Washoe is peculiarly blessed with insects and reptiles of "aspect dire." We have a small species of rattlesnake, dwelling about piles of loose rocks and in the sage thickets that has a great fondness for sharing the blankets of the tired miner camping among the hills, and a few other varieties of serpents, though none except the rattlesnake are poisonous. We have lizards without end -- and some with two ends, for there is a forked-tailed variety -- and of all the colors of the rainbow, and tame -- bless you! Toads with horns; tarantulas big as terrapins; scorpions of the size of lobsters; centipedes as large as eels; a species of ant with a sting in his tail like that of a hornet; big black bugs that stand up on their hind feet and snap; little bugs that snap most infernally without standing on their hind feet, and whose name is unfit for ears polite; grasshoppers whom it is idle to attempt to terrify, and great fat crickets, big as young shanghaes, that crawl out of their dens and placing themselves in a defiant attitude before the astonished traveler, suddenly set the crank of their clatter-mill in motion, tearing the atmosphere for numerous rods about into thinnest ribbons. Whoever, being a stranger in the land, hears the uproarious shrieks of one of these fellows, without seeing the "beast" himself, is apt to imagine that he is about to be attacked by a ferocious monster, half cayote and half California lion, with a sprinkling of coffee mill and buzz saw, and many a nervous cuss has he caused to turn tail and make tall time down our mountains.
[Reprinted in San Francisco Bulletin, June 6, 1862, p. 3.]
return to Enterprise index