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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 23

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enough men to keep these coyotes outta that hole. I’ll stay here until you get back.’ ” Tasker went on to tell me that he hired a young man who had just come into camp from Arizona. His name was Wyatt Earp*.[ * David Myrick tells me a little item in the Tonopah Bonanza of February 1, 1902, says Wyatt Earp had come to town from Name, and in a copy of the same paper a month later, there is an advertisement for “ THE NORTHERN – Wyatt Earp, prop, A gentleman’s resort.” Later he returned to Arizona and became sheriff of Tombstone.] Had I ever heard about him? He was a fancy crack shot. Earp hired twenty men to help him keep the jumpers off the Mizpah claim, and Tasker paid them twenty dollars a day for six days. “ That was an expensive little bit of litigation,” Tasker said, “ but I never spent money more effectively. It established all the Tonopah Mining Company’s claims, and we never had another lawsuit.” In later years when Tasker Oddie and I talked of the early days, I realized, as I had not in my youth, how Tonopah mining differed from the placer mining in California, where a man could work outa good day’s wages by crouching at the edge of a stream and rolling a few pounds of dirt in a pan over which he poured an occasional wish of water. It took expensive equipment to work the underground deposits. Tasker and his partners agreed to lease ground on the vein to men who could furnish the equipment needed. Out of the many who applied, leases were let to one hundred and thirty men. The leases stipulated the percentage royalty the owners were to receive, the number of feet each lessee was entitled to ( one hundred feet on the vein, fifty feet on either side), and the number of months the leases were to run. They were negotiated without the scratch of a pen, Tasker told me, just a few brief, rough notes he made in his little memorandum book. And nobody ever lost a nickel. He said he didn’t believe such a volume of complicated business was ever transacted before with so little formality. He was very proud of those leases, based as they were on confidence and good faith among many different men. He said that by January 1, 1901, Mount Oddie was alive with the leasers. The desert was dotted with twenty- mule teams loaded with high- grade ore, making the slow journey over the sixty- five miles to Sodaville, thence by the fussy little narrow- gauge to Mound House, ultimately by Southern Pacific Railroad to the smelters in California or Colorado. As men clawed at the surface day and night, no one knew what wealth the next few feet might uncover. Every foot seemed to raise the values. Even when I came to Nevada in February of 1904, men were still working over the waste and making good returns. But hard- rock mining needs expensive machinery to drive through rock to the veins, expert geologists to follow the veins of ore, and mills and chemists to reduce the ore to metal. The original claims were too costly for the owners to



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