My favorite quote about Lake Tahoe that is not a Twain quote comes from a compelling 1860 book by J. Ross Brown, A Peep at Washoe.
“To dyspeptics, consumptives, and broken-down stock-brokers I have a word of advice to offer: If you want your digestive apparatus put in complete order, so that brickbats will stick to your ribs without inconvenience, spend a month with my friend Martin at the Lake House; if your bronchial tubes distress you swallow a few thousand gallons of Lake Tahoe air, and you can blow bellows blasts from your lungs forever after; if your nervous system is deranged by bad speculations in stocks, bowl nine pins and row one of Martin’s boats for six weeks, and I venture to affirm stocks will rise a thousand per cent. It is all a matter of health in the long-run; with good digestion and a sound nervous system there is no trouble in life; and for these ends there is no place like Tahoe.”
Virginia City? I must defer to Twain’s travel book of 1872, “Roughing It.”
“Virginia had grown to be the ‘livest’ town, for its age and population that America had ever produced. The sidewalks swarmed with people--to such an extent, indeed, that it was generally no easy matter to stem the human tide. The streets themselves were just as crowded with quartz wagons, freight teams and other vehicles. Joy sat on every countenance, and there was a glad, almost fierce, intensity in every eye, that told of the money-getting schemes that were seething in every brain and the high hope that held sway in every heart. Money was as plenty as dust; every individual considered himself wealthy, and a melancholy countenance was nowhere to be seen. There were military companies, fire companies, brass bands, hurdy-gurdy houses, wide-open gambling palaces, a whiskey mill every fifteen steps, a large police force, a dozen breweries, a half a dozen jails, and some talk of building a church.”
There are many interesting facts and figures about modern Nevada that might surprise Messrs. Brown & Twain. For example, the exact odds of hitting a natural Royal Flush on any video poker machine is 645,253 to 1 … they played Faro.
Another number those two raconteurs might find difficult to comprehend comes from the extrapolation that it would take 288 years for one person to spend one night in every hotel room in Las Vegas.
Though in possession of fewer laws than most states, we do still have some archaic laws on the books. In Nyala a man is forbidden from buying drinks for more than three people other than himself at any one period during the day. Your first question might be, “Can a woman buy more than three drinks?”
I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Although Nevada allows legalized prostitution, our seventeen counties are given the right to prohibit the practice. The counties that do not allow prostitution include Carson City, Clark, Douglas, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Pershing and Washoe Counties, or 8 out of 17.
In closing, Ross Brown and Mark Twain might be comforted to know, in Nevada we can still do pretty much whatever we want to do, ‘long as nobody gets hurt and we don’t frighten the horses.
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at www.ghostoftwain.org.