University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 8

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As the train got under way, a large man, about fifty and older than most of these travelers, came through the car. I suspected that he was looking for us, as he had been smiling at me all during lunch. Hugh introduced him as Judge Kenneth Jackson from Texas, who was on his way to Tonopah to take part in some “ apex litigation.” I reflected quickly that, as the wife of a mining camp lawyer, I might as well begin to make myself familiar with the local language. In answer to my query, I learned that apex litigation had to do with establishing legal ownership underground at mining sites. In hard rock mining, such as that in the Tonopah district, veins of ore appear on the surface, usually as wide strips of metal- impregnated rock. Veins extend down into the earth on a slant because of ground upheavals during prehistoric eras. According to mining law, the company that owns the claim where the vein appears on the surface can follow the vein and mine it out as long as it doesn’t “ fault,” that is break off or change direction. Veins sometimes wander underground, peter out in thin threads, or disappear entirely. It can be very expensive to hire engineers and lawyers to establish legal ownership underground or to prove that neighboring companies are not poaching on one another. Judge Jackson, seemed very gratified by my interest. As it turned out, he was to stay in the camp for several years and figured somewhat in my life. Among the passengers on the little train was Captain Case, a man older than most of the others, bronzed, lined, and weatherworn. The captain was a man of distinguished background. He not only had a degree in engineering from the University of Heidelberg, but he carried a dramatic scar down the left side of his face, acquired in the gentle art of dueling during his student days. Now he was superintendent of one of the mines in Tonopah. Captain Case had once been an Indian fighter along the Mexican border. In 1903 Indian skirmishes were only a few years behind us; and when I was about sixteen, I had devoured the picturesque frontier novels of Captain Charles King, whose characters and locations dealt with army life along the border. Captain Case was a man who could tell just such yarns from his own experience, and on that journey I listened with fascination. Today, when I see a Western created around Indians, good and bad, and United States soldiers, also in the same categories, a wave of nostalgia sweeps over me, and I am a bride again listening to the romantic captain as the fussy little train takes us deeper into the Nevada desert. With Captain Case was John Kirchen, one of the most brilliant mining engineers ever to come to Nevada. He could reach out with his diamond drill and pick up a lost vein as if he could see it. I discovered he was also an

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 8
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