Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

Lovelocks

Sunday, May 4th, finds me anchored for the day at the village of Lovelock's, on the Humboldt River, where I spend quite a remarkable day. Never before did such a strangely assorted crowd gather to see the first bicycle ride they ever saw, as the crowd that gathers behind the station at Lovelock's to-day to see me. There are perhaps one hundred and fifty people, of whom a hundred are Piute and Shoshone Indians, and the remainder a mingled company of whites and Chinese railroaders; and among them all it is difficult to say who are the most taken with the novelty of the exhibition - the red, the yellow, or the white. Later in the evening I accept the invitation of a Piute brave to come out to their camp, behind the village, and witness rival teams of Shoshone and Piute squaws play a match-game of "Fi-re-fla," the national game of both the Shoshone and Piute tribes. The principle of the game is similar to polo. The squaws are armed with long sticks, with which they endeavor to carry a shorter one to the goal. It is a picturesque and novel sight to see the squaws, dressed in costumes in which the garb of savagery and civilization is strangely mingled and the many colors of the rainbow are promiscuously blended, flitting about the field with the agility of a team of professional polo-players; while the bucks and old squaws, with their pappooses, sit around and watch the game with unmistakable enthusiasm. The Shoshone team wins and looks pleased. Here, at Lovelock's, I fall in with one of those strange and seemingly incongruous characters that are occasionally met with in the West. He is conversing with a small gathering of Piutes in their own tongue, and I introduce myself by asking him the probable age of one of the Indians, whose wrinkled and leathery countenance would indicate unusual longevity. He tells me the Indian is probably ninety years old; but the Indians themselves never know their age, as they count everything by the changes of the moon and the seasons, having no knowledge whatever of the calendar year. While talking on this subject, imagine my surprise to hear my informant - who looks as if the Scriptures are the last thing in the world for him to speak of - volunteer the information that our venerable and venerated ancestors, the antediluvians, used to count time in the same way as the Indians, and that instead of Methuselah being nine hundred and sixty-nine years of age, it ought to be revised so as to read "nine hundred and sixty-nine moons," which would bring that ancient and long-lived person - the oldest man that ever lived - down to the venerable but by no means extraordinary age of eighty years and nine months. This is the first time I have heard this theory, and my astonishment at hearing it from the lips of a rough-looking habitue of the Nevada plains, seated in the midst of a group of illiterate Indians, can easily be imagined.

On, up the Humboldt valley I continue, now riding over a smooth, alkali flat, and again slavishly trundling through deep sand, a dozen snowy mountain peaks round about, the Humboldt sluggishly winding its way through the alkali plain; on past Rye Patch, to the right of which are more hot springs, and farther on mines of pure sulphur-all these things, especially the latter, unpleasantly suggestive of a certain place where the climate is popularly supposed to be uncomfortably warm; on, past Humboldt Station, near which place I wantonly shoot a poor harmless badger, who peers inquisitively out of his hole as I ride past. There is something peculiarly pathetic about the actions of a dying badger, and no sooner has the thoughtless shot sped on its mission of death than I am sorry for doing it.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 04th May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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