NevadaGram #207 – Squaw Tom, The Picon Drinker and the Guy from Tahoe


Fate and circumstance have decreed that this month’s NevadaGram will feature Squaw Tom Sanders at the top of the page. This is one of the stories that won him the Nevada Press Association’s First Place award for Writing by a Rural Correspondent in the Gold Hill NEWS in 1975. Truth be told, he didn’t write his stories at all; he told them, spoke them into a cassette tape recorder and one of us at the paper wold transcribe them. His stories about Native American life in Nevada of the 1920s – 1970s are unique, and this is one of my favorites, a short police procedural, with a wry twist at the end:

“ALBERT HICKS, Indian Police”

This is a story that happened in the 1920s, sometime in the ’20s. They had an Indian Police in Fallon named Albert Hicks. He just died, right after Christmas.

Squaw Tom (Tom Sanders)
Squaw Tom Sanders, photo by Susan Orr

Anyways, there was three fellers, they stole some valuable horses, saddle horses. Well, they had a bunch of deputies, one thing and another, and they wanted to learn tracking, how to track, and they was trying to learn from Albert Hicks.

Well, they was follerin’ the horse tracks. They tracked ‘em quite a ways out in the desert, ya know, and after a while they come to a place where they had camped. It looked like they was aheadin’ towards Austin.

Well, they found this place where these three horse thieves had camped overnight.

These guys were professional horse thieves, outlaws, and they was stealin’ these valuable saddle horses.

Anyway they found this camp, and the posses was on their horses ready to ride on. And Albert Hicks got down and explored around that camp. He was lookin’ at the tracks.

And he found a place where the three fellas had stood in a row and took a piss. And he says to these posses and these deputies, “You fellers want to learn about tracking you come over here and take a look.” So they come over to where he was studying the tracks.

And Albert Hicks he says, “Well this guy here is a man about 26 years old. And the guy that pissed in the middle, why he is about 62 years old. And the guy on the other end here, why he’s about 35, 36 years old.”

And the deputies and stuff they was lookin’ at the ground and they said, “How in the hell can you tell the age just by looking where a man pissed?”

“Well,” he says, “that’s the difference between the white man and the Indian.” He says, “The Indian’s got better eyes than the white man. You don’t see nothin’. All you can see is where they stood and took a leak, and that’s all you know.”

He says, “You know, I’m an Indian and I study things. You fellas, you let a lot of stuff get away from ya. You got to be a tracker for a long time to remember this stuff.”

So he got a piece of paper and a pencil and he made a picture of where these guys was astandin’ see, the way their feet was and the other guy in the middle, and the other guy. And after they took a leak, why they all got aboard and they left.

And they was lookin’ you know, and the posses wanted to learn to be a tracker like an Indian, and they says, “Well, how can ya tell?”

“Well,” he says, “you look at the tracks here. How you can tell the age.”

Well they looked and looked and they couldn’t make out nothin’.

“Wal,” he says, “lookahere. This is the difference between the white man and the Indian. You see this track, number one?”


“Well do you see anything different here?” And he put this mark way out there where the guy took a leak. “When he is a young man you know he could piss way out there.”

“Yeah, well…..”

“And this man here, he’s older. Ya know he’s got trouble with his kidneys. He’s got trouble, he can’t piss good. Damn near pissed in his shoes. See here? Pissed straight down. He’s an old man.”

“And this guy here, he’s not young but he’s a little older. He just pissed half way to where the other guy pissed.”

Well it took three or four days before they caught up with them three. And they finally caught ‘em and took ‘em to the jail at Austin, stuck ‘em in there. And their ages was just what Albert Hicks said they was. One guy was 27, the other guy was 62 and the guy on the end was 36.

And Albert Hicks, he told them posses, “Well, that’s the difference between an Indian and a white man. Indians look at everything. White man’d pass up a good lead. When you’re trackin’ you’ve got to look for everything.”

But you know, this Albert Hicks he might of knowed them guys, too, ya know. ‘Cause he knew a lot of horse thieves. He mighta knowed all the time who they was trackin’.

I think he was just playin’ a joke on them posses.

R.I.P. Squaw Tom Sanders 1900 – 1980

[Our Bookstore is closed just now, but we have a few copies of Squaw Tom Speaks available for $20 postpaid; email for details]

Editor’s Choice —

Wild Camping in the Toiyabe Mountains of Nevada

Wild Camping

by Deon Reynolds

We’ve been houseless for over a hundred days now. The first month or so, we spent the majority of our time relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors. Relaxing was something neither one of us had an opportunity to experience for quite some time and experiencing the great outdoors is something both of us enjoy very much. Not to mention, I think the two work out quite well together.

Read More Here

Bikepacking in Northern Nevada

Kurstin Graham rides Water Boy into Buena Vista Valley

East Range Loop

by Kurstin Graham

I was having a tough time figuring where to go on this trip. I had just spent some time near Sand Mountain and I need to plan my route between Sand Mountain and the Oregon border at McDermitt.

One thought was to ride from Stillwater Wildlife Refuge to Ryepatch Reservoir. I also considered driving to McDermitt and start working my way south. I decided it was too much driving for a day trip. In scanning around the maps I landed on a road out of Mill City, crossing the Buena Vista Valley, into the East Range, then looping south before dropping into the Buena Vista Valley. Finding dirt roads that form a loop can be a challenge so I went for it.  Read More Here

The Fellowship of Highway 95

Rhyolite Nevada with diamonds

Making Friends in a Nevada Ghost Town

Inside jokes can be like mementos among friends. They can last a lifetime, or, in the case of Francesca Berrini and Lindsey Rickert — the recipients of “The Fellowship of Highway 95” — they can elevate a donkey to mythical status.

