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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 7

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The next morning we went on to Carson City by the Virginia and Truckee, whose shining brass- trimmed engines are famous in western railroad history. A few passengers, ourselves included, changed trains at Carson and rode as far as Mound House, where we lost a few more travelers and boarded the Carson & Colorado, a hesitant, jolting narrow- gauge that was to carry us south to a place called Hawthorne. All day the toy train lurched through miles and miles of sand and sagebrush, constantly spraying us with cinders and dust. The only other moving things on the landscape were the bands of wild horses whirling away into the distance as our train approached. At long intervals we stopped at way- stations, nothing more than a group of whitewashed cabins protected from winter wind and summer sun by three or four towering cottonwoods. It was February and we had left the spring well advanced in California; but in Nevada it was still winter, and the columns of these majestic trees, golden in the winter sun, were a brilliant contrast to the flat, tan country through which we traveled. About two o’clock in the afternoon the train wheezed to a stop at Waubuska, where we were to have lunch. In desert travel, Hugh said, Waubuska food was famous. We had had nothing to eat since six o’ clock that morning, and anything would have been acceptable; but here was the welcome refreshment of steak and canned corn, apple pie, coffee, and excellent homemade bread. What a treat! After lunch I had my first opportunity to examine the Indians who were grouped around every little desert station. The men were lean and brown, dressed in overalls and faded blue shirts, with black hair over long, straggling from under broad black felt hats of ancient origin. Their fat, bunchy squaws were still wrapped in blankets like their grand mothers, with brilliant handkerchiefs tied around their weather- lined faces, the inevitable baby in a papoose basket slung on their backs or propped up against the station- house wall. The stolid, silent little creatures seemed utterly oblivious to the flies crawling unmolested around their eyes and mouths. It all seemed so close to the savage – as indeed it was, for only a generation earlier the Paiutes had been on the warpath. Now they were idle and weak, sunning themselves in the lee of a whitewashed wall. Coming toward us along the station platform was a man whom I had noticed at the dining table, extremely handsome and with regular features, like a Remington painting. As he drew nearer, Hugh introduced him as Key Pittman and promised that I would be hearing a lot about him in the future. Mr. Pittman pulled off his wide black Stetson, extended his hand in a strong, warm handclasp, and paid me a hearty compliment. As he looked down at me from dark brown eyes, I felt the pull of his unmistakable charm. Just then the conductor called “ A- all aboard!” and we all obeyed.



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