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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 11

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“ Sodaville! Change for all points in the world.” He was certainly right. There was no place to go but out. As I stepped into the sharp morning air, I scanned the horizon. I saw nothing but miles of sand and sage, with a slender ribbon of road disappearing amid the sand dunes, only to reappear on top of the next rise, and then be gone again. The low hills in the middle distance built up to pink, snow- capped mountains miles away. And in the foreground, its outlines softented by the half- light of sunrise, was the stagecoach with its six horses already in harness. Here, I thought with excitement, was the same kind of conveyance that had been held up by desperadoes on just such roads all through western history. The driver, wrapped in a short canvas coat lined with sheepskin, stood by his lead horse with the long whip in his hand. He was a picturesque ruffian from a distance, but when we got close enough to see his eyes from under the long, shaggy eyebrows, I realized that he was greeting us with a smile from the mildest face in the world. The baggage was stowed on the rack at the rear and also piled high on top of the stage. The process took some time, so Hugh had an opportunity to introduce me to some of our other traveling companions, among whom was Zeb Kendall - “ the ‘ biggest’ promoter in camp,” Hugh said - a string bean of a man well over six feet tall, with a stoop men often acquire who are reticent by nature and too tall to be inconspicuous. Next was Mr. Harry Ramsey. Hugh introduced him without comment, but whispered to me later that he was one of the famous gunmen of the West with several recent notches on his shootin’ iron. I took another look at him and saw only a quiet, completely colorless and inconspicuous man. I felt quite let down. With the customary chivalry of the desert, these men treated me with overwhelming courtesy. For example, I was invited to sit outside, high up on the box seat with the driver, along with Zeh Kendall and Mr. Ramsey. I was tempted to accept, for I would have loved to ride up there even for a few miles. However, the day was very cold, and Hugh thought I would be more comfortable inside. So I was wedged between Captain Case and Mr. Kirchen, with Hugh facing me between Key Pittman and Judge Jackson. Midst much jangling and jerking of harness, we began the sixty- five mile journey into Tonopah, where, barring broken axle or a mud hole, we would arrive by midnight. We started off in high spirits, full of conversation. The gentlemen were curious about my pioneer grandfather, old Captain Roberts, who had come around the Horn in command of his own ship, arriving in San Francisco Bay under full sail in April ‘ 49. In answer to their queries, I told of my grandmother’s trip across the Isthmus of Panama, on foot and carrying a fifteen- month- old baby in her arms.



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