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Autobiographical Reminiscences of David Johnston
Chapter XXVII


AND now, as the journey of life progresses, I come to the year 1883. My daughter Annie, the wife of Dr. Stoddart, at this time paid us a visit from San Francisco. She warmly invited us to go back with her, over the frowning Rockies and away into the land of gold, the great Eldorado of '49. To her we have given our consent, but wait for a special invitation from the Doctor, nor had we long to wait. A letter from Archie settled the matter, the purport of which was not to come home without the old folks, thereby giving us a hearty welcome, which the experience of two years has failed to dim.

And now comes the ordeal of painful parting of real friends. (For God's sake! tell me not the world is cold and selfish.) The declining years of my four-score have been much sweetened by very kind friends. For all their generosity I am grateful. The good-by at the depot on the 15th of July, 1883, was too touching to dwell upon. Nor did it end there. Our train passing through Elgin, there we found a host of friends under the auspices of Mr. and Mrs. Martin and family, laden down with delicate provisions for our long journey.

Having yielded to the importunities of our two daughters to spend our golden wedding with them in the far west, we face the setting sun in all his glory. The journey proved very pleasurable to me. My admiration arose to ecstasy by the varied grandeur of the scenery, the easy accommodation of the transit, and the marvelous advance of civil engineering which enabled it to overcome the gigantic natural obstacles that stood in its way. Which to admire the most is a problem not easy to solve. Suffice it that when we arrived at Oakland I wished the journey lengthened a few more hundred miles. We were greeted by many kind friends, who, in one of those splendid boats owned by the Central Pacific railway, carried us across that magnificent bay to San Francisco. Thence, after a refreshing meal at the house of our son-in-law, Dr. Stoddart, a lady drove me to the beach, giving me a taste of the trade-wind, which in its passage over the intervening sand dunes fills the air with an imponderable dust, to the detriment of the inhabitants, which, together with frequent fogs and the absence of rain during the summer months, renders the climate of San Francisco anything but agreeable. Still, I believe its hygienic condition will compare favorably with cities of its size.

It may be asked, " What could be found in traveling over that barren region to evoke pleasurable sensations?" My answer in all humility would be the following quotation from the poet:

"Of all the passions that possess mankind,
The love of novelty rules most the mind.
In search of this, from realm to realm we roam,
Our fleets come fraught with ev'ry folly home."

The volumes of a thousand graphic writers would fail to convey the faintest idea of this marvelous wilderness, and therefore to appreciate this apparent waste of God's handiwork it must be seen. 'Tis said God makes nothing in vain, and who knows but in the process of scientific discovery the people of a thousand years hence may marvel at the ignorance of the present age touching this seeming anomaly, which to the impatient traveler produces a sense of monotony, while to the inquiring mind a feeling of wonder is inspired. Indeed, I already perceive through the columns of the Chronicle that a number of acres of this waste land in the adjoining state of Nevada have been reclaimed, on which there waves a promising crop of wheat, enough to inspire one with a lively hope for the future of millions of our race who cling to the fascinations of the city in order to escape the drudgery involved in the reduction of the soil.

Traveling across the plains and mountains in a second-class conveyance is considered by many to be somewhat irksome. My experience deprives me the privilege of sharing their gloom.

There must be something lacking in the individual who can be otherwise than pleasurably transported from sea to sea by such marvelous means, in so short a space of time, across a continent abounding at least in great variety if not in beauty to his lack-luster eye. I do admit that the pioneers crawling through that everlasting region of sage brush and alkali, drawn by lame horses and worn-out oxen, must have had their patience pretty severely taxed for tedious weeks. The same space is now traversed in as many days as required weeks previous to the Credit Mobilier. The end of such wonderful accomplishments goes a long way to justify the means. To carry a railway over this continent by honest, plodding every-day maxims would have required more working days than a century could number. Therefore, scrupulosity had to divest itself of its starch and stoop to measures extraordinary. Personally I am grateful for an easy, pleasurable transit over a country which I had for many years desired to traverse, and when my allotted time of two years is up I hope to be able to take the southern route for Chicago, or, should the June month be too hot, I shall have no objections to retrace our steps through Nevada and Ogden, which I enjoyed so much hithervvard.


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