Sunday .... February 11, 1883
FROM EASTERN NEVADA.
Cold Comforts and Solid Beef -- Austin Amenities and Festivities -- The Water-God Flower -- Railroad Legislation -- Too Much Confidence
[Correspondence of the Enterprise.]
AUSTIN, Nev., February 7, 1883.
EDITOR ENTERPRISE: During the last few weeks the temperature of the "Great East" portion of Nevada has ruled unusually and unnecessarily low, the thermometer ranging from twenty or thirty degrees above zero to forty or fifty degrees below. The cattle ranges being altogether in the numerous valleys, where the coldest weather prevails, there has been considerable suffering among the four-legged friends, servitors and victims of the human race. Cattle do not suffer so much from the severe cold as from the freezing up of the streams, springs and ponds, cutting off their water supply, and were there no snow many would have to perish from thirst. Snow rarely falls deep enough to prevent sheep from getting along comfortably, and the abundant white sage forms a never-failing source of nutritious food supply for cattle and horses throughout the Winter season. Along the Humboldt Valley section the cold is far the most intense, and it is said that the butchers, after slaughtering, have to work lively to get off the hide before the animal freezes solid. In cutting off steaks and roasts they run the petrified carcass through a sawmill. Here in Austin, the oldest inhabitant, who is a member of the Reese River Pioneer Society, repeatedly declares that he never before saw the like anywhere for cold weather. We are all getting so used to it, however, that it only seems uncomfortable when it gets above zero.
Following close upon the debilitating result of the general election in November came the mumps. That uncomfortable disease descended upon the population of this venal burg as a sort of righteous retribution for degenerating from its former glory as a Republican city, and deliberately gravitating into the arms of the Democracy. Yet it afflicts all, both great and small, regardless of sex, age or previous condition of politics. No fatal results have ensued thus far, but mature sinners have suffered severely from it, and the doctors are all wallowing in affluence. The average Austinite, however, has not let the mumps get down into his feet. He bags his head and extra amount of cheek, and mumps about for a few days, and then goes to a dance and kicks out the last lingering mump from the festive points of his toes and heels. And we have lots of dancing parties, balls, socials and all that sort of thing, and just as good halls as those of the Montezumas to do it in, and as for music, here is where it naturally exists, evolves and trots out The Lander Brass Band is one of the best military bands in the State, and we have two good quadrille bands, to say nothing of a Chinese band, which for brass, string and general outlandish anti-musical cussedness cannot be beaten this side of Tophat. At the recent famous masquerade ball, in International Hall, the various characters taken were so perfectly sustained that you could hardly distinguish "Pluto" from the "Abolition Oil Man," the "Sailor Boy" from "Mrs. Langtry, " or the "Chinese Mandarin" from the "Swiss Peasant Girl," but we had lots of fun and explained all the characters in the newspaper report. Then there was the sheet and pillow-case ball the other night, where everybody danced and sweated in their bed-clothes, and whisperingly confessed identity to each other, so that nobody was surprised when the unmasking came. The annual ball of Manhattan Hose Company No. 2, and that of the Austin German-Americans were also "away up." The coming Valentine party, to be given by our German-American citizens, will doubtless be the most popular and socially enjoyable event of the season. All these festive assemblages are invariably very fully attended, whole families as well as parts of families being present, and juvenile Austin as he skips about the floor or sits waiting for a chance, admiringly contemplates the ambitious terpsichorean efforts of some noble old pionerrs, and hopefully looks forward to the day when he, too, shall be able to come down in the double shuffle or the fore-and-after like a Starratt, a Crockett, or a Cresenzo.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
Commenced to-day, but the moon-eyed, long-tailed sons of Confucius so numerously residing here, commenced celebrating before dark last evening. Wheelbarrow loads of fire-crackers, bombs, etc., were exploded, and the Chinese band paralyzed the devil with some of the most soul-harrowing fulminations from their tom-toms, gongs, hewgags and squiljees that he ever heard. Chinatown was a blaze of glory, freshly stirred up stinks and hilarity. The Joss-house was brilliantly lighted, and the gaudily painted Joss himself seemed to wear an agreeable smile on his celestrial features. Feasts of roast and stewed hog and chicken, cakes, nuts and pic-led chow-chow indescribable were spread in various houses, everybody visited each other, drank rice brandy, got celestially happy and had lots of fun. To-day the big dragon flag rollicks gaily in the breeze from the flagstaff of the little red-faced Chinese Masonic temple, and John is quietly taking a rest and a smoke, or cruising about in his best dangaree pants and silk jumper. This is a happy, hopeful and satisfactory occasion for John. This is the day when he forgives all his creditors, puts himsefl through bankruptcy, wipes out all his old scores and opens new accounts for himself for another year. This is his annual clean-up, so to speak; therefore it is most emphatically and essentially John's "Happy New Year."
