A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 35
Most of our social life revolved around the Oddies. Tasker lived near us on the edge of Mount Brougher in a house that started out as a cabin, but had been remodeled in anticipation of the visit by his mother and sisters. It became a big, rambling dwelling of two large main rooms at right angles, with bedrooms strung around wherever they could be attached without shutting off the light. Tasker’s Chinese servant, who went by the name of Charlie Oddie, was a marvelous cook and produced the most delectable things out of cans. Of course, Tasker imported all sorts of delicacies: oysters, fruit, vegetables, candies, perishables packed in ice and transported at tremendous cost three days from San Francisco. You had to be a potential millionaire to indulge in such extravagances. In a mining camp, underground developments are always more exciting than anything that happens on the surface, and I was very anxious to go down one of the mines. Finally, the opportunity came with a mysterious invitation from Tasker. We were instructed to assemble at the “ Oddie Mansion” at nine o’clock in the evening on a given date. The card read, “ Wear your digging clothes.” When we had all gathered at Tasker’s house, one of his big dirt wagons pulled up in front. Boards had been laid across sawhorses for seats, and about twenty of us piled in. I was motioned to climb up with the driver, so I scrambled up over the giant wheel from one of the spokes to the rim. Then, grabbing hold of the long brake, I managed to pull myself up to the seat beside the driver with no help. As we started down Mount Brougher, the horses strained back in the traces to keep from plunging too fast down the steep grade. The driver had his hands full. As for me, up there above the team with nothing to hold on to except the thin rod around the seat, the ride was quite terrifying but exhilarating. Once off the hill, we jangled merrily across town and up Mount Oddie to the Mizpah mine. The mine shaft was really theatrical. The head frame was lighted by brilliant flood lights; even the engine room sent out a pool of brightness. The lights reflecting on the surrounding country made the buildings appear to be set in snow, for the ground is gray, and the desert night is never quite black. The big cage carried us underground in groups of six. As we dropped down on silent cables, the smell of deep earth came up to meet us, and the strong wind blowing past made the air cold. Suddenly the cage emerged into a spot of blazing lights and came to a gradual stop. We stepped out at the station on the three- hundred- foot level. It was a huge excavation about thirty feet square and fully that high, floored with heavy steel plates on which the ore cars were shifted, when empty, into the tunnels extending unlighted in three directions away from the shaft. When the ore cars returned filled, they were maneuvered into the cage and hoisted to the surface.
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