After they pulled President Grant back up out of that hole when they dangled him down there for a look see, he said that the siege on Vicksburg was nothing compared to being slowly lowered into the Combination Shaft.

He bit off the end of a cigar and said “that’s as close to hell as I’ve ever been.”

Every  homeopath ought to have a favorite method of self demise in the event that should the Sanhedrin of Pharmaceutical Corporations manage to turn the crowd nasty enough against him, he can slip away behind this thin veil of wrath and tears by doing it himself . . in a comfortable enough way . . and rob the mob of a lynching.

That hole was mine. It was my favorite theoretical method of self-demise. During the first years of the new millenium, my plan was to throw myself into the Combination Shaft of the Hale and Norcross Mine, about 1000 yards from my back door at the Mackay Mansion in Virginia City, Nevada.

It would have surely been my demise if it hadn’t been for my faithful dog Huck.

At one time the Combination Shaft was rated to be the deepest hole on Earth, but it quickly lost that designation with the accumulation of old cars, muscatel wine bottles and non-paying customers from the brothels on B street.

It was dug during post bellum times by US Senator “Slippery Jim” Fair (R-Nev) on the promise to its investors that besides striking veins of native silver and gold, it would be deep enough to provide a non circuitous route to the Orient, be a source of cheap goods and basement to the world’s first Walmart.

Fair tried fooling his investors by salting the shaft with some cheap garden equipment and a few Chinese who would sneak in through a secret tunnel that led to the shaft from the 24 hour Happy Mandarin Restaurant, but they were found out by a trail of chow mein and fortune cookie crumbs culminating in the  scam being abandoned and the shaft used as the world’s biggest garbage can.

You may wish to say that it’s not true, but the legend goes that whatever went into the Combination Shaft did not come out. By the time anything [as big as a breadbox or larger] thrown in it got to the bottom, there wasn’t anything left of it, because it woud have been dashed to pieces from bouncing back and forth off the sides of the Shaft.

This worked for a while until it was overflowing and everyone in Virginia City was complaining about the smell. This went on for a while until Adoph Sutro, the Jewish mayor of San Francisco, seized on an idea.  Virginia City, you see, clings to the side of a mountain high above lesser towns like Reno and Carson City. So what Sutro did was to dig a tunnel horizontally through the mountain into the Shaft from a starting point on the Great Basin below, and flushed it out  like a clogged up toilet, draining it, the fountainhead being what is near Dayton, Nevada, now the world’s Mecca for bottle collectors, second hand clothes and old car parts.

When the dam was opened, the first things to come exploding out of the Sutro Tunnel were just bits of broken glass, scraps of clothing and bone, and rusted old car parts, and other stuff I forgot to mention, but as the flow continued, the condition of goods got better and better due to the ones on top not falling so far, until finally, at the end of the flow, the bottles were unbroken, and there entirely intact antique automobiles and vintage clothing that . . once the bones were shook out of them . . went on the rack to command a handsome price.

There were even stories that towards the end of Sutro’s “Gold” Rush, a few of those non paying customers of the brothels on B street came running out of the tunnel under their own power, the “bottomless pit” having become so shallow that they landed without much damage . . and glad to still be alive.

[It is said that this is where Jack Benny got his 1925 Maxwell Touring Automobile, still in perfect condition after having been abandoned by some rich tourists from Chile, when it accidentally fell into the Shaft during a mine tour.]

So because of Sutro’s ingenuity the shaft was once again a deep, dark, cold hole . . back to it original 3,250 feet.

Waiting for me, beckoning to me. “Come, come, have a nice long rest. Put yourself out of your hot misery. It’s nice and cool down here . . ” it said.

“I’m not hot, I’m cold . .” I replied . .

“Yes, yes, cold, be cold no more, it’s nice and warm down here, past the geothermal gradient.”

The VACANCY sign in my mind was lit . .

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