A Big Thing in Washoe City

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/December 23, 1862

 Or, The Grand Bull Driver’s Convention

On the last night of the session, Hon. Thomas Hannah announced that a Grand Bull Drivers’ Convention would assemble in Washoe City, on the 22d, to receive Hon. Jim Sturtevant and the other members of the Washoe delegation. I journeyed to the place yesterday to see that the ovation was properly conducted. I traveled per stage. The Unreliable of the Union went also – for the purpose of distorting the facts.

The weather was delightful. It snowed the entire day. The wind blew such a hurricane that the coach drifted sideways from one toll road to another, and sometimes utterly refused to mind her helm. It is a fearful thing to be at sea in a stagecoach. We were anxious to get to Washoe by four o’clock, but luck was against us: we were delayed by stress of weather; we were hindered by the bad condition of the various toll roads; we finally broke the after spring of the wagon, and had to lay up for repairs. Therefore we only reached Washoe at dusk.

Messrs. Lovejoy, Howard, Winters, Sturtevant, and Speaker Mills had left Carson ahead of us, and we found them in the city. They had not beaten us much, however, as I could perceive by their upright walk and untangled conversation. At 6 P.M., the Carson City Brass Band, followed by the Committee of Arrangements, and the Chairman of the Convention, and the delegation, and the invited guests, and the citizens generally, and the hurricane, marched up one of the most principal streets, and filed in imposing procession into Foulke’s Hall.

The delegation, and the guests, and the band, were provided with comfortable seats near the Chairman’s desk, and the constituency occupied the body-pews. The delegation and the guests stood up and formed a semicircle, and Mr. Gregory introduced them one at a time to the constituency. Mr. Gregory did this with much grace and dignity, albeit he affected to stammer and gasp, and hesitate, and look colicky, and miscall the names, and miscall them again by way of correcting himself, and grab desperately at invisible things in the air – all with a charming pretense of being scared.

The Hon. John K. Lovejoy arose in his place and blew his horn. He made honorable mention of the Legislature and the Committee on Internal Improvements. He told how the fountains of their great deep were broken up, and they rained forty days and forty nights, and brought on a flood of toll roads over the whole land. He explained to them that the more toll roads there were, the more competition there would be, and the roads would be good, and tolls moderate in consequence.

Mr. Speaker Mills responded to the numerous calls for him, and spoke so well in praise of the Washoe delegation that I was constrained to believe that there really was some merit in the deceased.

Hon. Theodore Winters next addressed the people. He said he went to the Legislature with but one solitary object in view – the securing to this Territory of an incorporation law. How he had succeeded, the people themselves could tell….

The Chairman, Mr. Gaston, introduced Colonel Howard, and that gentleman addressed the people in his peculiarly grave and dignified manner. The constituency gave way to successive cataracts of laughter, which was singularly out of keeping with the stern seriousness of the speaker’s bearing. He spoke about ten minutes, and then took his seat, in spite of the express wish of the audience that he should go on.

Hon. Jim Sturtevant next addressed the citizens, extemporaneously. He made use of the very thunder which I meant to launch at the populace. Owing to this unfortunate circumstance, I was forced to keep up an intelligent silence during the session of the convention….

After this the assemblage broke up and adjourned to take something to drink. At nine o’clock the band again summoned the public to Foulke’s Hall, and I proceeded to that place. I found the Unreliable there, and George Hepperly. I had requested Mr. Hepperly, as a personal favor, to treat the Unreliable with distinguished consideration and I am proud and happy to acknowledge he had done so. He had him in charge of two constables.

The Hall had been cleared of the greater part of its benches, and the ball was ready to commence. The citizens had assembled in force, and the sexes were pretty equally represented in the proportion of one lady to several gentlemen. The night was so infernally inclement – so to speak – that it was impossible for ladies who lived at any considerable distance to attend. However, those that were there appeared in every quadrille, and with exemplary industry. I did not observe any wallflowers – the climate of Washoe appears to be unsuited to that kind of vegetation.

In accordance with the customs of the country, they indulged in the plain quadrille at this ball. And notwithstanding the vicissitudes which I have seen that wonderful national dance pass through, I solemnly affirm that they sprung some more new figures on me last night. However, the ball was a very pleasant affair. We could muster four sets and still have a vast surplusage of gentlemen – but the strictest economy had to be observed in order to make the ladies hold out.

The supper and the champagne were excellent and abundant, and I offer no word of blame against anybody for eating and drinking pretty freely. If I were to blame anybody, I would commence with the Unreliable – for he drank until he lost all sense of etiquette. I actually found myself in bed with him with my boots on.

However, as I said before, I cannot blame the cuss; it was a convivial occasion, and his little shortcomings ought to be overlooked. When I went to bed this morning, Mr. Lovejoy, arrayed in fiery red night clothes, was dancing the war dance of his tribe (he is President of the Paiute Association) around a spittoon and Colonel Howard, dressed in a similar manner, was trying to convince him that he was a humbug. A suspicion crossed my mind that they were partially intoxicated, but I could not be sure about it on account of everything appearing to turn around so. I left Washoe City this morning at nine o’clock, fully persuaded that I would like to go back there again when the next convention meets.

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