CHAPTER II. OVER THE DESERTS OF NEVADA.
Gradually I leave the pine-clad slopes of the Sierras behind, and every revolution of my wheel reveals scenes that constantly remind me that I am in the great "Sage-brush State." How appropriate indeed is the name. Sage-brush is the first thing seen on entering Nevada, almost the only vegetation seen while passing through it, and the last thing seen on leaving it. Clear down to the edge of the rippling waters of the Truckee, on the otherwise barren plain, covering the elevated table-lands, up the hills, even to the mountain-tops-everywhere, everywhere, nothing but sagebrush. In plain view to the right, as I roll on toward Reno, are the mountains on which the world-renowned Comstock lode is situated, and Reno was formerly the point from which this celebrated mining-camp was reached.
Before reaching Reno I meet a lone Washoe Indian; he is riding a diminutive, scraggy-looking mustang. One of his legs is muffled up in a red blanket, and in one hand he carries a rudely-invented crutch. "How will you trade horses?" I banteringly ask as we meet in the road; and I dismount for an interview, to find out what kind of Indians these Washoes are. To my friendly chaff he vouchsafes no reply, but simply sits motionless on his pony, and fixes a regular "Injun stare" on the bicycle. "What's the matter with your leg?" I persist, pointing at the blanket-be-muffled member.
"Heap sick foot" is the reply, given with the characteristic brevity of the savage; and, now that the ice of his aboriginal reserve is broken, he manages to find words enough to ask me for tobacco. I have no tobacco, but the ride through the crisp morning air has been productive of a surplus amount of animal spirits, and I feel like doing something funny; so I volunteer to cure his " sick foot" by sundry dark and mysterious manoeuvres, that I unbiushingly intimate are "heap good medicine." With owlish solemnity my small monkey-wrench is taken from the tool-bag and waved around the " sick foot" a few times, and the operation is completed by squirting a few drops from my oil-can through a hole in the blanket. Before going I give him to understand that, in order to have the "good medicine " operate to his advantage, he will have to soak his copper-colored hide in a bath every morning for a week, flattering myself that, while my mystic manoauvres will do him no harm, the latter prescription will certainly do him good if he acts on it, which, however, is extremely doubtful. Boiling into Reno at 10.30 A.M. the characteristic whiskey- straight hospitality of the Far West at once asserts itself, and one individual with sporting proclivities invites me to stop over a day or two and assist him to "paint Reno red " at his expense. Leaving Reno, my route leads through the famous Truckee meadows - a strip of very good agricultural land, where plenty of money used to be made by raising produce for the Virginia City market." But there's nothing in it any more, since the Comstock's played out," glumly remarks a ranchman, at whose place I get dinner. "I'll take less for my ranch now than I was offered ten years ago," he continues.