We have all admired the beautiful Chinese lilies or hyacinths which are to be found growing so luxuriantly at this particular time of the year in parlor windows and barrooms most anywhere in this State as well as in California, and right now they should be in their fullest glory of blooming fragrance. They grow best in bowls or dishes filled with stones and water, no other nutriment or cultivation being required, and the onion-like bulbs are imported in large quantities fresh from China every year, not being propagated in this country at all. It is a very interesting plant, and in Mongolian circles it is considered to have cabalistic and oracular bearing upon the Chinese New Year, as well as Celestial luck generally. Most carefully and anxiously does each Chinaman consider the growth of his lilies, and endeavor to regulate their floral development. If every bud is in full bloom on the China New Year's Day he is in a bonanza of luck and prosperity for the whole of the year, but every flower that droops or fades on that day is a sure sign of a death in his family - if all should wither, ruin and death must be his portion before the next new year. Ah Quy, or "Charley," the Chinaman whom all the old Comstockers remember as being for several years employed in the Bank Exchange Saloon at Gold Hill, told me the following nice little legend regarding this peculiar flowing plant, which is now put in print for the first time:
THE "SOI SIN FWAR,"
Or Water-God Flower, is only found in one particular province away in the interior of China, and nowhere else in the world. A good many hundred years ago a very rich and prominent mandarin died, and his eldest son, in accordance with law and national custom, suceeded him as legal heir to the family title and possessions. He was a bad, arrogant and ambitious man, and about the first thing he did was to turn his mother and younger brother out of doors. Indeed, he wanted to kill them, in order to destroy all chance of their eventually succeeding to the estate, instead of his own children. The poor mother gathered up a handkerchief full of nuts and dried fruit, took her little boy by the hand and fled for safety she cared not whither.
Three days afterward they found themselves away out in the midst of a broad desert country covered with stones and water, and not a tree, bush or even a blade of grass in sight. It was New Year's Day, and with bleeding feet and broken hearts they sank down weeping and exhausted upon a rock, unable to go any further, and concluded they must die. Pretty soon a little gray-haired old man came tottering along and sat down beside them. "Why do you weep?" said he. They told him their story and wept afresh. The old man looked very sad, tired out and hungry, and the little boy gave him what few nuts and dried apple they had left.
Then the little old man raised up without the assistance of his stick and smilingly remarked, as he patted the astonished boy on the head: "Now I know you. Don't you cry any more. I'll make you ten times richer than your big, bad brother ever was or ever will be. Just stand up upon this rock and I'll show you something."
They both stood up there beside him and he pointed with his stick.
On all sides, far and near, they saw those beautiful hyacinths, with full white blossoms, growing in the water among the stones and rocky crevices.
"There, now," said the genial old gentleman, with a hilarious nourish of his stick, "all this vast tract stones and water is yours. I give you everything in sight. Not one flower is withered or drooping. Sell them and be as rich and prosperous as you like."
A heavy cloud of rich perfume, like incense from the throne of Joss, floated across their delighted nostrils, and they turned to thank the old man, but he was gone.
Then they knew it was the great Water God, Choon Tung, whom they had thus profitably entertained. They loaded themselves with the lovely fragrant blossoms and struck out for the nearest city. They sold at fabulous prices, and directly had coolie trains packing flowers to all parts of the empire, even supplying the Emperor and his entire court, at a magnificent profit.
When the bad elder brother heard of all is he went on an opium jamboree, and died inside of a week, leaving the young man and his mother sole inheritors of the situation. They settled down on the old homestead, and he became in due time a two-sworded Mandarin of the red button, in prime favor with the Emperor, making his mother one of the highest ladies in the land.
In appreciative gratitude and honor they named this beautiful hyacinth Soi Sin Fwar, or the Water God Flower, which name it bears to this day, and their descendants, heirs and assigns continue selling the bulbs.
It is pleasing to notice that our legislators at Carson are standing up to their respective party platform pledges regarding the monstrous railroad monopolies, which are trying to develop the resources of our otherwise poverty-stricken State. Buncombe and partisan rivalry can get up political platform resolutions, but it requires good, square legislative brains to carry out the desired propositions. Previous Nevada Legislatures have found this railroad problem a difficult one to definitely arrange with equitable justice to both sides, and at the same time keep in view the future prosperity of the State, which can be developed, enhanced and supported more by railroads than most anything else; and the chances are that the present Legislature may arrive at the same honest sagebrush conclusion. The railroad between here and Battle Mountain has not made whisky money or its unfortunate proprietors in the last two years, and can stand no squeezing discouragement whatever; the Nevada and Oregon road certainly cannot, and, what other road can? The people of this section have little confidence in any decisive benefit to be derived from any of the proposed railroad bills. No harm, however, can be done by agitating the subject, even though no definite action should be taken. Our legislators have a right to show that they recognize their platform requirements and are "fly to the racket." Speaking of
The other day a well-known and active young man of this town unfortunately exhibited too much confidence. He was on top of a building, fixing a private telegraph wire, and when he got through, jumped from the fire wall, some four or five feet, down upon an awning covered with sheet iron. This gave way beneath him like so much paper, and he shot through to the sidewalk below, falling about seventeen feet. He looked before he leaped, but did not calculate on going so far. Luckily, he did not break his neck or any other bones, but says he would rather have the mumps than do that circus act again.