The Winter of 1860
In the winter of 1860, a writer and painter, J. Ross Browne, was caught in a snowstorm while in route to the silver fields of Nevada. After miles of walking in the breezing cold he came upon the flickering lights of “Strawberry”. After drying himself at the fire in the barroom he lined up with a motley regiment awaiting the fourth assault on the dining room. This is his account of dinner at Strawberry Lodge.
At the first tinkle of the bell the door was burst open with a tremendous crash, and for a moment no battle scene in Waterloo, no charge at Resca de la Palma or the heights of Chapultapec, no Crimean avalanche of troops dealing with death and destruction around them, could have equaled the terrific onslaught of the gallant troop of Strawberry. The whole house actually tottered trembled at the concussion as if shaken by an earthquake. Long before the main body had assaulted the table the dim of arms was heard above the general uproar; the deafening clatter of plates, knives and forks, and the dreadful battle-cry of “Waiter! Waiter! Pork and Beans! Coffee, Waiter! Beefsteak! Sausages! Potatoes! Ham and Eggs quick, waiter, for God’s sake! “It was a scene of destruction and carnage long to be remembered. I had never before witnessed a battle, but I now understood how mwn could become maddened by the smell of blood. When the table was vacated it presented a shocking scene of desolation. Whole dishes were swept of their contents; coffee-pots were discharged to the dregs; knives, forks, plates and spoons lay in a confused mass among the bones and mutilated remnants of the dead, chunks of bread and hot biscuits were scattered breakfast, and mince-pies wee gored into fragments, tea-cups and saucers were capsized; and the waiters hot, red steamy, were panting and sweating after their superhuman labors.
Half an hour more and the battle field was again cleaned for action. This was the sixth assault committed during the evening but it was nonetheless terrible on that account. Inspired by the hunger, I joined the army of invaders this time, and by gigantic efforts of strength maintained an honorable position in the ranks. As the bell three we broke! I fixed my eye on a chair, rushed through the struggling mass, threw out my hands frantically to seize it, but, alas! It was already captured. A dark visage man looked as though he carried concealed weapons on his person, was seated in it, shouting hoarsely the battle – cry of “Port and Beans; water! Coffee, waiter!” Up and down the table it was one gulping mass, jaws distended arms stretched out, knives, forks, even bare hands plunged into the enemy. Not a spot was vacant. I venture to assert that from commencement of the assault till the capture and complete investment of the fortification did not exceed five seconds. The storming of the Malakoff and the fall of Sebastopol could no longer claim a place in history.
At length fortune favored the brave, I got a seat at the next onslaught, and took ample satisfaction for the delay by devouring such a meal as none but a hardy Washoelite could be expected to digest. Four Port and beans, cabbage, beef-steak, sausages, pies, tarts, coffee and tea, eggs, etc. these were only a few of the luxuries furnished by the enterprising proprietor of the “Strawberry”. That every blessing attend that great benefactor of manhood! I say it in all sincerity; he is a great and good man, a Websterian innkeeper, for he thoroughly understands the constitution.
I would give honorable mention to his name if I knew it; but it matters not; his house so far surpasses the Metropolitan or Saint Nicholas that there is no comparison in the relish with which the food is delivered.
- J. Ross Browne - 1860