[ Great Basin News Homepage |
Previous Article |
Next Article ]
Fear Loathing on the Comstock
Our man Dan De Quille has gone
OVER THE TOP
and around the bend again.
First printed in the Golden Era, the top
literary rag of the times, this
"Letter from Washoe"
chronicles Dan's mad hunger for news during the early
days on the Comstock.
Dan shows that gonzo journalism didn't begin with Hunter
In a piece that transgresses the boundaries between
journalism and fiction--a boundary that was often blurred
in his days--Dan nails the feeling of
grips us in northern Nevada when spring has come but
winter hasn't gone yet.
This piece captures the spirit of his times--for better
and for worse
--the substance abuse, violence,
We do not endorse any of Dan's ravings. Do not try
this at home!
I must confess, I am fascinated
by early Nevada journalism and by
Dan De Quille in particular,
so fascinated that I have become him.
"Dan De Quille" will be appearing in Chautauqua events
during Comstock Historic Preservation Weekend in may,
at the Nevada State Museum on June 24,
and at the Great Basin Chautauqua in Reno Mid-July.
P.S. If you would like to read more
Dan De Quille, check out
The Big Bonanza (Nevada Publications) and Dan De Quille:
The Washoe Giant (University of Nevada Press)
Loathing on the Comstock
Feb. 24th, 1861
by Dan De Quille
My back is elevated--I'm enraged! I gnash my teeth in
fury. I kick things about the cabin. I think I should
rush out and kick the first man I could find, was it
not that I fear someone would get hurt. Therefore,
I considerably vent my rage within the walls of my
own cabin. Most men, when they feel as I do, are so
fortunate as to have wives to kick. I am unfortunate;
I have only stools and camp kettles to vent my rage
upon. Oh, for a wife! I have been in this awful fix
for over a week; if something in the line of news don't
transpire shortly, you will hear of some man getting
badly whipped--I won't stand it much longer and I will
kick some feller.
Jones comes rushing into my cabin--you know how excitable
Jones is? I spring up and run to meet him. I say, "How
are you, Jones? Good morning, Jones! Jones, glad to
see you! What's up? What's the news?" "News, n-e-w-s
concerning what?" queries Jones. "Concerning anything!
Con-cerning everything! What's happened? What's up?"
"Indeed, Mr. De Quille, I'm sure I don't know of anything--what
"Jones, confound you, Jones! Blast you, Jones! Don't
you come rushing in here again and not have any news!
You're the most excitable man I ever saw, Jones! Why
must you always be getting so excited? But don't mind
what I say, Jones; I was excited. You disappointed
me, Jones, sadly disappointed me!"
"How did I disappoint you? Did I say I had any news?"
"No, but you know, Jones, how you came rushing in here?
I thought you had had good news and felt glad, happy,
delighted--I thought someone was shot. Oh, Jones, Jones!
You can have no idea of my disappointment! You shouldn't
come in so; still, I forgive you, Jones, I forgive
you, but for heaven's sake, Jones, be careful in the
Jones sees he has put his foot in it, and asks in a
subdued, trembling voice if I will lend him a cup of
sugar, saying that they had not discovered that theirs
was out till breakfast was all ready, "and so he run
up to borrow a little to do breakfast." I gave Jones
the sugar, and as soon as he left, fastened the door,
kicked the bottom out of my camp kettle, kicked over
the table, kicked a loaf of bread into some seventy-odd
pieces, kicked the spout off my teapot, and seizing
my hat, rushed up the street. In going uptown I passed
a house where lives a little girl I have sometimes
been fool enough to think a "sweet, innocent little
lamb." She now comes running out to meet me--I feel
for my revolver but haven't got it; so I give her a
look so savage as to cause her hair to stand straight
up on her head, and hurry on. I see Spudder just ahead
and again feel for my revolver; but as I don't find
it, do the next best thing to get rid of him--cross
to the opposite side of the street--for I detest, abhor,
abominate, and despise Spudder and his never-ending
boasting on his favorite "lead." But Spudder sees me.
I felt sure he would--he sees everybody. "Hollo, Dan!
Hollo, hold on! News! News! Great news!" I don't wait
for Spudder to come to me--I rush across the street
again; I could almost hug Spudder to my heart; I feel
sure there has just been a fight, and six, at least,
shot or cut to pieces. I shake hands with Spudder,
ask him where he has been stopping, tell him I have
been hunting him all over town, invite him to call
round oftener, and when he opens his mouth to speak,
say "Not a word, my friend! Not a word yet, Mr. Spudder!
