NevadaGram #97 – Squaw Tom’s ‘Cat Queedup’ and uniquely delightful experiences in Carson City, Fallon and Eureka.

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Last year I introduced you to to Tom Sanders. Squaw Tom he was called, because he married Indian women, and he wore the name with pride. In that NevadaGram he told the story called “Horse Guts”, about building a road near Mono Lake back in 1917.

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.

Now he’s back with another story called “Cat Queedup”, about an incident when he was working in Carson City in the 1930s.

I chose this story to include in this NevadaGram because it was selected to be read aloud at a poetry reading at the Gallery Bar in Elko. Tom was a story-teller, not a story writer, and he told all his stories aloud. In fact, despite being selected as the best columnist in any weekly newspaper in the state in 1976, he could barely read or write. He spoke his stories into a tape recorder, sometimes making several drafts before he was satisfied. Then the tape was transcribed for publication in The Gold Hill NEWS. So, listen closely to his gravely voice

Well, here’s a little story I’m goin’ ta tell you about. It happened in Carson City. I was workin’ for a curb and gutter contractor, bridge builder, a cement contractor. He had a big job buildin’ curb and gutter all over Carson. The name of this outfit was Holmes and Saxon. They were from Reno. Oh, they had about 25 men workin’ there, laborers and one thing and another.

I was workin’ in the cement gang, puttin’ up the forms for curb and gutter. We was workin’ about ten hours a day, and makin’ good money. I worked on two or three jobs for these guys. I worked for ’em in Reno and in Hawthorne and then in Carson.

I showed ’em how to make more curb and gutter — I did it a little different from them guys and made a little better time. I always try to help a guy I’m working for.

Twice in the last three years I hiked up the wrong canyon in attempts to find the Park Canyon ore bucket and tram, which is located about 40 miles south of Austin. Two weeks ago I did better, when I hiked up the unnamed canyon to the right of the Left Branch Road (which is the true Park Canyon). But the way to reach the cabin, mine and ore bucket is to jeep up the left Branch Road, then hike about a mile to the prize.
On the map the steep road to the right (not really a road but an exceedingly steep brush-covered trail way) has a spur that goes to the right. That’s where I hiked two years ago. Two weeks ago I hiked around the hill surrounded by the road-trail and to the left and then gave up, seeing nothing far ahead. Had I hiked further up I would have eventually met up with the prize.
Next year I will go to the left branch road and drive up a long way, then hike to the prize. I will be 70, but still will do it!!!
Incidentally, in another canyon further south is another ore tram with terminal in place. I saw that three years ago.

Stan Paher
Author/Publisher “Nevada Ghost Towns & Desert Atlas”

Well, I was there in Carson anailin’ forms. And there was a cat climbed up in one of them big cottonwood trees there in Carson. The top was sawed off, just two big topped off stumps about 30 feet high. And a big cat climbed up there. And this cat was agoin’ “Meeeooow, meeeooew,” It was up there a couple of days.

And finally the boss says to me, “Tom, I’ve got an extension ladder in the truck there.” Course they had a flat rack truck they hauled these forms in. And he brought the ladder down.

He says, “I want you to climb up that extension ladder and see if you can get that cat down.”

“Well,” I says, “I tell ya. That cat got up there. He ought to be able to get down.” And I says, “Ya know I’ve had experience with cats, gettin’ ’em down outa trees. They’re dangerous.”

“Aah, naw,” he says.

“You don’t get me up there with that cat,” I says. So he tried to get another guy to climb up that tree. And I kind of winked at him. And he says he couldn’t climb up in that tree, the height would bother him, make him fall off.

So the boss started to climb up there. I says, “Why don’t you get a fireman to do that? They got nets and equipment to get him out. You get up there and that cat’ll scratch the hell out of you.”

Well, he got kind of smart with me. He was mad. So he went up that tree. He had a hard hat on, and when he climbed up there he tried to catch the cat up where the stump forked.

He got way up there, and he grabbed for the cat, and the cat jumped from one of those big limbs to the other, and knocked his hat off. And when that hat fell on the ground, why the cat jumped on top of his head.

That was a Siamese cat, and God! when she jumped on top of his head she

scratched the hell out of him. Say, she dug in back feet, front feet, and he was ball-headed anyway. She was goin’ “MEEOOOOW!, MEEEOOOW!” and just scratchin’ hell out of his ball head. And then she queedup, and it ran down off the top of his head into his eyes and blinded him.

And he was up there on top of that ladder wavin’ his arms and ahollerin’, “Somebody get a gun.”

How ya gonna shoot a cat off of the top of a guy’s head while he’s dancin’ around on top of 30-foot ladder?

Wal, that cat crapped all over his head, and then she jumped off onto the ground, no trouble at all. And when she jumped she scratched the top of his head worse than ever. Say, he was ahollerin’ and screamin’.

