Most American West towns had a remittance man. Usually, they were the offspring of rich folks back East who just didn't fit into the family nor society. They might have been Ivy League school graduates, studied for the ministry, illegitimate possibly, or might have tried medical schooling. They failed in everything to the point of embarrassing the family. Not knowing what to do with their black sheep, they shipped them out West and sent a monthly check telling them to stay there and not come home.
Mickey Fitzmaurice was Elko's remittance man in 1918. No one knew from where he came. Mickey was well educated and was a serious alcoholic. Of course, he drank a lot. What else was there for him to do? He had plenty of money and lots of time to do nothing. That left drinking as his chief job. He pursued booze with all his heart and soul.
Fitzmaurice wanted to help with the fireworks show. Local businessmen donated $350 and ordered a spectacular array of pyrotechnics from a catalog. It appeared, on the surface, to be a fine patriotic gesture, but the merchants wanted an event that would attract out-of-town visitors to Elko.
Note - As a comparison, Elko's 2006 fireworks extravaganza that rivals big city productions, ram rodded by County Commissioner John Ellison, cost $50,000. Financing for the show comes from private and business contributions.
Mickey volunteered to drive the wagon load of fireworks out to a frame built by Charlie Gardner, and set them up. Fitzmaurice also appointed himself as detonator. On the way to Keyser Hill out on South Fifth Street, Mickey got to thinking and decided he should test a rocket to see if it worked. Boy, did it work! Every one of the fireworks went off with thunderous explosions and billowing smoke. That's why there wasn't a Fourth of July pyrotechnic show that year in Elko.
A week later, Elko County Sheriff Joe Harris drove by the City Cemetery and noticed a fresh but unfinished grave. Smiling, he had a brilliant idea and got together with a few friends. They were going to give Mickey the scare of his life - might even make him quit drinking.
They followed him from saloon to saloon that evening, even buying him drinks from time to time. It was a long bout of boozing but, finally, in the wee hours of the morning, Mickey passed out. His friends laid him gently into a pine box and loaded it onto a wagon. The group, many of whom had also imbibed a bit too much, somehow made it up to the cemetery. There they unloaded the box and carefully lowered it and Mickey into the grave. They scrambled to find hiding places.
The rest of the night dragged on but finally a dim orange glow to the east brightened into dawn. The burial party members heard faint sounds from the grave. They waited in the morning stillness then saw Mickey's head appear from the hole. He looked around, slowly digesting what he saw, then disappeared. Moments later they saw his head pop up and he again pondered the scene. The quizzical look on his face suddenly became a big smile. In a loud voice Mickey Fitzmaurice marveled: "Glory be! If it ain't the Resurrection, and me the first son of a gun out of the grave!"
Mickey survived his alcoholic adventure and lived to be 86.
Sources: Aged in Sage by Jean McElrath, 1964; and Elko Independent, June 28, 1919. Note - Jean's book is a delightful collection of great stories. Well worthwhile if you can find a copy to buy or go to your local library and read it there.