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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 17

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Later, when I learned Jen Stock’s story, I knew why she was concerned for loneliness. When she married Mr. Stock, he was superintendent of a salt works near Sodaville, and the Stocks lived there for many years. All the workers on the salt marsh were Indians, and Jen was the only white woman for fifty miles around. She knew what loneliness could do to a woman. But that very night I learned there was another kind of neighborliness not quite so pleasant. After dinner I was in my kitchen wiping the dishes, while Hugh was sitting in the living room with a book. A terrific din erupted all around the house, a combination of tin cans, bells, horns - anything that could make a noise. Dreadfully shocked and frightened, I rushed to my husband for protection, but Hugh sat calmly smoking his pipe with a smile of amusement on his face. I was trembling with fear. He took his pipe from his mouth and told me quietly not to be alarmed. It was just a shivaree. I had heard the word before, but never expected to be subjected to such disrespectful treatment. My eyes filled with tears of humiliation and then anger. Voices began calling, “ We want to see the bride! Come on out or we’ll come in!” “ Don’t take it so seriously,” Hugh said, laughing at me. “ You’ll have to show up, so you’d better dry your eyes and smile. It’s just a frontier joke.” At last he opened the door and waved for our tormentors to come in. The din stopped, and about twenty young men poured into the house. I swallowed my fury and smiled and bowed. At Hugh’s suggestion I brought from the kitchen what few cookies I had, and Hugh turned his pockets inside out and threw his wallet on the table. The men scooped up about twenty dollars and all the cookies; then yelling, “ Much obliged! Happy days!” they went off noisily down the hill, leaving me spent with excitement. Another early visitor who gave my new life some brushed- in color was Mrs. Hank Knight, a thin, homely woman with a chirpie sweetness that made her very attractive. From Mrs. Knight I gained my first realization of the comradeship of the frontier. At the turn of the century towns were far apart. Travel was by stage or buckboard, slow and hard, as I had experienced. I wondered how people could know one another so well. Mrs. Knight, who was considerably older than I, knew people all over the state, and she knew them by their first names. Many native Nevadans had come to Tonopah, of course, but I remember being delighted and somewhat startled by our conversation on the day she called. When I mentioned someone I had just met, she would look at me questioningly for a moment. Then her eyes would kindle and she would

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 17
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