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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/765

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741
NEVADA SILVER.

of brush. Piles of goods were scattered about in the rain and snow. A scathing wind, the "Washoe zephyr," tore the huts apart and filled the air with gravel. Crowds were gathered in open places, trading claims or fighting over them. Other crowds were drinking and gambling in the numerous saloons. Rough, unkempt, unwashed miners, speculators, bummers, thieves, cutthroats filled the raw, unsightly mining camp with horrible confusion. "In truth," says our artless adventurer, "there was much to confirm the foreboding with which I had entered the Devil's Gate."

In a short time the demands of the Washoe country developed a complete system of transportation over three great toll roads, the finest on the Pacific coast. Massive freight wagons, marking in every detail the utmost skill of California workers in wood and iron, carried all the supplies for Nevada. Bearded and weather-beaten freighters, who were also owners of their outfits, walked beside the great mule teams. Each freighter carried his rod of empire, a short hickory handle to which was attached a long, close-plaited whiplash as big as one's wrist at the swelling part. At first receiving twenty-five cents a pound for whatever was carried between Sacramento and Virginia City, and hauling a thousand pounds to the animal, the freighter in a year or so was able to move twenty-four tons besides the wagons, with a sixteen-mule team, at a cost of four cents a pound for the entire distance. It is said that there is not on record in courts or newspapers a single instance of the loss of goods in transit either by fraud, force, or carelessness during all the years of the Nevada freighter's glory.

One stage line carried twelve thousand passengers to Nevada in 1863. Schedule time in 1861 had been three days for the one hundred and sixty-two miles, but it was soon reduced to eighteen hours. Three wealthy mining operators were once taken from Virginia City to the steamboat wharf in Sacramento in twelve hours and twenty-three minutes. Old travelers still recall with pleasure the ride across the mountains on the Placerville route. Its most striking moment was when one first saw from the summit of the pass the hyacinthine waters of sealike Tahoe and the level desert. "The eastward-gazing grizzly bear," to quote from one of the stories written by an old Elko silver miner, the late Dr. Gaily, "lifts his flexible nostril to sniff the odor of the arid waste, then slowly turns and prowls westward. There is a visible line eastward where two worlds appear to meet. Beyond is the great 'empire of Artemisia,' where gold and silver were married in the volcanic chambers of the awful past. One sees the land of Washoe outstretched from the mountain tops, with its browns and grays, its arid junipers and dull nut pines, its crags of lime-