NevadaGram #107 – Squaw Tom, Mike O’Callaghan and Sam Clemens


I wish I could tell you how I missed this one when we were gathering Tom’s stories for the collection published a few years ago. It’s an extension to one of the stories that made it into the book, but went overlooked at the time. I also wish I could tell you where it has been hiding all this time, and how it came to light just now.

photo by Bill Germino
Squaw Tom, 1977.
Cover Design by White Sage Studio, Virginia City
34 of Squaw Tom’s stories have been collected in book form. “Squaw Tom Speaks: Stories From Old Nevada” is available at bookstores around the state and at our online book store, and is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.

But I can’t. One day it was on the desktop of a computer that came along long after the book was published. How did it get there? I don’t know. However it happened, here’s the first “new” Squaw Tom story in more than 30 years:

Well, this is a little addition to the Silver City story I forgot to add on last time. Business kind of picked up at this boarding house and the girl had to go to school, so this lady hired a friend of hers from Mountana, cooking and waiting on tables. Well, I noticed this gal when she came to work. She was a good looking woman, and I noticed she had an apron on her all the time.

Well, I could smell saddle leather on her, you know, I looked around and wondered where that saddle leather was. You know, I’ve got an awful good nose. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink much and anything that don’t look right, I can smell it. I can smell a rattlesnake and stuff that other people can’t smell. And I could smell that harness leather on her.

I told my partner, “Say, I think that gal carries a big old hog leg on her.”

E-Mail of the Month
Photo from Winson Hong's calendar
I just stumbled across your tale of Indian Johnny [in NevadaGram #99] with appropriate news clips. I had looked into the situation myself, although not in that detail, back in 1971 when I began working for Mike O’Callaghan. When he moved into the governor’s office, that picture of John Sparks sat on the table pictured. He asked me about it, I researched it, and told him. Some days later I walked into the office, clearly of course the office and table in the picture, and found Mike sitting at the table looking at the picture. He said, “I think I’ll keep this here. It says that there have been tough decisions made in this room. Life and death decisions. And that is my job now, but other men have done it before me, and others will afterward.”

I think he found comfort in that picture during his eight years in the office. Occasionally the picture would be moved to a side table. Perhaps because of a meeting, or papers spread out on the table. But Mike would always move it back to the table.

Bob Stewart
Carson City


“Aw,” he said, “you’re nuts.” He says. “You’re always smelling something on people.” Well, the reason is that I don’t smoke. I can be in a boarding house and if the food just ain’t right, I can smell it. And that’s the way I been all my life. I can smell rattlesnakes, they smell like cucumbers; whenever you smell cucumbers, look around, you’ll find a rattlesnake.

But anyway, we was boarding there and one night we was eating supper and this gal was waiting on the tables and there was some guy come in there,

photo by Robin Cobbey.
This road leads into the Clan Alpine Mountains to the north of US 50, a pleasant drive away from the pavement. Please close gate.

big, tall slim feller. He caught this woman unawares, he hit her with something he had, and he knocked her down.

Well, before the miners could get out of this bench — you know, your legs are all tangled up in that bench, why if one guy got out of that bench, he’d knock everybody off — before the miners could get off this bench to pull this guy off her, he started putting the boots to her.

And you know, her hand went under that apron. And boy, she whipped her hand out from under there with a 32. pistol and she shot.

And her on the ground laying there, shooting up, she shot that guy right between the eyes, right above the nose; hit him right there and down he went.

So us miners, we got ahold of this guy and we drug him out. We didn’t want him to bleed the boarding house up, our eating place. We grabbed him by the legs and we just dragged him out on the porch and dumped him over the porch.

Well, they got the constable there, some kind of a lawman, he had a star, the constable or sheriff, I don’t know. He come over there and then he called the undertaker. They was going to load him up . . . and he started moving!

Photo by foreign tourist
Highway art installation on [location deleted in case the folks at Headquarters don’t appreciate impromptu public art as much as I do]. “Such brilliant technique!” exclaimed a tourist who had stopped to see the exhibit. “It looks almost real!” In fact it was real: the coyote had been hit by a car a few days before and was still in a nearby ditch as the highway crew came slowly applying the white line along the shoulder of the road. The resulting art work — road-kill elevated to street art? — may turn out to be the best thing the State did all summer long, and I give that crew a standing ovation.
They figured he wasn’t dead then, so they got the doctor and they took him someplace . . . I think the doctor just took him in his office and he got a pair of tweezers and he fished in that hole where the bullet was and pulled it out. He put some medicine in there and he put some dope in there.

See, the bullet didn’t blow his brains out; it just went in there about the length of the bullet right in his head. I don’t know, it must have been the way he was astanding and the way the woman was ashooting, and of course that powder in that bullet might not have been too strong either. Anyway, they fished it out with a pair of tweezers. And they put a patch on it. And the constable told him to get out of town, if he caught him in town he’d lock him up.

Later on I went to Reno and I seen him walking around town with that patch on his head. I don’t know if it ever healed up, never did see him anymore.

Well that’s the end of that.

photo courtesy Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
The $10,000 fish

Quick notes from beyond the mountains: In early October a lucky fisherman from Shingletown California caught a 3-pound cutthroat trout worth $10,000 at the north end of Pyramid Lake. He was one of more than 100 fishermen entered in the 2nd Annual Pyramid Lake $50,000 Cutthroat Challenge. The event featured 25 trout that were tagged and randomly placed around the lake. Five of the fish were worth $10,000 each; the remaining 20 tagged fish won various other prizes if caught.

photo courtesy Jan Duke
Dayton has lost a good friend Retired Sergeant Charles Duke

The event marked the opening weekend of fishing season at Pyramid Lake, and the Tribe invites fishermen of all ages and skill levels to come out and enjoy the world class fishing this season. The prize money is all gone, but the fun remains. For more information about fishing and other recreation at Pyramid Lake, please visit the website or call 1-888-225-2668 . . . . . . Everyone is invited to the unveiling of the major new bronze sculpture, “Visions of the Elephant” The California Trail Interpretive Center on I-80 at the Hunter offramp about ten miles west of Elko. The five piece grouping is the second big bronze at the Center by DiAnne Cooper; she did the wonderful “Miner Sees the Elephant” sculpture also. In addition to the unveiling, visitors are invited to view the other new sculptures, exhibits and the interpretive panels that are now a permanent part of the interpretive plaza. Activities will begin at 2:00 pm Saturday October 23, it’s free and you can get more information at 738-1849 . . .

Overheard in 1976 from Squaw Tom at Ray’s Tahoe Beer House, the same Silver City boarding house where he had lived in the 1920s: “I don’t smoke and I don’t drink much and anything that don’t look right, I can smell it.”

Happy Highways,

David W. Toll



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