University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 36

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The constant scraping and turning of the cars had polished the steel plates to a high gloss. That night we had a dancing party three hundred feet under ground on the smooth steel floor. What a unique event! The music? Three miners playing two accordions and a banjo, with muted sounds of pounding hammers and rolling ore cars adding an obbligato from mysterious distances, whence men with candles on their caps appeared and disappeared like giant lightning bugs. At ten o’clock our revelry was stopped by a sudden sensation, a feeling that our bodies were being pressed in from all sides at once. Then someone turned the electric light off, and we were in darkness. We knew that dynamite was being exploded on the levels below us, and that all candles had been snuffed out by the concussion. An atmosphere of unmistakable tension filled the darkness while nine shots were detonated. When the lights were restored, Hugh told me how serious it was for every shot to be recorded, since only eight shots would mean that a hole had missed firing. It would have to be discovered and unloaded before the next shift of miners arrived, so that no one would face the hazard of sudden death by striking a pick into the missed hole. Then we had supper: cold chicken, salad, and sandwiches brought in great hampers from the Oddie home, with hot coffee lowered to us down the shaft from the miners’ bunkhouse on the surface. After supper, Tasker took me for a tour of the mine. This was old stuff to the rest of the party, but I was eager to explore. He stuffed a short candle into a miner’s candlestick for me. Then, holding his own candle over his head so that the wavering light would guide me as I stumbled along behind him, he led the way about a hundred feet through one of the tunnels. In a few moments we came out into a vast subterranean excavation, crossed and re crossed over head with a forest of logs a foot in diameter. “ Now this,” Tasker began, “ is the sweetest piece of ground in the district.” Then be went on to explain that this rich pocket of high- grade ore had been mined out all the way to the surface, a distance of three hundred feet; that every ounce of metal- bearing rock on the vein had been drilled out, leaving the non- bearing rock as smooth as a wall on both sides. And every ounce was high- grade, that is richer than average ore. He held the candle aloft so that the soft light would penetrate the forest of logs overhead. “ Do you mean this whole excavation was high- grade?” I asked.

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 36
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