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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 27

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over, and the big red globe went hurtling through the window glass with a noise like a pistol shot. For a moment we were silent with dismay, but youth is resilient, and soon we were laughing again. However, the next morning I gave myself over to tears as the poor bronze lamp, its beautiful shade gone and its wick hanging out like a dry tongue, was banished to the dugout we used as a cellar. It remained in the dugout storage for as long as we lived in Tonopah. Years afterward, when we returned to California, I arranged to have the lamp converted to an electric fixture. To my surprise the gentleman with whom I dealt raved over it. It was the color and luster of the metal that impressed him. When I told him the history of the lamp, he said that it was possible the bronze had absorbed chemicals from its long contact with Tonopah’s metal- impregnated earth, and that might account for its unusual luster. My trousseau was as inappropriate to Boomtown as my wedding presents, but at the time it didn’t seem so. We all dressed with the same care we would have used in any established community. My “ calling dress” was a lovely shade of purple velvet, trimmed with an exquisite “ fancy” of marabou. My traveling suit, a thin broadcloth we called “ lady’s cloth,” was made with a short Eton jacket lined with white silk. I wore with it the red poppy hat that caught Hugh’s eye at Hawthorne. The skirt was daringly short - four inches off the ground. The day Mrs. Hank Knight called, she had said to me playfully,“ Well, Mrs. Brown, it is all very well for you to arrive here with your stylish frou- frous, but you wait. The time will come when you’ll go back to San Francisco, and you’ll walk up Market Street feeling just as dowdy as we do.” When women in California took to driving automobiles in riding breeches and short coats, I wore them in Tonopah and was very seriously criticized by other women. But I don’t think the men minded. I had an echo of this many years later, when an old friend I hadn’t seen since Tonopah days said to me, “ Marjorie, you don’t look natural to me. I remember you in dark grey riding togs with black boots up to your knees and a saucy black hat. You looked like a handsome boy.” Of course we would dress much more sensibly now, but in 1904 we brought to the desert the scale of living to which we were born. To dress the part of the frontiersman just wasn’t done. Those who attempted it were considered show-offs. For the most part, Tonopah was a community of city people who lived in rough- board houses and walked un- paved streets, but who dressed and acted as they would in San Francisco or New York. I have had occasion to read the experiences of an English woman who visited Colorado in 1875. She traveled by horseback from Truckee in California,



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