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A Prophet And A Piute
by [?]

I said to an official of the road: “Do you not think this is the worst managed road in the United States–always excepting the Western North Carolina Railroad, which is an incorporated insult to humanity?”

“Well,” he replied, “that depends, of course, on the standpoint from which you view it. If we were trying to divert travel to the Southern Pacific, also the rolling stock, the good-will, the culverts, the dividends, the frogs, the snowsheds, the right of way and the new-laid train figs, everything except the first, second and third mortgages, which would naturally revert to the government, would you not think we were managing the business with a steady hand and a watchful eye?”

I said I certainly should. I then wrung his hand softly and stole away, as he also began to do the same thing.

At Reno we had a day or two in which to observe the city from the car platform, while waiting for the blockade to be raised. We could not go away from the train further than five hundred feet, for it might start at any moment. That is one beauty about a snow blockade. It entitles you to a stop-over, but you must be ready to hop on when the train starts. I improved the time by cultivating the acquaintance of the beautiful and picturesque outcasts known as the Piute Indians. They are a quiet, reserved set of people, who, by saying nothing, sometimes obtain a reputation for deep thought. I always envy anybody who can do that. Such men make good presidential candidates. Candidates, I say, mind you. The time has come in this country when it is hard to unite good qualifications as a candidate with the necessary qualities for a successful official.

The Piute, in March or April, does not go down cellar and bring up his gladiolus, or remove the banking from the side of his villa. He does not mulch the asparagus bed, or prune the pie-plant, or rake the front yard, or salt the hens. He does not even wipe his heartbroken and neglected nose. He makes no especial change in his great life-work because spring has come. He still looks serious, and like a man who is laboring under the impression that he is about to become the parent of a thought. These children of the Piute brave never mature. They do not take their places in the histories or the school readers of our common country. The Piute wears a bright red lap-robe over his person, and generally a stiff Quaker hat, with a leather band. His hair is very thick, black and coarse, and is mostly cut off square in the neck, by means of an adz, I judge, or possibly it is eaten off by moths. The Piute is never bald during life. After he is dead he becomes bald and beloved.

Johnson Sides is a well-known Piute who had the pleasure of meeting me at Reno. He said he was a great admirer of mine and had all my writings in a scrap-book at home. He also said that he wished I would come and lecture for his tribe. I afterward learned that he was an earnest and hopeful liar from Truckee. He had no scrap-book at all. Also no home.

Mr. Sides at one time became quite civilized, distinguishing himself from his tribe by reading the Bible and imprisoning the lower drapery of his linen garment in the narrow confines of a pair of cavalry trousers, instead of giving it to the irresponsible breeze, as other Piutes did. He then established a hotel up the valley in the Sierras, and decided to lead a life of industry. He built a hostelry called the Shack-de-Poker-Huntus, and advertised in the Carson Appeal, a paper which even the editor, Sam Davis, says fills him with wonder and amazement when he knows that people actually subscribe for it. Very soon Piutes began to go to the shack to spend the heated term. Every Piute who took the Appeal saw the advertisement, which went on to state that hot and cold water could be got into every room in the house, and that electric bells, baths, silver-voiced chambermaids, over-charges, and everything else connected with a first-class hotel, could be found at that place. So the Piute people locked up their own homes, and, ejecting the cat, they spat on the fire, and moved to the new summer hotel. They took their friends with them. They had no money, but they knew Johnson Sides, and they visited him all summer.