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8 September 2013

A Shot of Pioneering Spirit

Time for another post jam-packed full of holiday snaps! Today's theme is sort of an historical one. I cover some of what has made Lake Tahoe what it is. There's no way I can hope to do this theme justice, but here are a few observations to start the ball rolling...

I had my eye open for an unusual momento to bring back with me from this holiday. This figurine of a singing cowboy almost made the grade, but no, I left it for another.

Here's a different slant on America that was doing the rounds whilst I was on holiday. It's a map of the major native Indian linguistic groups. These memes are meant to be thought-provoking and incendiary. I was taking it all with a pinch of salt until I spotted something that made my blood boil! Grrr! Look closely and you'll see that there is no mention of my Washoe brothers! What a sad state of affairs.

See below for an even sadder state of affairs. Yes, this bear has a head growing out of his arse! Oh dear, oh dear!

You know by now that I am easily lead. Look at the shirt above. I actually tried this on with every intention of buying it! Ha ha! Although the shoulders were a perfect fit, the arms were too long and it was way too baggy for my liking. I guess I just don't have a cowboy's frame. :-(

Look at the embroidered guitars - aren't they brilliant! It's probably just as well I never got it: I'd never have had the opportunity to wear it.

I bet the original cowboys would be turning in their graves if they knew the sorts of clothes being manufactured in their name. See the cowboy boots below. It starts off okay, but wait until you scroll down to the bottom. Oh yes! Have you seen them? And what about the cowboy boot bags on the right. I never knew that you could buy a bag specifically for carrying your cowboy boots! Aren't you supposed to live in your boots, not carry them around?

If you don't have any cowboy boots, I bet these bags could double up as pretty nifty ukulele carriers! You'd even have room for your sandwiches! Ha ha!

Nevada's history is steeped in the Gold Rush. Virginia City was a major hub of gold-induced debauchery. For most, the era was a nightmare with hellish hardships and unbridled lawlessness. Some made their fortunes, many more died trying.

And once the gold had run out, silver was found. The famous Comstock Lode kept Nevada burning as a bright star attracting hard-headed desperados from miles around. Once all the silver had run out, everything died. That is until the casinos arrived! The area has a wonderful rich history. If only someone had seen fit to write all these wonderful stories down!

A lot of the original towns still feel like ghost towns. On the ride into Virginia City, I passed through a hamlet called Silver City. On the whole it is simply a collection of ramshackle buildings slowly turning to dust. It's almost as if the land doesn't want to let anyone live there.

I mentioned my hero John Albert "Snowshoe" Thompson in a recent post and referred to him as a sort of "extreme mailman". Perhaps a more accurate description would have been to say that he ran a Pony Express line from Placerville in California through to Genoa in Nevada (a trip that covered 90 miles and which took John 3 days to complete, no-matter the weather).

I've been talking about my next holiday possibly being to visit Norway. John was originally from Norway and has been called the "Viking of the Sierra".

As you can imagine, the residents of pretty much everywhere I visited on my holiday are proud of their roots and most celebrate the Pony Express in one form or another. There are statues dedicated to John Thompson virtually everywhere, but as in the pictures above and below there are also some more generic statues. I love the detail in these two in particular. The top one sits outside Harrah's casino in South Lake Tahoe. The one below can now be found in the parking lot of the Grand Sierra Resort casino in Reno. I could be wrong, but I don't think that the Pony Express ever went to Reno.

'Genuine snapshot of a hold-up of the Yosemite stage on the old Raymond Wawona route. The robber stands in the background, gun in hand. One of his victims took the picture, the robber making no objection thereto.' ~ 1905

Isn't this something! I wonder if the robber ever got caught? It's always been a bit of an ambition of mine to visit Yosemite, but like a lot of places, unless you're specifically going there, you'll never see it... it's not somewhere you can easily stop off at en route to somewhere else. Unfortunately, once again, I failed to make it as far as Yosemite.

I did consider doing the trip, but a combination of forest fires and the amount of driving I'd have to do put me off. Next time!

I was really hoping to sample some native Indian culture whilst on this trip but unfortunately, all I really got was the hammed up tourist slant.

Here are a few of the different faces of Indians I saw on my travels. Top left, looks a bit like me after living on American food for a week and a bit. Most of what I saw was pretty stereotypical and not indicative of the Washoe or Paiute that originally settled in these lands. See the right hand part of the picture below. I'd seen a similar carving before I snapped this where the indian was holding what looked to be a pack of dynamite. Surely not! Was this some sort of insurgent secret code? I asked the question on Google+ and it took a man from Kent to provide the answer. +Andrew Clifton-Brown joked that they were perhaps cigars and lo and behold if he isn't right!

The wooden indians that you see in many shops are inspired by the original carved indians that used to be on display in Cigar Stores. I still haven't got a clue why they were used in Cigar Stores though.

Lam Watah - Wahoe Summer Camp

"Julia Bulette, Virginia City, Nevada's legendary prostitute with a heart of gold"

I snapped this whilst flicking through a book called "Soiled Doves: prostitution in the early west" by Anne Seagraves. I've got to say that "Soiled Doves" is one of the worst book names I've ever seen. "Soiled Doves"... soiled underpants? What do you think the significance of the fireman's helmet might be? Oh hold on... I think I might have figured it out... :-S

I joked in Reno as my flight was delayed for the third time that Reno Airport could do with a Suicide Table.

The original Suicide Table can be found in Virginia City at the back of the Delta Saloon. It's a Faro gaming table famous for the demise of three of the Saloon's owners. The story goes that each lost all of their money sat at this very table and ended it all with a shot to the head. Faro is apparently a game from the Monte Bank/Baccarat stables. I've never played it... but James Bond has!

My final picture is a marker for the Kit Carson Trail - a pedestrian trail that runs through Carson City.

Kit Carson was a fur trader in the early 1800s who helped to find ways to traverse the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe. He's another character who had an amazing life. I'd recommend checking out a bit of his history if you're into that sort of thing. I am!

There you go. That's today's installment over with. Question is... Should I do more?


  1. I just wrote a post about shamanism and American Indians,after finishing a book about shamanism -

  2. I was thinking of you KU when I was watching this clip of the "Whistler's Jug Band",thinking if my half empty beer bottle would be the equivalent of a uke compared to these guys jugs ?-)