We'll go in and take something! We must take a little
something first, Spudder! The news afterwards." Spudder
is delighted, astonished, joyous, bewildered. We take
something--Spudder a good deal of it. I draw Spudder's
arm within my own and lead him to the extreme far corner
of the room. We seat ourselves close together. I lay
my hand encouragingly on Spudder's knee. "Now, my dear
Spudder, now for the news! But take your time, Spudder,
"You're too kind, Dan; I never knowed afore ye wur
sich a good feller! I hain't been to see ye as often
as I orter; but don't think hard, Dan, I'll cover every
day now, and stay--"
"But the news, Spudder! The news!"
"Yes, yes, I wur jist about to tell ye--I know ye'll
be delighted--we've struck it richer n-n-ever in er
Pewtertinktum! Jist as full of sulferts as--"
I kicked the chair from under Spudder, kicked his old
"stovepipe" out of the saloon, kicked it halfway down
the street and should have been kicking it yet had
I not happened upon a Chinaman with a pole and two
large baskets of clothes on his back. Him I seized
by the tail, and whirling him a few times around my
head, let go of him and let him sail down over the
embankment and through the canvas roof of a house;
then, kicking his baskets after him, went raging down
the road. On approaching the house where the "little
lamb" lives, I gathered a big rock and watched for
her to come out, but, disappointed here again, I rushed
home, locked and bolted my door, hung two pairs of
blankets before the window, kicked two sacks of "extra
self-raising" to pieces, then stood myself up in one
corner of my cabin on my head.
After standing on my head for three days and two nights
I felt better. Let myself down and thought I'd go to
the post office. Got halfway and saw Spudder coming
toward me. Felt worse immediately--got hold of a rock
and made at him. Spudder run; I run. I was after Spudder--Spudder
knew it. I chased him through town, halfway up Grizzly
Hill, and into a tunnel. Built a big fire in the mouth
of the tunnel and went back to the post office. Got
the Era of February 3. Saw the "little lamb" as I went
home, patted her head--promised her some candy. Got
home feeling pretty good. Felt good a while longer.
Put a stool near the wall, put one end of a board on
the stool; put the other end of the board on the wall;
put a pillow on the board; fixed a box to lay my legs
on; got a stool; put my legs on the box; put my head
on the pillow. Then I light my candle, open the Era,
and commence reading "The King of the Mountains." Wish
I had got some candy for the "little lamb."
Someone knocks at the door. I say, "Come in." Door
opens. "Spudder!" Box slips from under my legs; stool
goes after box; board goes after stool; head strikes
the hardest rock in the wall. Spudder runs. I get up,
lock the door. Go back and bolt the door. Pile a lot
of wood against it. Put the table against it. Kick
the teapot. Kick the camp kettle. Kick the frying pan.
Stand myself on my head in the corner till morning.
In the morning feel better. Commence the story again.
Am delighted with Hadgi-Stavros. Feel an affection
for the "Corflote." Long to hold "Vasile" in my arms.
Hope they'll cut off "Mary Ann's" head--ditto "Mrs.
Simons." Wish we had a few such well-disposed gentlemen
here. Feel so much better I go uptown. See knots of
men here and there on the corners. Heart leaps to my
throat. Am in a tremor of delight--think somebody's
killed. Inquire and find people are jumping all the
cross streets and alleys. Delighted. Recover my usual
flow of spirits. Everybody in favor of a flow of spirits.
Good!--be a fight yet! People rush into saloons--get
a drink. Rush out and drive stakes. Stick up notices.
"We, the undersigned do claim"--"for building purposes."
One man can't find timber or the stakes. Sits down
and straddles out his legs--half across the street.
Puts notice on his hat: "We, the undersigned." Woman
runs out with broom. Hits man with outstretched legs.
Man runs. Woman sticks up her broom with notice: "We,
the undersigned." Some run to the lumber yards. Buy
boards. Make fences across the streets. Tack up cards--"Notice
is hereby given." You bet! "Plaza! Plaza! Plaza!" All
rush to the plaza! Set stakes. Bring posts--boards,
rocks. One man digs a hole--another party pushes him
away--puts in his own post. "Fight! Fight! Fight!" Whoops,
hurra! Here we go again for Main Street! Feller gets
200 feet up and 200 feet down the middle. I take first
south extension--"including all dips, spurs, and angles."
Also, right of way through Burke & Walsh's mill--with
spur up South Fork for lager beer saloon. I build a
fort--get muskets. Hold out two days. Sell to man from
San Francisco--$2,973. Cash--"This indenture," etc.,
etc. All right! See the little girl--sweet, pretty,
little lamb!--get her some candy.
Two days have passed; I am fully recovered; and whenever
I feel the slightest symptom of a relapse I have only
to slap my hand upon my pocket, whereupon arises a
chink that most effectually dispels all gloomy thoughts
and clothes my visage in radiant smiles.
[ Great Basin News Homepage |
Previous Article |
Next Article ]
Copyright © 1997, Great Basin News Service
Sierra Wave Internet Arts.