
was naturally set down among the “regulars.” We had
lively papers in those days. My great competitor among the
reporters was Boggs of the Union. He was an excellent
reporter. Once in three or four months he would get a little
intoxicated, but as a general thing he was a wary and cautions
drinker although always ready to tamper a little with the enemy.
He had the advantage of me in one thing; he could get the
monthly public school report and I could not, because the
principal hated the Enterprise. One snowy night when the
report was due, I started out sadly wondering how I was going
to get it. Presently, a few steps up the almost deserted street
I stumbled on Boggs and asked him where he was going.

“After the school report.”

“I'll go along with you.”

“No, sir. I'll excuse you.”

“Just as you say.”

A saloon-keeper's boy passed by with a steaming pitcher


Page 300
of hot punch, and Boggs snuffed the fragrance gratefully. He
gazed fondly after the boy and saw him start up the Enterprise
stairs. I said:

“I wish you could help me get that school business, but
since you can't, I must run up to the Union office and see if I
can get them to let me have a proof of it after they have set it
up, though I don't begin to suppose they will. Good night.”

“Hold on a minute. I don't mind getting the report and
sitting around with the boys a little, while you copy it, if you're
willing to drop down to the principal's with me.”

“Now you talk like a rational being. Come along.”

We plowed a couple of blocks through the snow, got the
report and returned to our office. It was a short document and
soon copied. Meantime Boggs helped himself to the punch.
I gave the manuscript back to him and we started out to get
an inquest, for we heard pistol shots near by. We got the particulars
with little loss of time, for it was only an inferior sort of
bar-room murder, and of little interest to the public, and then
we separated. Away at three o'clock in the morning, when
we had gone to press and were having a relaxing concert as
usual—for some of the printers were good singers and others
good performers on the guitar and on that atrocity the accordeon—the
proprietor of the Union strode in and desired to
know if anybody had heard anything of Boggs or the school
report. We stated the case, and all turned out to help hunt
for the delinquent. We found him standing on a table in
a saloon, with an old tin lantern in one hand and the
school report in the other, haranguing a gang of intoxicated
Cornish miners on the iniquity of squandering the public
moneys on education “when hundreds and hundreds of honest
hard-working men are literally starving for whiskey.” [Riotous
applause.] He had been assisting in a regal spree with those
parties for hours. We dragged him away and put him to bed.

Of course there was no school report in the Union, and
Boggs held me accountable, though I was innocent of any intention
or desire to compass its absence from that paper and
was as sorry as any one that the misfortune had occurred.


Page 301



[Description: 504EAF. Page 301. In-line image of a mob of people facing a man who is holding a latern which is casting a shadow on his belly.]

But we were perfectly friendly. The day that the school
report was next due, the proprietor of the “Genessee” mine
furnished us a buggy and asked us to go down and write something
about the property—a very common request and one
always gladly acceded to when people furnished buggies, for
we were as fond of pleasure excursions as other people. In due
time we arrived at the “mine”—nothing but a hole in the
ground ninety feet deep, and no way of getting down into it
but by holding on to a rope and being lowered with a windlass.
The workmen had just gone off somewhere to dinner. I was
not strong enough to lower Boggs's bulk; so I took an unlighted
candle in my teeth, made a loop for my foot in the
end of the rope, implored Boggs not to go to sleep or let the
windlass get the start of him, and then swung out over the
shaft. I reached the bottom muddy and bruised about the
elbows, but safe. I lit the candle, made an examination of
the rock, selected some specimens and shouted to Boggs to


Page 302


[Description: 504EAF. Page 302. In-line image of a man standing in a cave with a rope dangling down from the top of the cave.]
hoist away. No answer. Presently a head appeared in the
circle of daylight away aloft, and a voice came down:

“Are you all set?”

“All set—hoist away.”

“Are you comfortable?”


“Could you wait a little?”

“Oh certainly—no
particular hurry.”

“Well—good by.”

“Why? Where are
you going?”

“After the school report!”

And he did. I staid
down there an hour, and
surprised the workmen
when they hauled up and
found a man on the rope
instead of a bucket of rock.
I walked home, too—five
miles—up hill. We had
no school report next morning;
but the Union had.