He had a hell of a time getting down offa that ladder. And when he got down he was a hell of a lookin’ man. Cat queedup and blood down his face and ears and the back of his neck. And stink! Ya know, I couldn’t help but laugh.

I guess he’d a knocked the hell out of me if he’d have seen. And he got one of the fellas to drive him over to the houspital in his pickup truck. He was bleedin’ like hell. Say, them Siamese cats, they’re dangerous.

Squaw Tom Sanders, 1900-1980

Well, at the houspital the nurse asked him what happened. He told her a cat jumped on his head. And she started to laugh. Well, you couldn’t help it. They got his head into a kind of big sink there, and got some warm water, and washed all the crap and blood offa his head. Say, that cat really chopped him up. Marinated his ball head real good.

And then the doctor come in there, and pretty soon he was laughin’ too. That boss was fightin’ mad. The doctors had their work cut out for ’em, quite a job scrubbin’ all them scratches. They worked on him about three hours, I guess

Well, I was still aworkin’ on them frames when come back, nailin’ up the frames for the curb and gutter. His head had a big bandage on like a turban, and he was still mad. If it’d been me, he’d of laughed like hell — he couldn’t help it. But it happened to him and he was sore. Well, I just couldn’t hold myself and I bust out laughing. The other guys on the crew was afraid to laugh but I just let go.

He fired me that night. Well, I didn’t mind. I could get work anywhere. But ya know, I used to see that guy around, Reno, one place and another, and the scratches when they healed up, they left these scars all over his ball head. You could see where they’d been stitched up.

If it’d a happened to me, he’d be laughin’ yet. But it happened to him and he wanted to fight. Say, it was funny.

Wasabi’s, Minden

A few weeks back Robin and I fed the chickens early and headed out for a night on the town — two towns, actually. First to Minden for sushi (no, you’re not hallucinating: sushi in Minden at Wasabi’s, and very good it is) and then to Carson City where we went nightclubbing. Yes, nightclubbing in Carson City. This was an evening of one pleasant surprise after another.

We found our way to B’Sghetti’s (on Carson Street in the heart of town), a good restaurant despite its name, but instead of the bar

or the dining room, we descended into the Plan B MicroLounge. It was dimly but dramatically lighted, with polka dots of light wandering across the walls. Maybe 50 people sat around the room, silent, while June Joplin stood in the spotlight, singing sultry. Bob Reid was in the darkness behind her, laying down lily pads with his keyboard for June to skip across, with drummer Jeffrey Scott setting the pace and Speedy Garfin pulling her along with clarinet, saxophone and flute solos right out of the jazzmaster’s playbook.

June Joplin at Plan B

I was sure we had fallen through the looking glass, or down the rabbit hole or whatever it is that delivers you straight from Carson City to New York or Paris or . . . heaven.

June and her talented pals get together from time to time to enchant the locals at Plan B. See you there. But you don’t have to wait! Right now in the privacy of your own home or office you can put on your sparkles, mix yourself a martini, turn the lights down low and get a little taste right here.

We used to slide right on through Fallon with only a stop for provisions at Raley’s and maybe gasoline, depending, but now we almost always have something else in mind as well.

Often this something has to do with an activity or event at the Oats Park Arts Center, and while attending a recent function there we discovered that there are more dining options than just the wonderful Overland Hotel. Three others that we like are the Courtyard Cafe at Highway 50 and Main Street next to the little Centennial Park, the Apple Tree Restaurant at 40 E. Center, and the Slanted Porch at 310 S. Taylor Street. Try them and you’ll see why we stop for meals in Fallon now.

Lattin Farms, 1955 McLean Road, Fallon

But this time we stopped to visit Lattin Farms. This family enterprise keeps innovating ways to share their agricultural produce and know-how, most famously with their annual Corn Maze, but now too with a Growers Market offering fresh seasonal produce from local farms from 7am to 6pm every day but Sunday. Located at 1955 McLean Road (Click here for Map), which slants off US 50 to the southeast on the west side of town, the property is beautifully flower-bordered with a large open structure devoted to the display and sale of farm produce. They participate in Farmers Markets all over the region, but this is like an ongoing Farmers Market open every day.

Lattin Farms Growers Market

We bought melons, four different kinds, and they were all delicious. The Maze, by the way, is open Fridays (5 – 8 pm) and Saturdays (10 am – 8 pm) through October 31. Prices: $7 for Adults, $5 for children under 14. A very cool place.

The Eureka Farmers Market

We went on to Eureka for a few days and were charmed by the local Farmers Market there. It should really be called a Farmers Boutique because it’s so small and select, with about a dozen vendors. All of them are locals, living within a few miles of town, and they’ve brought fruits, vegetables, bread and pies that they’ve lovingly tended and created. It’s like a tiny county fair, with only the first prize winners exhibiting.

