[ Great Basin News Homepage | Contents | Previous Article | Next Article ]
The Golden Era Masthead
Fear Loathing on the Comstock de Quille Drawing Editor's Note:
Our man Dan De Quille has gone

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.
It is
a hunger
we share.

Dan shows that gonzo journalism didn't begin with Hunter Thompson.
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 CABIN FEVER that 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, RACISM and sexism.
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.

--Jon Christensen

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)

Fear and 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 is up?"
"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 future."
Going In 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, don't hurry!"
"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."
Change of Mind 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.
Coming Back 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 | Contents | Previous Article | Next Article ]

Copyright © 1997, Great Basin News Service
Designed by Sierra Wave Internet Arts.