Cape Gazette

SEA TO SHINING SEA: Testicles, brothels and murderous magpies

By Dennis Forney | Jun 15, 2013
Here's one worth catching the next flight for.

VIRGINIA CITY, MONTANA — DAY 33 - Gold digging across America.  June 15, 2013.

In Twin Bridges we read posters for an upcoming Testicle Festival in one town and Brothel Days in nearby Virginia City.  There was some mention about the wild and exotic food show so I think the testicle festival has to do with Rocky Mountain Oysters. As for Brothel Days, that involves women squeezing themselves into tight corsets, painting themselves up like Jezebel, and hopping aboard rolling beds pushed and raced through town by their customers, eager as always for a winning finish.

As for murderous magpies, those distinctive, long-tailed birds with lots of white feathers flashing amidst their black feathers are eluding my feather collection.

An older cowboy at the Nevada City saloon had little good to say about the birds.  "They're pests," he said.  "There's this little bug called a heel fly that bites cows between their ankle and hock and lays eggs there.  Those eggs hatch into worms that get into the cow's system.  They eventually work their way through the skin of the cow's back.  Magpies like those worms and they'll get on a cow's back to go after them.  In some cases, they'll then start pecking away at meat through the open sore and eventually kill the animal, sometimes severing the spinal cord."

He said he had an air gun when he was a boy and the cattlemen's association would pay him a nickle for every pair of magpie legs he brought in. "Twenty pairs would get me a dollar and that would buy a lot of candy," he said.

We drank a cold cream soda and talked to the saloon- and inn-keeper.  He said Nevada City and Virginia City sprang up after prospectors struck gold in 1863.  "Lots of southern sympathizers who didn't want to fight came out here looking for gold.  Virginia City was originally named Varina in honor of Jefferson Davis's wife.  Lincoln eventually sent in the calvary to make sure none of the gold being mined out of Alder Gulch went to support the southern cause.  The Union sympathizers also made sure Virginia City soon had a new name."

In a few decades, more than $10 million in gold came out of nearby Alder Gulch.  One sign said Alder Gulch gold financed Harvard University in the early 20th century.

Lots of pictures.  An interesting day.  We made 58 miles with nice flat roads, beautiful scenery and a gentle tailwind.  Locals tell us we have a tough climb over a pass tomorrow and then probably a headwind.  Seems like everywhere we go the locals tell us what a terrible climb we have ahead of us.  I guess it makes us mentally tougher.

We averaged 10.6 today and our total is now 1,272 miles.

You all be good and behave yourselves.

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Brothel Days promises to bring a large crowd to Virginia City.  Montana has big open country and a big open culture.
These gentlemen gave us some good local history and magpie information in Nevada City.
Antlers are big in Montana.  This is the entrance to an operation that makes antler chandeliers and other decorative items.
In Laurin, just west of Alder, we came acfross this ornate Carthilic church built in 1901 and now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Possibly financed with Alder Gulch gold?
The interior of the church is just as beautiful as the exterior.
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