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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 42

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and at sundown. Then, when evening came, the two would trudge off to the Indian camp around the edge of the mountain. He was a handsome old man, remarkably tall and straight for one so old, with long, thick grey hair, and he carried himself with a natural dignity. But what set him apart from other Indians were his white full- dress shirts - which he wore with the boiled bosoms in the back. Evidently they appealed to his sense of distinction. His trousers might be anything, but Annie saw to it that his shirts were snow white and meticulously ironed. This old fellow was one of the few Indians still alive who had traveled southern Nevada on the warpath. Many of us picked up arrow- heads around our own houses. I have one, the point of which is drilled with a tiny hole, and the hole has a sinister looking red stain around it. The presence of this aged Paiute chief sitting behind my house, together with poison arrowheads, made the Old West seem very close, as indeed it was. According to accepted custom, when the old man died, the Indians burned the whole camp, a huge conglomeration of wickiups and refuse that made a barbaric blaze. For three days they covered their faces with ashes and sat on the ground in circles, wailing and chanting the old chief’s spirit across the “ Great Divide.” To add novelty to our lives in “ boomtown,” we had frequent social events, often patterned as nearly as possible after the lives we had left behind. An early occasion in our personal experience was a dinner given by one of Hugh’s clients, Mr. Charles E. Knox, president of the Montana- Tonopah Mining Company. The dinner was held in the Merchants’ Hotel, a rambling, rough- board rooming house with a second- floor porch, located on lower Main Street near the corral where the freight wagons were unloaded. “ No finer chef in the world,” proclaimed the friends of Tom Arden, one of the proprietors, who was known to miners from the Arctic Circle to Cape Town. We dined in an inside room twenty feet long and half as wide, papered with a big sprawling design in magenta profusely ornamented with gold, and lighted by two electric bulbs suspended on cords from the ceiling. The dining table was fashioned from smaller tables pushed together, covered with white oilcloth and decorated with a centerpiece of three cactus plants in tin cans. The water glasses were beer mugs, and the coffee cups were not exactly eggshell thin; but thanks to a princely host, we were served a fruit cocktail of fresh strawberries. Tasker wasn’t the only man in town who could offer his guests fruit two days by train and one day by stage from California. The eighteen guests included men connected with the executive end of the mining interests and several wives. At each lady’s place we discovered a small, flat globule of pure silver. I had to be told this was an assayer’s button,



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