This was all we saw that day, for it was two o'clock, now, and according to custom the daily "Washoe Zephyr" set in; a soaring dust-drift about the size of the United States set up edgewise came with it, and the capital of Nevada Territory disappeared from view. Still, there were sights to be seen which were not wholly uninteresting to newcomers; for the vast dust-cloud was thickly freckled with things strange to the upper air - things living and dead, that flitted hither and thither, going and coming, appearing and disappearing among the rolling billows of dust - hats, chickens, and parasols sailing in the remote heavens; blankets, tin signs, sage-brush, and shingles a shade lower; door-mats and buffalo-robes lower still; shovels and coal-scuttles on the next grade; glass doors, cats, and little children on the next; disrupted lumber yards, light buggies, and wheelbarrows on the next; and down only thirty or forty feet above ground was a scurrying storm of emigrating roofs and vacant lots.
It was something to see that much. I could have seen more, if I could have kept the dust out of my eyes.
But, seriously, a Washoe wind is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music, now and then blows a stage-coach over and spills the passengers; and tradition says the reason there are so many bald people there is, that the wind blows the hair off their heads while they are looking skyward after their hats. Carson streets seldom look inactive on summer afternoons, because there are so many citizens skipping around their escaping hats, like chambermaids trying to head off a spider.
The "Washoe Zephyr" (Washoe is a pet nickname for Nevada) is a peculiarly Scriptural
wind, in that no man knoweth "whence it cometh." That is to say, where it originates.
It comes right over the mountains from the West, but when one crosses the ridge
he does not find any of it on the other side! It probably is manufactured on
the mountaintop for the occasion, and starts from there. It is a pretty regular
wind, in the summer-time. Its office-hours are from two in the afternoon till
two the next morning; and anybody venturing abroad during those twelve hours
needs to allow for the wind or he will bring up a mile or two to leeward of
the point he is aiming at. And yet the first complaint a Washoe visitor to San
Francisco makes, is that the sea-winds blow so, there! There is a good deal
of human nature in that.
- Roughing It
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