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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 29

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character named Bar Francis, who had been an old- time bad man and later sheriff.” I don’t think Bar Francis was ever a western bad man in the accepted meaning of the term, but I am sure he enjoyed the reputation. Harry Ramsey, whom I had first met on the stage for Tonopah, was another of the quiet, inconspicuous, soft- spoken men who for that very reason carried the unsavory reputation of killer. If rumors were facts, his gun had nine notches on it, acquired in Mexico when he cleaned out a nest of bandits who had killed his father and brother. This hardly seemed to justify labeling him a “ western” killer, but he did carry that reputation: deliberate, calm, and absolutely ruthless. And what of the glamorous ladies from the other end of town? Occasional tales filtered through to me - I wish I had known more; it would have been livelier for this book if I had. There were a few, not the usual dance- hall girls, who achieved a certain amount of notoriety, if not fame, as they moved from one lucky gambler to another when the turn of fortune swung high or low. Wearing a touch of rouge in an era when makeup was a sign, they tripped across the street with long skirts held tight and hats loaded with plumes, often with parasols slung negligently over a plump shoulder. This type of young woman did not live in the red light; I never knew where they did live. In my day no one ever saw dance- hall girls in short, fluffy skirts, dancing the Can Can on the stage, at least not in Nevada. I did get an occasional surreptitious glimpse of the underworld. Hugh’s office was in the Golden Block, diagonally opposite the famous Butler Saloon the first saloon in camp, which boasted that its doors had never been shut. In summer the short swinging doors made it possible from Hugh’s windows to see into the saloon, when the women stood at the bar, foot on rail, with the men. I was tremendously intrigued, much to my husband’s disgust. “ What are you so curious about?” he would say. “ They’re a dime a dozen. They’re not even good- looking.” But that wasn’t always true. Sometimes they were very glamorous. Then there were the “ madams,” rulers of the red light. I can tell you two good stories about them. One ran a house - I’ll wager it was known as the Bijou or the Sagebrush or the Golden Nugget - in which no girl was allowed to rob a man. One day she discovered a certificate for ten thousand shares of Mohawk in the possession of one of the girls. The girl insisted the stock had been given to her, and maybe it was, but the madam thought differently. She cuffed the girl a bit just to teach her a lesson and then put on her hat and went uptown to find the man who owned the certificate. Stock registrations meant little in those days. All she had to do was to drop into a broker’s office and sell the certificate. At that time Mohawk was worth about five dollars a share. She would have been

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 29
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