The second day of the Fellowship, a week-long artistic journey from Las Vegas to Reno up Nevada’s “Free-Range Art Highway” organized by Atlas Obscura and TravelNevada, began at the Atomic Inn in Beatty with a top-of-the-morning bray. Hearing a suspicious rustle outside of their hotel room, Berrini and Rickert clambered outside to check on their camper van. They were greeted by “a sweet-faced burro from the hills,” as Berrini wrote in her travel journal that evening.          Read It All Here

Elko’s Iconic Bear to be Overhauled

Iconic Polar Bear at the Commercial Hotel, Elko Nevada

White King to get facelift

Old Chicago Pizza is no longer destined to reside within the confines of the Commercial Casino. Instead, grant monies destined to fix up the building’s façade in preparation for the possible construction of the pizzeria and taproom will be directed at restoring the iconic polar bears which have greeted visitors and residents alike for more than 40 years.

Northern Star Casinos, owners of the Commercial Hotel, Stockmen’s Casino and the Scoreboard, were approved for a $25,000 Storefront Improvement Grant earlier this year.          Read It All Here

Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram — Nevada Day

IT IS NEVADA DAY, the grandest 72-hour day of our year, and the great Nevada Day Parade in Carson City on Saturday is its most splendid expression, a gaudy 3-hour procession of floats, bands and marching groups, heart-felt and authentic.
Balloons over Carson City, Nevada Day 2013



The parade began months ago of course, and is the Grand Finale of elaborate planning and preparation. Volunteers mark off the staging points for the 200 parade entries before sunrise, with anxious looks up into the crack of dawn. Will it be sun today or snow? Sun!

The parade was more than the floats and the marchers and the bands and the horses, it was the beautiful day, the trees aflame in the sun, the families, the traditions, the beer, the burgers, the ting-ting-ting of the single jacks driving into granite, the memories. It is pleasing to think the spirit of the state was held in suspension within that clear clean air just in from the mountains, and maybe for a little while it was.



And when the parade ended, yet another event began, this one in the amphitheater to the south of the capitol: the Beard Contest. This is a big batch of eye-candy as every style of whiskerino is represented, from the Edwardian dandy to the visigoth. Eight different categories of beard are recognized by the judges, and each category had numerous candidates.

Carson City on Nevada Day looks pretty much like Carson City always does on Nevada Day, but Carson City on an ordinary day shows some interesting new developments. The downtown bars and restaurants are almost a District. Carson City almost has a Scene. And there are about 20 lodgings properties now, even without the Ormsby House being quiiiiite ready, so the town can accommodate visitors. Something is percolating here. Read the whole thing here

Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram — 1908 – The Great Race Redux – 2008

Speedster repairs, Great Race ReduxMechanical difficulties plagued several of the cars, but the most dramatic calamity befell Ray and Pat when the 1930 Chevrolet Speedster lost its throw-out bearing in Montello, in far northeastern Nevada. Efforts to repair it were futile, and replacement parts were unavailable (although someone suggested that Walt, at the Birch Brothers Garage in Ely, might be able to help), so they did what you have to do in that situation: they jammed it into gear and drove on.

Unable to shift gears, they finessed the traffic lights in Wendover, and weathered the rain that crashed down as they pressed on to Ely.

Speedster at Twin Springs Ranch, Great Race ReduxThe rain had stopped when they pulled into the parking lot behind the Hotel Nevada, but Walt couldn’t be found so they went to Sportsworld to buy a hockey puck in hopes of fabricating a new bearing. To their astonishment, this big sporting goods store doesn’t stock hockey pucks. “In Canada every store has hockey pucks,” they told me.

A second call to Walt was successful, and they explained they needed a throw out bearing for a 1930 Chevrolet Speedster. Silence, and then Walt said, “I think I have something that will work.” They hurried down Aultman Street to the garage, but Walt wasn’t there. Spirits sinking, they waited . . . and waited . . . until Walt appeared holding the throwout bearing for a 1930 Chevrolet Speedster. “Is this what you’re looking for?” he asked.

Another hour on the wet asphalt under the car and the speedster was as good as new.

Read the whole thing here

15 Years Ago in the NevadaGram — Winnemucca and Austin

New Year's Eve in Austin NevadaOn the last day of 2003 Austin will hold an afternoon Brandy & Smoker for men and a Tea & Social for women, followed by a grand Gala Dinner and Ball with everyone decked out in their late 19th century finery. Here’s an article about it from the Las Vegas SUN.

It’s thrilling to see the old city flowering again. The gala New Year’s Ball will be a delightful spectacle, and it may be a whole new day a-dawning for Austin.

Winnemucca, recently anointed America’s “Best Wild West Town” by True West magazine, is now a candidate for selection as an American Dream Town. French Ford NevadaThree communities are nominated from each state, votes are collected online, and the winner is the one with the highest vote total at the chime of midnight 12/31/03. You can cast a vote here. The other Nevada candidates are Virginia City and Henderson. As a resident of Gold Hill, I can tell you Virginia City is a great place to visit . . . and Henderson’s many virtues are much more apparent in the real world than in dreams. My nominations for Nevada Dream Towns: Baker, Eureka, Yerington, Belmont, Boulder City and Black Rock City, pick any three — wait, Black Rock City is a dream.

Parting Shot —
Gunmetal Mine ruins near Mina Nevada

Gunmetal Mine near Mina Nevada, photo by Gage Smith on Nevada’s Dirt Roads



  1. thanks for the great history stories ! squaw tom is also one of my heroes . i first heard his story of how to blow up a horse in the late 70’/80’s . i was hooked . i stumbled on to a book about him at a muesum in carson city . what a life story . please add me to your e-mail list . thanx again jim prince ,madras oregon


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