|C Street, Virginia City, Winter 88-89|
Sometime during the Midnight Mass at St. Mary’s of the Mountain, the zephyr pounding Virginia City blew itself out. A small group of us who’d spent the evening together stepped out into the cold. It was now Christmas morning. We were decked out in boots, heavy coats, scarves, gloves and hats. The snow squeaked under our feet and the air calm. We wasted no time and immediately began to walk in an attempt to stay warm. Overhead, Orion tilted a little toward Mt. Bullion and the rest of my favorite winter constellations were flickering brightly: Orion’s faithful dog, the twins, the bull, the charioteer, the seven sisters. Only a few clouds, sheer-like, remained from the storm. We made our way up Taylor Street, toward the lighted “V” high on Mt. Davidson. A month earlier, before the first big snow, I’d spent Saturday afternoon with Karl and Dave. Together, we hauled loads of wire and strings of lights up the mountain and ran the lights around the whitewashed V that had been painted on rocks in a section where the sagebrush had been clipped. The painted rocks were now buried under the snow, but the lights stood out brightly and served as a beacon as we headed uphill.
The town was quiet as everyone had settled in for a long winter night. There were a few frosted windows with warm inviting lights, most windows were dark. The air smelled of burning pinion from wood stoves which provided heat for many homes on the Comstock, and the smoke rose into the sky as an offering to the stars. We passed the school and D Street, and climbed another block to C Street. This was the busy street in town, but now all was quiet. The Ponderosa, the saloon on the southwest side of C Street, and the Mark Twain to the north, were both closed for the night. Perhaps another bar was open—the Union Brewery, the Silver Queen, the Bucket of Blood, Julia Bulette—there were plenty of bars and generally at least a couple were open. But we were tired and ready for bed. We wished one another Merry Christmas in the cold, our breath puffing smoke like a steam engine, and said our goodbyes. A couple headed south on C Street, toward the Divide, others to their homes to the north. Victor, Jeannie and I continued on climbing. At B Street, we split up as Jeannie made her way up to her house on A Street, Victor to his apartment and me to my small home.
But before going inside, I stopped for a moment to look around. To the north, above the courthouse, were the northern constellations: the big and little dipper and the dragon whose tail seems to wind around that part of the sky. I then looked back to the east, down Taylor Street into Six Mile Canyon. All seems quiet and tranquil as smoke rose from chimneys of homes. I was happy and content even though this was my Christmas without any family. I went inside and instead of turning up the heat, pulled out another blanket for my bed and crawled in and was soon asleep.