"We arrived, disembarked, and the stage went on. It was a “wooden” town; its population two thousand souls. The main street consisted of four or five blocks of little white frame stores which were too high to sit down on, but not too high for various other purposes; in fact, hardly high enough. They were packed close together, side by side, as if room were scarce in that mighty plain.
The sidewalk was of boards that were more or less loose and inclined to rattle when walked upon. In the middle of the town, opposite the stores, was the “plaza” which is native to all towns beyond the Rocky Mountains—a large, unfenced, level vacancy, with a liberty pole in it, and very useful as a place for public auctions, horse trades, and mass meetings, and likewise for teamsters to camp in. Two other sides of the plaza were faced by stores, offices and stables.
The rest of Carson City was pretty scattering."
Clemens’s most difficult period in Nevada was the summer and early fall of 1862, which he spent prospecting near Aurora, in Esmeralda County, while desperately short of funds. Howland was among his partners then (L1, 214–41). In 1876 the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise recalled that “Bob and Mark were not flush” as cabin mates:
They lived principally on hardtack and beans. On Sundays, however, they managed to get hold of some few extras in the grub line. When Sunday came they feasted on canned oysters, canned turkey, chicken and the like, with something in the fruit and jelly line. When the cans had been emptied of these luxuries the “boys” ostentatiously threw them out in front of the door of their cabin.
In the course of a few weeks the accumulation of cans that had contained oysters, turkey, jellies and other good things began to attract attention. Miners passing their cabin used to gaze upon the many cans and say: “By Jove, those fellows live like fighting cocks!”
It was finally noised about the camp that Clemens and Howland lived like two princes—fared sumptuously every day. It was thought they never ate anything but oysters and turkey and they were looked upon as “Big Injuns” by the whole camp.
Anxious to preserve their reputation under the scrutiny of some suspicious miners, Clemens and Howland reportedly resorted to nocturnal foraging in garbage dumps to maintain their facade of empty cans (“How They Played It,” 28 Apr 76, 3).