William Bolt was my two-times great grandfather. An adventurous spirit, as a young man in the late 1880s he traveled back and forth from St. Louis, Missouri to Laramie, Wyoming with his cousin Harry to work as sheep shearers. Lucky for me, his passion for storytelling compelled him to keep a detailed journal of his escapades – most notably falling in love with my two-times great grandmother, Mollie King.
I caught my breath when I came across his entries about one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Tahoe. His descriptions of the early days of Reno, Truckee and Lake Tahoe made my heart swell; what a tremendous gift to know we walk the same path. I now know for sure that there’s a special reason the Universe calls us there so often. I’m sharing an excerpt from his journal; sometime soon, I will flesh out his stories for all to enjoy.
We are climbing the Sierra Nevada mountains. I ride most of the time on top of the freight cars. We stop for a long time at Reno, a rough town. Harry and I leave the train at Truckee. Smith goes on to California to spend the winter with relatives. Harry heard we could get a job of early shearing near Lake Tahoe. We stayed around Truckee a couple of days, a sort of a lumber camp of saloons and gambling houses and I could always see a bunch of Indians and white men sitting on the ground gambling. The Truckee River runs through there, a raging torrent all the way from Lake Tahoe. I seen some Indian women fishing. I went to them – they had a fire of only a couple of sticks and they catch a fish, hold it over the fire a minute, then give it to the little children. I seen them little two year old Indians eat the fish just the way it was and the only thing they threw away was the head and tail.
Harry had arranged with the stage driver to take us up to Lake Tahoe which is about 15 or 20 miles away. We could always count on Harry to plan everything without trouble or expense. He had a way of talking to everybody and always made friends and we always traveled as workers. We rode on top of the stage up through the mountains to the lake. The scenery was grand. Where we wanted to go was about six miles from headquarters – a yacht was going to our landing that took the mail and of course, Harry had him take us and our big roll of blankets. It was a grand ride. Lake Tahoe is so large you can scarcely see across it and they say there is no bottom. The Indians are afraid to go on it because if you went down you never came up – even the wood goes to the bottom. I can see a stack of wood laying on the bottom . The water is so clear we can see to a great depth.
When we got to our landing we found out there was no shearing to be done. The owner of the camp would like us to work for him. Harry told him we would stay a few days and work for our expenses. Our job was snaking in logs and we lived with the timber men. The fishing is very fine. We just go out a few short distance from shore in a boat and drop a hundred foot line and catch Speckled Mountain trout.
The time came to take the yacht back again. Sailing in a yacht was new to us – it was very grand on that beautiful lake on top of the mountains, then the stage ride back to Truckee.
This post was inspired by The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy, a novel about two women are connected by an Underground Railroad doll. Join From Left to Write on May 19th as we discuss The Mapmaker’s Children. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.