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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 15

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What I could see of the house by daylight reassured me. It was cozy and clean. I learned that it was typical of all the others in the camp: three rooms inside a board- and- batten box, with a screened porch on the rear. There was a good matting rug on the floor of the main room, with a cabinet of sorts where one could store everything from dishes to fire wood, a tiny sheet- iron stove, a table with four rush chairs, and an old- fashioned leather sofa, not to overlook the colored calendar on the wall. In the bedroom were an iron bed, a washstand, and an old. fashioned dark brown bureau. The kitchen was negligible except for a huge barrel of water in one corner and a wood- burning range. But, thank goodness, we had electric light and a telephone. As soon as the camp had become an established fact, power lines were strung two hundred miles across the mountains from Inyo, California, to furnish electric power for the mines, so from its inception the town had light and telephones. Meanwhile, Hugh built a fire in the kitchen range where I was expected presently to produce breakfast! By the time I was dressed Hugh had water boiling - water dipped from the barrel in the corner. I looked at that range with awe. “ You’ll have to get breakfast,” I said. “ I’ve never made coffee in my life.” Hugh made the coffee. At least he took some coffee and did something to it. If there had been an atom of guile in his make- up, I would have suspected him of playing a trick on me, for the coffee he made that morning was unbelievably bad. The thought came to me that if this was the stuff he had been making for himself all these months, it was certainly up to me to learn to cook. I couldn’t stand this coffee! After breakfast I slipped into my heavy coat, and for a moment we stood silent at the door, breathing deeply of the sparkling desert air. Our house was well up on the side of a mountain, and directly opposite was another mountain. Between them, in the canyon and climbing both sides, lay the little rough-board town. Snuggled in among the shacks and dwarfing them were mine shafts with hoists and ore dumps. West of town the desert stretched for miles to the horizon, which was edged with the snowcapped Sierra Nevada. In the opposite direction, to the east, a curving scratch indicated a road winding up the draw and disappearing over the edge of the hill. I asked Hugh why the town had been built on the sides of this steep canyon. Hugh shook his head. The canyon was not so steep. When I got down into the town, I would see that ages of cloud bursts running down the canyon had leveled off a perfect town site. The outcroppings where the original discovery had been made were midway up the side of the mountain opposite. All the location claims had been laid out there, but tents set better on the level, so the



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