Joe Conforte, now living large in Rio

I mentioned a while back that I am completing work on the autobiography of Joe Conforte, and that I would post excerpts from time to time. I have already posted the story of his introduction into the sex trade in 1950 here. This time the passage is much more recent, from 1997, when Joe had been out of the U.S. for six years, and beyond the reach of the law after being indicted for a variety of federal offenses two years earlier. Read it here, in his own words.

Quick notes from beyond the mountains: The Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on Mount Charleston was the first resort west of

Skiers and snowboarders are already at play on Mount Charleston

the Continental Divide to open this year. Hours are 9 am to 4 pm weekends only until conditions allow additional terrain to open. Lift ticket prices are reduced to $20 and base area services include equipment rental, instruction, BBQ and Bar . . . The Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah has been sold at auction. The historic property, built in 1908 and long the leading landmark of the city, went for more than half a million dollars to a San Diego investment firm on September 16. Jim Marsh, the Las Vegas automobile dealer who has saved other important properties in central Nevada, was in the bidding up to $350,000 before dropping out. The new owner has promised to spend “several million dollars” to restore the Mizpah to its prideful place at the center of the old city . . . Sand Harbor’s boat ramp is closed because of low water at Lake Tahoe. The parking lot is open for carry-in boat access only. All other boaters should use the Cave Rock boat ramp facility . . . In downtown Las Vegas there’s a

Thirsty Thursday in downtown Las Vegas

Thirsty Third Thursday Pub Crawl at 7 pm on the third Thursday of every month. It begins at Hennessey’s Tavern, 425 Fremont Street. Everyone gets 6 drinks and half-price food, all for $15! The pub crawl takes you to six popular downtown saloons, starting at Hennessey’s tavern, then on to Mickie Finn’s, Brass Saloon, Hogs & Heifers, Beauty Bar, Brass the Lounge, and the Side Bar. The announcement promises free live entertainment, which, after 6 drinks is probably watching the participants crawl to the taxicabs taking them home. 702-382-4421 to RSVP . . .
There’s a plan brewing up to celebrate Edna Purviance‘s 115th birthday with a big party in Winnemucca next October. Edna was born in Paradise Valley in 1895 and became Charlie Chaplin’s leading lady in 1914. Her bio is here. She starred opposite Charlie in nearly 40 of the movies that made him an

international star, and until he met Lita Grey she was his main squeeze. If it happens, the Winnemucca affair would be an Edna Purviance Film Festival, with searchlights, limousines, tuxedos and a red carpet, plus a guided tour of Paradise Valley the next day . . . I enjoy the website and have recommended it often here, but I draw the line at shoe trees. I hate them. They are an insult to the eye, to the tree, and to Mom Nature Herself. It’s not the vulgarity that upsets me — I like vulgarity — it’s the ugliness. A shoe tree is like graffitti minus the esthetic appeal. I don’t understand why this kind of vandalism is permitted, much less encouraged . . . And as long as I’m in a cranky mood, what about the Virginia City Outhouse Races, with its StinkE Day long johns and bloomers contest? Don’t get me started . . . Ooh, this looks like fun: The Las Vegas 5 Drive-In Movie shows double feature first run hits for only $6.25 for adults; kids 5-11 are just a buck. A tub of popcorn is $5.50 and you can have a free refill. It’s at 4150 W. Carey Avenue off of North Rancho in North Las Vegas. Information: 702-646-3565 . . . And before you fill up on popcorn, the Rio is offering 50 percent off at its lunch and dinner Carnival Buffet Mondays through Thursdays to anyone with a Nevada ID, making the lunch buffet $8.50 and dinner $12.50. There’s also a coupon on its website for a free dessert with the purchase of one buffet . . .

photo by LVMetroPD
“What happens in Vegas stays in Lovelock.”

You’ll find more Las Vegas area offers for food, drink and more at half price or less here. The site currently offers 46 half-priced deals within the Las Vegas Valley. Deals include $50 gift cards for $20 at Hash House A Go Go, Memphis Champion Barbeque and Cadillac Ranch, and $50 gift cards for $25 at Mandalay’s Border Grill and McFadden’s at the Rio. The gift certificates on the site are mainly for restaurants and bars but also include some for gyms, salons, spas and entertainment . . .

We’ve missed the opening reception, but the Jarbidge Centennial Art Exhibit runs through December 1 at the Northeast Nevada Museum in Elko . . . And speaking of Elko, there’s a plan afoot to convert the nearly 1,000,000 acres of owned land plus BLM leases of the Winecup Ranch north and east of town from a cattle operation to a wild horse sanctuary. The plan calls for 8-10,000 horses at the outset, increasing to about twice that after further development, but so far the County Commission isn’t impressed (4-1 against).

Overheard at the Eureka Farmer’s Market on the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street: “A good man can be stupid and still be good, but a bad man has got to have brains.”

Happy Highways,

David W. Toll




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