In order to fully enjoy this post, you must begin humming the theme song to Bonanza — you know, Little Joe, Hoss and the gang. Sing it out loud! Get it firmly lodged in your brain for the day!
Of course, I was singing out loud as our vehicle wound its way along State Highway 341 out of Reno through the mountains. Nope, no cell phone signal here, but the Cartwright gang managed life in these parts for 14 seasons without a cell phone. I could manage for a few hours.
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Virginia City, Nevada and the Comstock Lode
Virginia City, Nevada earns a spot in history because of what happened here in June 1859. That’s when the Comstock Lode first opened its shiny veins to miners hoping to hit it big. They sure did. The Comstock Lode remains the largest silver ore discovery in the U.S. And there was quite a bit of gold and other valuable minerals found there as well.
Naturally, fortune seekers from around the world descended on Virginia City, and other folks followed. I learned that the name Bonanza for the TV show comes from a real group of six miners who discovered and laid claim to the richest part of the ore vein. They registered their claim as “The Bonanza Group.”
Another interesting character who made his way to Virginia City was a guy from Hannibal Missouri named Samuel Clemens. Yes, Mark Twain had a newspaper job here, but I found the little museum dedicated to his career here greatly embellished.
Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City
However, I didn’t doubt the authenticity of the Bucket of Blood Saloon. We visited on a Sunday afternoon when the Comstock Cowboy band was playing and a good deal of boot-scootin’ was taking place on the old wooden floor. Those boots and the people in them, all of the way up to their cowboy hats — I didn’t doubt for a second they were the real deal.
The Bucket of Blood Saloon gets its rather vivid name from the clean-up process that would take place after a rowdy night, which apparently was almost every night. As the saloon keeper would wash the floor with buckets of water, the water would turn red with the blood shed from the lawless crowd.
Virginia City is much more than a Hollywood set. It’s a real town with real people working hard to make a living, just like the rest of us. But it’s also a little kitschy in places, appealing to the tourist crowd.
Nonetheless, it’s fun to walk the wooden boardwalks and look out over the beautiful mountain range and think for a moment how it really was when the likes of Mark Twain and Adam Cartwright walked these streets.
Because Adam Cartwight was real. If only in my dreams.
For Fans of Bonanza and U.S. History