Letter from Carson City

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/ December 12, 1862

EDITORS ENTERPRISE: Ormsby heads the world on the turnip question. The vegetable upon which I base this boast, was grown in the turnip garden of Mr. S. D. Fairchild, back here towards King’s Canyon—in the suburbs—say about eight squares from the plaza. Mr. Fairchild left it at the branch of the ENTERPRISE office in Carson, a day or two since. The monster was accurately surveyed, with the following result: circumference, forty inches; weight, a fraction over eighteen pounds.

Col. Williams, of the House, who says I mutilate his eloquence, addressed a note to me this morning, to the effect that I had given his constituents wrong impressions concerning him, and nothing but blood would satisfy him. I sent him that turnip on a hand barrow, requesting him to extract from it a sufficient quantity of blood to restore his equilibrium—which I regarded as a very excellent joke. Col. Williams ate it (raw) during the usual prayer by the chaplain. To sum up: eighteen pounds of raw turnip is sufficient for an ordinary lunch—Col. Williams had his feet on his desk at the time—he beamed—wherefore, I think his satisfaction was complete.

Carson also boasts the only pork-packing establishment in Nevada Territory. Mr. George T. Davis is the proprietor thereof, and he has already killed and packed two hundred and fifty fine hogs this winter. This will be cheering news to the young lady who told me the other evening that she “loved pork.”

The pleasantest affair of the season, perhaps, although not the most gorgeous, was the “candy-pull” at the White House, a few nights ago. The candy had not finished cooking at nine o’clock, so they concluded to dance awhile. They always dance here when they have time. I have noticed it frequently. I think it is a way they have. They got a couple of able-bodied fiddlers and went at it.

They opened with the dance called the plain quadrille, which is very simple and easy, and is performed in this wise: All you have to do is to stand up in the middle of the floor, being careful to get your lady on your right hand side, and yourself on the left hand side of your lady. Then you are all right you know. When you hear a blast of music like unto the rush of many waters, you lay your hand on your stomach and bow to the lady of your choice then you turn around and bow to the fiddlers.

The first order is, “First couple fore and aft”—or words to that effect. This is very easy. You have only to march straight across the house—keeping out of the way of the advancing couple, who very seldom know where they are going to—and when you get over, if you find your partner there, swing her; if you don’t, hunt her up—for it is very handy to have a partner in these plain quadrilles.

The next order is, “Ladies change.” This is an exceedingly difficult figure, and requires great presence of mind; because, on account of shaking hands with the lobby members so much, and from the force of human nature also, you are morally certain to offer your right, when the chances are that your left hand is wanted. This has a tendency to mix things.

At this point order and regularity cease the dancers get excited—the musicians become insane—turmoil and confusion ensue—chaos comes again! Put your trust in Providence and stick to your partner. Several of these engaging and beautiful plain quadrilles were danced during the evening, and we might have enjoyed several more, but the rostrum broke down and spilt the musicians.

I was exceedingly delighted with the waltz, and also with the polka. These differ in name, but there the difference ceases—the dances are precisely the same. You have only to spin around with frightful velocity and steer clear of the furniture. This has a charming and bewildering effect. You catch glimpses of a confused and whirling multitude of people, and above them a row of distracted fiddlers extending entirely around the room. The waltz and the polka are very exhilarating—to use a mild term—amazingly exhilarating.

Nothing occurred to mar the joyousness of the occasion. The party was very select except myself and Col. Williams; the candy was not burned; the Governor sat down on a hot stove and got up again with great presence of mind; the dancing was roomy and hilarious, and fun went to waste. Henceforward my principles are fixed. I am a stern and unwavering advocate of “candy-pulls.”

There was a slight conflagration in Mr. Helm’s office yesterday morning—at least I was told so by my friend, the reporter for the Virginia Union, who is not very reliable. He also stated that no damage was done; but I don’t put much confidence in what he says.

The ladies have not smiled much on this Legislature, so far. Thirty-two of our loveliest visited the halls night before last, though, which is an encouraging symptom. I cannot conscientiously say they smiled, however, for the Revenue bill was before the House. This cheerful subject is calculated to produce inward jollity, but the same is not apt to blossom into smiles on the surface. The ladies were well pleased with the night session, though—they enjoyed it exceedingly—in many respects it was much superior to a funeral.

The Revenue bill was finished up last night, and in the name and at the request of the members, I invite all the ladies in town to call again, at any time, either day or night session. That Revenue bill was one of those nonsensical general public concerns that we are not used to; but the fun will be resumed right away, now that we are back on our regular toll roads again.

I went down to Empire City yesterday to see the Eagle Fire Company try their new engine (by the way, you have, so far, neglected to mention either the machine or the company in your paper). They first threw an inch and a quarter stream over Dutch Nick’s hotel, and then a three-quarter inch stream over the liberty pole. This brought cheers from the multitude (there were many ladies there from neighboring cities). The boys grew excited and ambitious. Several ladies passed by, wearing the new fashioned light-house bonnets.

The Eagles, in their madness, attempted to throw a half-inch stream over those bonnets. They puffed their cheeks and strained every nerve; there was a moment of painful suspense, as the pearly column went towering toward the clouds—then a long, loud, reverberating shout, as it bent gracefully and went over, without touching a feather! But the engine broke.

If McCluskey, of the Delta Saloon, could send me a reporter’s cobbler—an unusually long one—I think it would relieve my cold.

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