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Dedicated to the lives and times of the men and women of the Old West, and to the spirit of the era, 1860 through 1890
Writins of Weakeyes Cody
Talented and witty writings
The Muleskinners decided to meet in Virginia City, Nevada. Windy Bill had met Cutter there exactly a year ago this month and they wanted to celebrate their anniversary. Cutter, a girl from Indiana, and Windy Bill, a man from Southern California, came out via airplane from Indiana, while Capt.Ball, Mis Chif & Stumbleweed Ike caught a brush popper up from Smogsville and then a taxi out from Reno. Joe Renegade & Miss Rose came down from a Lake Tahoe campsite, Misfire Mel & Smokey Jack rode up in a wagon, and Miz Eula and I fought our way up in a car.
Miz Eula and I rode in around five in the afternoon and everyone except Misfire Mel & Smokey Jack had already arrived. Virginia City is a big town. Had it not been for Windy Bill's big hat we would have had trouble finding them. But Miz Eula espied that hat as we were moving along the main street.
Everyone grabbed a piece of our luggage and we were soon being registered in the Silver Queen Hotel ~ built in 1874. The registration desk was down in the saloon and we had to go out on the street and down one door to find the stairs going up. I noticed those stairs were sagging somewhat to port as we struggled up them. Then, after getting to the top, we turned left for a few paces, then right again, and then up six or seven more steps where our room was, #10 just at the top of this last flight of stairs.
Nearly every building in this town is well over a hundred-years old and few changes have been made in that span of time to alter anything. The paddle bladed fan that turned at about fifteen r.p.m. fourteen feet above our heads, a cubicle that housed a pot and shower, and a sink over in the corner was obviously the only twentieth century contributions to the room. We were looking at a brass knobbed bedstead, a dresser with a small mirror, a round table in the corner near a window that overlooked the hallway and stairs leading to the third floor, and a protruding piece of notched metal upon which to hang clothes.
Mark Twain said of these old hotels, "the walls are so thin you can hear her change her mind."Which is no exaggeration.
Actually, we found the ventilation system unique. I mentioned the ceiling fans, which of course, never existed back then. There were transoms over the door to each room that could be opened outward to allow any air moving along the hallway to enter. Then, believe it or not, there were also transoms high up near the top of the walls near the ceiling, that pivoted to facilitate air circulation between the rooms. In other words, if all these transoms were opened, then air could travel all the way up from the street through the entire edifice and out again. Now, this was, as I said, unique. At least it is today. But probably back in 1874 it was ordinary, even predictable. Like most Americans born in the first half of this century, I haven't stayed in many hotels. However, I do recall some, none of which were this old.
Can you perceive a weary traveler with his darlin' wife coming in off the dusty rough riding stagecoach to drop their carpet bag at the foot of this old brass bedstead? She, like most women, in immediate need of the toilet facilities walks down the dark hall to wait before the door until the cigar-smoking harness salesman from San Francisco, completes his business before stepping in herself. And then after retiring, being at the mercy of every loud snorer in the place, to say nothing of being downwind of every single infraction of etiquette from belching to breaking wind. Can you imaging how desperate one could get for a breathof unfettered air?
After partying until around midnight Saturday night, I retired to that old brass knobbed bed and soom joined my darlin' wife in slumber. Then in a short time I was suddenly and reprehensibly awakened by a parade of noisy people in the hallway on their way from a later party. How ill-mannered these people were, I thought, adrenalin still pumping through my veins. They have no thought of their conduct in a confined area at such a late hour. Finally I returned to sleep but not before laying there for a time waiting for my mental state to calm down.
Then it happened again!
A women's voice was commenting on the charm of the old hotel as she trundled along the hall with her male companion who added his mumbles and laughter to the loud conversation. I sat up on an elbow and said in a very normal voice, "Yes, but the walls are very thin." To which the man replied almost immediately; "Aw shut the *&%^# up!"
Now, this queen mother of all four letter words used in the hallway of a hotel, and directed at me in all my righteousness, tended to make me forget that I carry a Medicare card and have been allegedly retired for several years. So forthwith, I replied, "I'll come out there and shut you up you sonofabitch!" "Cody!" came the motherly voice of my bride in the same tone she used when our child pulled his pants down in a crowded room. No reply from the hall, so I figured my message had been given and it was clear to them that they were being heard all over the hotel and would refrain from doing it again.
I lay there wrestling with my thoughts for about an hour and unbelievably again, I heard noisy people tromping up the stairs with all the commotion of a brass band. Same voices, same people, same attitude! Jumping out of bed I went to the window of our room that overlooked the approaching hallway and drew back the blind just a little. I wanted to see the faces of these insensitive dipsomaniacs who dared to repeatedly rouse me this whole night. I was going to throw open my door and give them no little piece of my thoughts on human behavior and their total lack of it. But I couldn't.
I couldn't because as they came into view I say little Mis Chif, traipsing along the carpeted corridor, in her red and black skirt replete with rounded bosoms and fishnet stockings, smiling as she twirled her fuzzy red neck piece, followed by ol' Stumbleweed Ike, grinning from ear to ear as he watched Mis Chif's swaying hips before him on the steps and trying to keep his balance as he hooked one spur on the other navigating the narrow space. What was I to do? These are my kids. I have grown that I've forgotten that five a.m. means nothing to youngsters of 30. Maybe I should be out there partying still? No. I've been there and done that. Indeed. I have many times come waltzing with a head of steam bound for my whirling dervish of a pillow that would hold my spinning dreams and scattered thoughts. I graduated magnum cum louder from that school of hard knocks - class of '49, I believe. We are all entitled to do as we please for a time, and everyone deserves to live their lives as they see fit.
So, sliding back betwen the wrinkled sheets of our brass knobbed 1874 style bed, I slept until vapors of Stumbleweed Ike's last few beers and that sausage stick drifted past my nose via the transoms and continued on their greasy aromatic way into the alleys of old Virginia City. Or - maybe it was Mis Chif's?
We shot our guns at one another over in Dayton, and promenaded the streets of Virginia City, checking our the various items in the shops along the way. Lay our boot soles across the brass rails of most saloons still operating, and sampled the alcoholic beverages available. Misfire Mel & Smokey Jack arrived and slid in among the group sometime between midnight and noon. Conversation with Misfire Mel was difficult because he was on vacation. This means, I reckon, that his conversational qualities are limited when he's not leaning back in his comfortable wooden chair at Calico? He finally did open a weary eye to survey a well-endowed female or two as they rolled by. I believe the old boy is a girl watcher. Moreover, I think he'd hang around Calico without pay just so's he could ogle those tourist tootsies trolling Calico's main drag. But, I could be wrong - been wrong before.
I thought it was clever of ol' Capt.Ball, the way he talked that train man into giving the whole team of us Muleskinners a free ride on old #8, and even allowed us to sprawl all over it snapping photos. Misfire Mel kissed up to the engineer and got to ride in the engine. He's wanted to do that since he was a little biddy boy. I envied the bugger. I'd like to go up there again, 'cept I'm afraid Misfire Mel has watered off all the women, that trainman will want paid, and the sheriff will be waitin for the lot of us because I don't think a lot of us were in complete control of our helm and have no idea of what it is we have done. But what the heck - I've run aground in a lot worse places than Virginia City.
~ Weakeyes CodyAugust 1999