- Historic Sites
A RIDE TO REMEMBER
April 1965 | Volume 16, Issue 3
"… I was perched upon a boat no wider than a chair, sometimes twenty feet in the air, but with the ever varying altitude of the flume, often seventy feet high. When the spray would enable me to look ahead I would see the trestle here and there for miles, so small and narrow and apparently so fragile, that I could only compare it to a chalk mark, upon which, high in the air, I was running at a rate unknown upon railroads.
“One circumstance did more to show me the terrible rapidity with which we were dashing down the flume than anything else. It was when the boat suddenly struck something at the bow—a nail, or a lodged stick of wood, which ought not have been there. What was the result? The carpenter was sent whirling into the flume ten feet ahead. Fair was precipitated on his face, and I found a soft lodgement on Fair’s back.
“It seemed to me that in a second’s time, Fair, a powerful man, had the carpenter by the scruff of the neck and had pulled him into the boat. I did not know at this time that Fair had his fingers lacerated when caught between the boat and the flume.
“How our boat kept in the track is more than I know. The wind, the steamboat, the railroad train never went so fast. I have been where the wind blew at the rate of 80 miles per hour, and yet, my breath was not taken away. During the flume ride, in the bad places, it seemed as if I would suffocate. In one particularly bad place it was my desire to form some judgement of the speed we were making. If the truth must be spoken, I was really scared almost out of reason; but if I was on my way to eternity, I wanted to know exactly how fast I went; so I huddled close to Fair, and turned my eyes toward the hills. Every object I placed my eye on was gone before I could see clearly what it was. Mountains passed like visions and shadows. It was with difficulty that I could get my breath. I felt that I did not weigh a hundred pounds, although I knew that the scales turned at two hundred.
“Mr. Flood and Mr. Hereford, although they started several minutes later than we had, were close upon us. … Their boat finally struck ours with a terrible crash. Mr. Flood was thrown upon his face and the waters flowed over him, leaving not a dry thread upon him. What happened to Hereford I do not know, except when we reached the terminus of the flume he was as wet as any of us.
“At the terminus there were these remarks: Fair said, 'We went at least a mile a minute.’ Flood said, ‘We went at the rate of 100 miles an hour.’ My deliberate belief is that we went at a rate that annihilated time and space. Flood said, ‘I would not make the trip again for the whole Consolidated Virginia Mine.’ Fair said, ‘I will never again place myself on an equality with timber and wood.’ Hereford said, ‘I am sorry I ever built the flume.’ As for myself, I told the millionaires that I had accepted my last challenge.
“We had yet sixteen miles to drive to Virginia City. How we reached there I will never know. The next day neither Flood nor Fair were able to leave their beds. For myself, I had only strength enough left to say, ‘I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF FLUMES.’”