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     A ROOM WITH ONE HELL OF A VIEW
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STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH

Had there been more water and less blood in the bucket in 1875, perhaps this classic western saloon could lay claim to an even longer history. But unfortunately it also was swept away in the conflagration that destroyed nearly all of Virginia City on October 26th of that year.

According to the account in the “Territorial Enterprise” the fire began at the boarding house of one “Crazy Kate” Shea. Even by the tolerant standards of the day, the location was thought to be inhabited by a disreputable mix of men and women that posed a threat to the general wellbeing of the community. Apparently in the early morning hours before the blaze, a bout of drunken revelry led to a coal oil lamp being kicked over. The weather conditions were such that in very short order the resulting inferno would be well beyond the capabilities of the ill-equipped and undermanned fire department. A city founded in a flash of heady recklessness would be destroyed in like fashion.

BUCKET OF BLOOD SALOON sign as seen in AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEWThe engine of unbridled prosperity that built Virginia City would not be slowed by the calamity. Within eighteen months of the fire nearly the entire city was rebuilt, (FEMA take note). Water towers were constructed in the higher elevations, and a gravity fed hydrant system was installed throughout the community - thus insuring that the flow of gold and silver ore would not be disrupted by a similar occurrence.

THE BUCKET OF BLOOD, which was among the 100 plus saloons that served this city of nearly 30,000, was reopened with all due haste. Today there are only a handful of establishments that survived the boom years of the Comstock; but by my calculations there are at present more bars per capita than there were in 1875.

During a recent session at the Bucket I am in the company of Brian, Tim and Donna. We discuss our prospective wanderings over glasses of Crown Royal. Brian is on summer hiatus after a season of keeping the mountain passes open on behalf of the California Department of Transportation. Tim has escaped his west coast corporate obligations in order to spend some time with his friend, and Donna does her usual exemplary job of watching over her customers.

Before leaving I head to the far end of the bar in order to look out the large window that faces the mountains to the east. The proprietors boast of a 100 mile vista from this vantage point. On this day the view is obscured by a bright haze caused by smoke and particulate, a fire rages to the south. For a moment I ponder the extreme misfortune of 1875. I will return early next morning - perhaps I will be seeing more clearly by then.

Sunrise over the bucket as seen in AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW
SUNRISE OVER THE BUCKET


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