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November 4, 1862: Tomales

November 4, 2012
Why did the turkeys cross the road?

Wild turkeys in downtown Tomales; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[Today we] went across, west, to a place known as Tomales, near the mouth of Tomales Bay. This is a region of low, rounded hills, near the sea, therefore cool. During the summer it is subjected to intense winds, so it is nearly treeless. It is the greatest place in the state for potatoes, both as regards quality and quantity. The number raised here is enormous and, as a consequence, Irishmen abound. General Halleck has a ranch near this place, which we were on.

At Tomales there are several houses, but the only one where we could get “accommodations” was a very low Irish groggery, kept by a “lady.” The place was filled with the Irish potato diggers, all as lively as the poorest whiskey could make them. One Irishman had just made some two hundred dollars by a contract for digging, and was celebrating the event, freely treating—in fact, he was just at the culmination of a three days’ spree. The “rooms” of the house were far from private, the beds not highly inviting, and the customers twice as many as the accomodations. Drunkenness, singing, fighting, and the usual noise of Irish sprees were kept up through the night. Much to my disgust I had neither “bowie” nor “Colt” along, so could not command the exemption from meddling which those companions would have insured. Now, I don’t mind the discomforts of the field, of sleeping on the ground, of diet, dust, lizards, snakes, ants, tarantulas, etc., but from drunken Irishmen, from Irish groggeries, from “ladies” of that description, “Good Lord, deliver us!”

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