CHAPTER II. OVER THE DESERTS OF NEVADA.
To-night I stay in Winnemucca, the county seat of Humboldt County, and quite a lively little town of 1,200 inhabitants. "What'll yer have." is the first word on entering the hotel, and "Won't yer take a bottle of whiskey along." is the last word on leaving it next morning. There are Piutes and Piutes camped at Winnemucca, and in the morning I meet a young brave on horseback a short distance out of town and let him try his hand with the bicycle. I wheel him along a few yards and let him dismount; and then I show him how to mount and invite him to try it himself. He gallantly makes the attempt, but springs forward with too much energy, and over he topples, with the bicycle cavorting around on top of him. This satisfies his aboriginal curiosity, and he smiles and shakes his head when I offer to swap the bicycle for his mustang. The road is heavy with sand all along by Winnemucca, and but little riding is to be done. The river runs through green meadows of rich bottom-land hereabouts; but the meadows soon disappear as I travel eastward. Twenty miles east of Winnemucca the river arid railroad pass through the ca¤on in a low range of mountains, while my route lies over the summit. It is a steep trundle up the fountains, but from the summit a broad view of the surrounding country is obtained. The Humboldt River is not a beautiful stream, and for the greater part of its length it meanders through alternate stretches of dreary sage-brush plain and low sand-hills, at long intervals passing through a ca¤on in some barren mountain chain. But "distance lends enchantment to the view," and from the summit of the mountain pass even the Humboldt looks beautiful. The sun shines on its waters, giving it a sheen, and for many a mile its glistening surface can be seen - winding its serpentine course through the broad, gray-looking sage and grease-wood plains, while at occasional intervals narrow patches of green, in striking contrast to the surrounding gray, show where the hardy mountain grasses venturously endeavor to invade the domains of the autocratic sagebrush. What is that queer-looking little reptile, half lizard, half frog, that scuttles about among the rocks. It is different from anything I have yet seen. Around the back of its neck and along its sides, and, in a less prominent degree, all over its yellowishgray body, are small, horn-like protuberances that give the little fellow a very peculiar appearance. Ah, I know who he is. I have heard of him, and have seen his picture in books. I am happy to make his acquaintance. He is "Prickey," the famed horned toad of Nevada. On this mountain spur, between the Golconda miningcamp and Iron Point, is the only place I have seen him on the tour. He is a very interesting little creature, more lizard than frog, perfectly harmless; and his little bead-like eyes are bright and fascinating as the eyes of a rattlesnake.
Alkali flats abound, and some splendid riding is to be obtained east of Iron Point. Just before darkness closes down over the surrounding area of plain and mountain I reach Stone-House section-house.
" Yes, I guess we can get you a bite of something; but it will be cold," is the answer vouchsafed in reply to my query about supper. Being more concerned these days about the quantity of provisions I can command than the quality, the prospect of a cold supper arouses no ungrateful emotions. I would rather have a four-pound loaf and a shoulder of mutton for supper now than a smaller quantity of extra choice viands; and I manage to satisfy the cravings of my inner man before leaving the table. But what about a place to sleep. For some inexplicable reason these people refuse to grant me even the shelter of their roof for the night. They are not keeping hotel, they say, which is quite true; they have a right to refuse, even if it is twenty miles to the next place; and they do refuse. "There's the empty Chinese bunk-house over there. You can crawl in there, if you arn't afeerd of ghosts," is the parting remark, as the door closes and leaves me standing, like an outcast, on the dark, barren plain.
A week ago this bunk-house was occupied by a gang of Chinese railroaders, who got to quarrelling among themselves, and the quarrel wound up in quite a tragic poisoning affair, that resulted in the death of two, and nearly killed a third. The Chinese are nothing, if not superstitious, and since this affair no Chinaman would sleep in the bunk-house or work on this section; consequently the building remains empty. The "spooks" of murdered Chinese are everything but agreeable company; nevertheless they are preferable to inhospitable whites, and I walk over to the house and stretch my weary frame in - for aught I know - the same bunk in which, but a few days ago, reposed the ghastly corpses of the poisoned Celestials. Despite the unsavory memories clinging around the place, and my pillowless and blanketless couch, I am soon in the land of dreams. It is scarcely presumable that one would be blessed with rosy-hued visions of pleasure under such conditions, however, and near midnight I awake in a cold shiver. The snowy mountains rear their white heads up in the silent night, grim and ghostly all around, and make the midnight air chilly, even in midsummer. I lie there, trying in vain to doze off again, for it grows perceptibly cooler. At two o'clock I can stand it no longer, and so get up and strike out for Battle Mountain, twenty miles ahead.