The Amalgamator - Skidoo 1909
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We passed a dozen or so of the old twenty-mule team high-wheeled borax wagons parked off the road. It was very cold out and we were very lucky to catch a ride the last two hours out of Rhyolite with a teamster going our way. As we came into Rhyolite we got off the wagon and went to a two-story frame hotel and got a room upstairs. We had hot water brought up and cleaned the hand. The swelling being gone, I paid no heed to Potts urging that I see a doctor. Potts was hungry but I was cold and do not remember ever feeling colder. After going to a drugstore and having the hand bandaged with antiphlegistine on the wound, we went into a large saloon with two big cherry-red coal stoves, and a long bar with Tom and Jerry bowls along it. I finally got warmed through, and to this day am very fond of Tom and Jerry.
The next day, about two in the afternoon, we left by Tonapah and Tidewater narrow-gage train for Ludlow on the main line of the Santa Fe. We arrived in Ludlow toward midnight, and being informed that the train from the east was delayed by storm, we went to a hotel and to bed, with word to call us. We were called about six in the morning, and as the train was late, the conductor polled the train to find out about stopping for breakfast at Barstow.
We had had no news at Skidoo about the burning of the Harvey House at Barstow, so being a bit slow in getting off, and noticing the crowd going into a restaurant opposite where the depot had been, I therefore went down the street to a large restaurant and sat down at a table, when suddenly I realized it was run by Chinese. Then I noticed a small Chinaman standing beside me, who said, "When you see Jim Hodgeman last?"
I recognized him and told him I was in a hurry, being from the train, and without a word he left. He was back with breakfast for me, apparently remembering the things I liked. I finished my breakfast and went to the counter where the Chinaman was standing, I pushed open the cigar case and took three cigars, placing two in my vest pocket. I was about to cut the other when he took my cigars, and put out a box of Principe do Gales, three for 50 cents. Two he placed in my pocket and one he clipped and put in my mouth and lighted it for me. I shoved a silver dollar across the counter and he pushed it back saying, "Your money no good here." I have never seen the Chinaman since, but I would sure like, sometime in God's plan for our souls future, to meet up with this real Chinese gentleman and friend.
I came home to my wife and child, to find the doctor there treating my wife for some slight illness. He told me, after looking at my hand, that I had done as good a job as he could have done, and left me some alum to burn to prevent proud flesh.
I stayed in Los Angeles about a week and had talks with Bob Montgomery, and started back to Skidoo with a new outfit of heavy underwear, socks and shirts, wrapped in a bundle about four feet in length and twelve inches in diameter, wrapped with a new white canvas.
There was a combination train from Barstow to Johannesburg, which had one passenger car that had one end partitioned off for a smoking compartment with two seats facing each other on either side. On one side facing each other were John Singleton, one of the owners of the Yellow Aster Mine, and myself. Similarly, on the opposite side of the car sat Ed Robinson, stage driver from Ballarat to Skidoo, who had been on a short vacation to Los Angeles, and Harry Cheesebrough, whose uncle did a lot of teaming around Randsburg, and also had the mail-carrying contract from Johannesburg to Ballarat.
We all had suitcases, each containing several bottles of whiskey. Harry opened a quart of Sunnybrook and passed it to Ed who in turn passed it to me, each of us taking a drink. I passed it to Mr. Singleton who said, "I don’t want your rot gut", but picked up a paper bag containing a bottle which he had sitting on the floor, from which he drank without taking the bottle from the paper bag, so that we could not see what kind of whiskey it was. Each of us carrying a bottle of Sunnybrook, we had several more drinks along the way, each time John refusing and going through the same procedure. Finally, I said, " John, your whiskey is probably no better than ours." Picking up the paper bag and withdrawing the bottle, I saw it was labeled "Sunnybrook", and we all had a hearty laugh at John's expense.
The driver of the stage from Johannesburg to Ballarat was a Chilean Indian named Manuel who would throw out the mail, including the registered sack with gold bullion bars from Skidoo in front of the Joeburg post office and shout, "Here's the mail," without getting a receipt for it until he had come back from taking care of his horses. When we left Johannesburg next morning, the stage was full of men on their way to the Panamint mountains to relocate claims.
There was a great deal of baggage, including my bundle, tied on behind. There being so many men on the stage, immediately on arrival at Ballarat I rushed across the road to get a room, as accommodations there were limited. Then I went back to the post office for my bundle, which was nowhere to be found.
I went back to the hotel and had the proprietor go with me to search the rooms, thinking some of the men had gotten my bundle by mistake. The rest of the men had gone to supper in the dining room. We did not find the bundle, so being late for supper, I took the one remaining chair at the table. On my left was a bleary eyed man, very drunk. He had a large revolver on the table on my side of his plate. He looked at me and kept muttering, "I guess I ought to shoot you." I jollied him along by such remarks as, "you wouldn't shoot a man before he finished his meal," nevertheless keeping a close eye on him so that if he grabbed for the gun, I could prevent him from using it. Finally I finished my supper and was able to go to my room and to bed with no further trouble.
At six in the morning, Ed Robinson and I, having finished our breakfast, went out to start our journey on to Skidoo. It was barely daylight, and in turning to the north as we left the town, I saw something white which looked as if it might be my bundle, out in a large vacant lot. Ed stopped, and I recovered my bundle, intact. I realized then that it had been stolen to delay me, by some of the men who thought I was on my way to jump claims in the Panamints. We continued on toward Skidoo and stopped for lunch in the Wild Rose Canyon, this being a stopping place for the stage to change horses.
Indian Johnny, a Piute Indian in his forties, was there with his eighty-year-old mother, with snow-white hair which she curled. He told me there was no food at the Rancheria there on the reservation, so I gave him a can of peaches which he opened, and drank the juice off instead of offering any to his mother; I took the can from his hand and gave it to his mother.
We duly arrived in Skidoo. I found the mill shut down and the pipes all frozen. Al Davis had men trying to thaw out the pipes by wrapping them with waste soaked in distillate, and burning. They were making no headway, as at night it was much colder, although they burned at night also. I tried to get Mr. Montgomery, through telegraph from Mr. Davis, to let me take the pipe apart and lay it out in the sun on the inclined hillside, and let the water run out during the day, and then repipe the mill; but he refused to allow this.
For about two weeks we tried burning the waste over the pipes, and finding it useless, gave up and quit the job. Coming back to Los Angeles, we heard shortly afterward that the mill had burned down.