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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 22

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their tents and makeshift shacks spread across the valley floor, and the boom was on. Tonopah was not immune to the rough and sometimes dangerous elements who were to be found trying to get their share of the new riches. Stories about claim- jumpers abounded. One of the best was the run- in Tasker Oddie had with Jack Longstreet, a big, powerful giant with a well- established reputation as a gunman. He had arrived in camp after all the land had been staked out, but that did not stop him from “ making some locations.” Then he accused Jim Clifford of jumping his claims, and followed him to Tasker’s tent office on Main Street. With pistol drawn, Longstreet charged into the tent where Clifford and Oddie, both unarmed, were seated. Tasker sprang to his feet and grabbed the gun. The hammer came down on his finger, inflicting an ugly wound, but Tasker hung on and disarmed the raging man. In true western-movie style, Jack Longstreet’s progress toward Taker’s tent had been reported along the street, and the sheriff arrived to take over in the nick of time. Once many years later, I asked Tasker for the best claim- jumping tale he could remember. “ Well,” he said, “ I can tell you the one that meant the most to me. Some ruffians moved in from Salt Lake and tried to jump the Mizpah, the original claim. Ralph Wardle and I went up on the hill to put them off and found three men down the fifteen- foot shaft. Wardleand I climbed down the ladder, and before we knew it, we were in a hand- to- hand scrap, three of them against two of us. People down in town got wind of trouble on the hill, so the sheriff rounded up some men to go up there with him. He poked his head over the edge of the shaft, looking to me like the Angel Gabriel, and yelled, ‘ Hey! you fellas got no business on this property. Quit- fightin’ and get outta that hole!’ “ One of them let go of me long enough to yell back, ‘ You can’t stop us, Sheriff. You gotta have a warrant to stop us, and you can’t get it. The Court House is seventy miles away in Belmont.’ “ The sheriff yelled back, ‘ You come outta there and we’ll talk about it.’ By this time half the town was up on the hill. We all scrambled up the ladder. “ Then the sheriff said, ‘ Now I’ll show you coots whether I can do something about this or not. All you fellas who are in favor of the Tonopah Mining Company’s claim come over here.’ About fifty men came over and stood by me. “ ‘ Now all you other rattlers who think these men are not thieves join up with them over there. Now, Oddie, I’ll arrest anyone that comes over here from over there. You go hire a man to ride to Belmont and get out a warrant for malicious mischief, and we’ll file that suit. And while you’re at it, Oddie, hire

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 22
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