SUNRISE OVER THE BUCKET
there been more water and less blood in the bucket in 1875, perhaps
this classic western saloon could lay claim to an even longer history.
But unfortunately it also was swept away in the conflagration that
destroyed nearly all of Virginia City on October 26th of that
According to the account in the “Territorial Enterprise” the fire began
at the boarding house of one “Crazy Kate” Shea. Even by the tolerant
standards of the day, the location was thought to be inhabited by a
disreputable mix of men and women that posed a threat to the general
wellbeing of the community. Apparently in the early morning hours
before the blaze, a bout of drunken revelry led to a coal oil lamp
being kicked over. The weather conditions were such that in very short
order the resulting inferno would be well beyond the capabilities of
the ill-equipped and undermanned fire department. A city founded in a
flash of heady recklessness would be destroyed in like fashion.
The engine of
unbridled prosperity that built Virginia City would not
be slowed by the calamity. Within eighteen months of the fire nearly
the entire city was rebuilt, (FEMA take note). Water towers were
constructed in the higher elevations, and a gravity fed hydrant system
was installed throughout the community - thus insuring that the flow of
gold and silver ore would not be disrupted by a similar occurrence.
THE BUCKET OF BLOOD,
which was among the 100 plus saloons that served
this city of nearly 30,000, was reopened with all due haste. Today
there are only a handful of establishments that survived the boom years
of the Comstock; but by my calculations there are at present more bars
per capita than there were in 1875.
During a recent session at the Bucket I am in the company of Brian, Tim
and Donna. We discuss our prospective wanderings over glasses of Crown
Royal. Brian is on summer hiatus after a season of keeping the mountain
passes open on behalf of the California Department of Transportation.
Tim has escaped his west coast corporate obligations in order to spend
some time with his friend, and Donna does her usual exemplary job of
watching over her customers.
Before leaving I head to the far end of the bar in order to look out
the large window that faces the mountains to the east. The proprietors
boast of a 100 mile vista from this vantage point. On this day the view
is obscured by a bright haze caused by smoke and particulate, a fire
rages to the south. For a moment I ponder the extreme misfortune of
1875. I will return early next morning - perhaps I will be seeing more
clearly by then.