Roughing It contains some of the best descriptions of frontier mining life ever written. The rides across the continent in a stage-coach; the pony-express, that "fleeting messenger who sped across the continent from St. Joe to Sacramento, carrying letters nineteen hundred miles in eight days"— the silver mining fever in Nevada, are described by Mark Twain with amazing freshness and vigor.
One particular feature of the old west was the absence of women and children. In those days miners would flock in crowds to catch a glimpse of that rare and blessed spectacle: a woman!
Old inhabitants tell how, in a certain camp, the news went abroad early in the morning that a woman was come! They had seen a calico dress hanging out of a wagon—a sign of emigrants from over the Great Plains.
Everybody went down there, and a shout went up when an actual, bona fide dress was discovered fluttering in the wind!
The male emigrant was visible.
The miners said: "Fetch her out!" We've got to see her!"
"But, gentlemen, the poor thing, she—"
"FETCH HER OUT!"
He "fetched her out," and they swung their hats and sent up three rousing cheers and crowded around and gazed at her, and touched her dress, and listened to her voice with the look of men who listened to a memory rather than a present reality. Then they collected twenty-five hundred dollars in gold and gave it to the man, swung their hats again and gave three more cheers, and went home satisfied.
MARK TWAIN (1835-1910) Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Author of numerous essays, short stories, and novels, including The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, hailed by Ernest Hemingway as “the Great American Novel.”