Six months after my
entry into journalism the
grand “flush times” of
Silverland began, and they
continued with unabated
splendor for three years. All difficulty about filling up the
“local department” ceased, and the only trouble now was how
to make the lengthened columns hold the world of incidents
and happenings that came to our literary net every day. Virginia
had grown to be the “livest” town, for its age and population,
that America had ever produced. The sidewalks


Page 303
swarmed with people—to such an extent, indeed, that it was
generally no easy matter to stem the human tide. The streets
themselves were just as crowded with quartz wagons, freight
teams and other vehicles. The procession was endless. So
great was the pack, that buggies frequently had to wait half
an hour for an opportunity to cross the principal street. Joy
sat on every countenance, and there was a glad, almost fierce,
intensity in every eye, that told of the money-getting schemes
that were seething in every brain and the high hope that held
sway in every heart. Money was as plenty as dust; every
individual considered himself wealthy, and a melancholy countenance
was nowhere to be seen. There were military companies,
fire companies, brass bands, banks, hotels, theatres,
“hurdy-gurdy houses,” wide-open gambling palaces, political
pow-wows, civic processions, street fights, murders, inquests,
riots, a whiskey mill every fifteen steps, a Board of Aldermen,
a Mayor, a City Surveyor, a City Engineer, a Chief of the
Fire Department, with First, Second and Third Assistants,
a Chief of Police, City Marshal and a large police force, two
Boards of Mining Brokers, a dozen breweries and half a
dozen jails and station-houses in full operation, and some talk
of building a church. The “flush times” were in magnificent
flower! Large fire-proof brick buildings were going up in
the principal streets, and the wooden suburbs were spreading
out in all directions. Town lots soared up to prices that were

The great “Comstock lode” stretched its opulent length
straight through the town from north to south, and every mine
on it was in diligent process of development. One of these
mines alone employed six hundred and seventy-five men, and
in the matter of elections the adage was, “as the `Gould and
Curry' goes, so goes the city.” Laboring men's wages were
four and six dollars a day, and they worked in three “shifts”
or gangs, and the blasting and picking and shoveling went on
without ceasing, night and day.

The “city” of Virginia roosted royally midway up the
steep side of Mount Davidson, seven thousand two hundred


Page 304


[Description: 504EAF. Page 304. In-line image of a landscape containing mountains and a city below.]
feet above the level
of the sea, and in the
clear Nevada atmosphere
was visible
from a distance of
fifty miles! It
claimed a population
of fifteen thousand
to eighteen thousand,
and all day long half
of this little army
swarmed the streets
like bees and the
other half swarmed
among the drifts and
tunnels of the “Comstock,”
hundreds of
feet down in the
earth directly under
those same streets.
Often we felt our
chairs jar, and heard
the faint boom of a
blast down in the
bowels of the earth
under the office.

The mountain
side was so steep that
the entire town had a
slant to it like a roof.
Each street was a terrace,
and from each
to the next street below
the descent was
forty or fifty feet.
The fronts of the
houses were level
with the street they


Page 305
faced, but their rear first floors were propped on lofty stilts; a
man could stand at a rear first floor window of a C street
house and look down the chimneys of the row of houses
below him facing D street. It was a laborious climb, in that
thin atmosphere, to ascend from D to A street, and you were
panting and out of breath when you got there; but you could
turn around and go down again like a house a-fire—so to
speak. The atmosphere was so rarified, on account of the
great altitude, that one's blood lay near the surface always,
and the scratch of a pin was a disaster worth worrying about,
for the chances were that a grievous erysipelas would ensue.
But to offset this, the thin atmosphere seemed to carry healing
to gunshot wounds, and therefore, to simply shoot your
adversary through both lungs was a thing not likely to afford
you any permanent satisfaction, for he would be nearly certain
to be around looking for you within the month, and not with
an opera glass, either.

From Virginia's airy situation one could look over a vast,
far-reaching panorama of mountain ranges and deserts; and
whether the day was bright or overcast, whether the sun was
rising or setting, or flaming in the zenith, or whether night and
the moon held sway, the spectacle was always impressive and
beautiful. Over your head Mount Davidson lifted its gray
dome, and before and below you a rugged canyon clove the
battlemented hills, making a sombre gateway through which a
soft-tinted desert was glimpsed, with the silver thread of a river
winding through it, bordered with trees which many miles of
distance diminished to a delicate fringe; and still further away
the snowy mountains rose up and stretched their long barrier
to the filmy horizon—far enough beyond a lake that burned
in the desert like a fallen sun, though that, itself, lay fifty
miles removed. Look from your window where you would,
there was fascination in the picture. At rare intervals—but
very rare—there were clouds in our skies, and then the setting
sun would gild and flush and glorify this mighty expanse of
scenery with a bewildering pomp of color that held the eye
like a spell and moved the spirit like music.