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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 30

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comfortable for the rest of her life. But true to her code, she handed over the stock to the owner, who had come to her place dead- drunk. He was still drunk and hadn’t yet discovered his loss. The story flew like a summer shower to revive everybody’s faith in human nature. Another woman fell in love with a gambler and wanted a child by him. She had a very well- built and roomy house down on Oddie Avenue. ( Ironically one of the worst streets in town was named for our first citizen.) So the gambler married her, and the house was picked up, perched crazily on Harry Hudson’s freight wagon, behind a ten- mule team, and teetered up Main Street to the farthest end of town, where it was deposited on a nice flat piece of ground. Here, a few months later, her baby was born as far from the red light as she could get - and legitimate. One day I heard a dirge being played downtown on Main Street, and I wondered who had died that was important enough to turn out the Miners’ Union Band. I telephoned to Hugh, and he told me that it was a girl from the red light. She had always wanted a wedding gown, it was said, so her friends bought her a white satin wedding dress, veil and all, and laid her out in it. They held the funeral in the Miners’ Union Hall, and the hearse followed the band down to the graveyard. There was another kind of woman - wife to no man and far from the sporting world - who played the hard game like the men. These women went to every new strike, put up their own location notices, and dug their own assessment holes. When Lady Luck looked the other way, they ran boarding houses for the miners, which was not too easy a life either. Occasionally, they were large, burly women, but more often they were thin and wiry. One wondered how they were able to survive the fierce living they faced. While I am on this subject, I want to say I love a good western movie. The brilliant fireflies, the rough saloons, the unpaved streets, the riding cowboys, the gun- toting gamblers, and the brave marshals - jazzed up but still recognizable - are characters right out of my own experience. The sound of the bell on the toy engines pulling into way- stations at night can bring tears to my eyes, because I know it is quite possible I am seeing again the same little engine and listening to the same sweet sound that accompanied me into Soda-ville on my wedding journey. Not all our men were tailored in grey wool or gabardine. We had one real Tonopah pioneer who did wear flannel shirts. He was the laser. Again, he was a different kind of man from those who panned California gold in Grass Valley or climbed icy Chilkoot Pass in the Klondike rush of ‘ 98. Young and pretty well- educated, he was stalwart enough to handle a drill or swing a ten-pound hammer. Leasers were a tough breed, and not too proud for “ mucking”-



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