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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 14

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Chapter 2 Our First Home… The Noisy “ Chew” of the Donkey Engine… Tonopah Panorama… Some Desert Impressions… An Old- Fashioned Shivaree… Kindly Neighbors and a Gallant Saloon- Keeper THE SHOUTING AND COMMOTION hardly penetrated the haze of fatigue and dizziness that surrounded me. I was so stiff from the jolting ride that Hugh had to hold me up for a few moments after I had climbed down from the coach. Fortunately, I soon recovered, for we had a rather difficult walk ahead to reach the house that Hugh had rented for us. We said goodbye to our traveling companions, Hugh shouldered our bags, and we trudged away up the hill. After the long confinement, it was a relief to stretch our legs and within twenty minutes we were mounting the rough steps of the little cottage, which looked like an owl in the moonlight, with two windows for eyes and a narrow door for a beak. The door was not locked. Hugh dropped our bags and reached for the light cord, then gathered me into his arms as we stepped into our new home. I forgot I was tired and forgot the twinge of fear I had felt in Hawthorne. The light bulb in the center of the room danced on the end of its cord as if in exuberant greeting. Suddenly I was conscious of a sound on the night air, a faint, soft sigh. “ Chew, chee- chew,” with a slight accent on the first long syllable and a quickening on the next two. To my curious question, Hugh explained that it was the donkey engine down at the Desert Queen. I was amazed that work continued at the mines all night. “ Are they in such a hurry to get the gold out?” “ Three shifts in twenty- four hours,” Hugh told me. “ If you had millions under the ground, wouldn’t you be in a hurry to get them out?” Then he explained that this was not a gold camp. This was silver mining. Of course, there was some gold in the ore, and it helped to raise the values. I looked out over the little town where clusters of lights around a mine shaft told of unceasing activity, although the night was more than half gone. It seemed as if I, too, could not wait for morning to begin the new life, for which I was so little equipped by anything but a rugged inheritance. Morning on the desert dawned clear and frightfully cold. I was glad to obey Hugh’s suggestion that I stay in bed while he started a fire in the sheet- iron stove, which was soon giving off a roar out of all proportion to its diminutive size. I hopped out of bed, grabbed my clothes, and rushed into the living room to dress before its warmth.



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