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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 44

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Mr. Knickerbocker, in dress suit, walked onto the dimly lighted stage. He was tall and slender, with straight features and black hair. By way of introduction he said: “ You may wonder at my temerity in presenting to you such a performance in this environment, but a prospector named Knickerbocker, down on his luck, needs a grubstake. And a man must use the tools he understands.” He read the play brilliantly in a rich, clear, expressive voice. I felt he had missed his calling as an actor, as ministers so often do. Not only the reading made that evening exciting. In the middle of the tender scene between Brutus and his wife, a dogfight started in the balcony. Suddenly there was a terrific growling and scrambling, with people fleeing in all directions from a howling mass of dogs, which were finally kicked down the rickety stairs and out the door. Whereupon, Mr. Knickerbocker made some remark to the effect that now that the other dogs had a chance to perform, this dog would continue. Entertainments on the frontier always ended with a dance, and this evening was no exception. The chairs were pushed back against the wall, but just as the banjo and piano players entered, two shots were fired outside the building. The curious crowd rushed toward the entrance, flinging open the doors. Two more shots followed in rapid succession and landed somewhere inside the hall. As the shots continued to come into the hall, everyone surged back toward the center of the room and began scrambling for shelter. Grabbing me by the hand, Hugh said in his deliberate way, “ Marjorie, I don’t know what to do with you,” and then noticing the piano, shoved me behind it. I had no intention of missing anything, so, as Hugh turned away, I poked my head up over the piano. But, to my disappointment, nothing more happened. No one was hurt, and no one questioned the right of a husband to take a few shots at the man who threatened the sanctity of his home. While the affair concerned figures about town well known to us all, it can best be summed up in the words of the newsboy calling the next day: “ All about the bum shootin’ by the crazy loon." Most of Hugh’s friends were members of the Mizpah Club, a group of old-timers, men who had been in Tonopah since the establishment of the camp or at least had arrived before 1903. I think Hugh was the founder; at least he was the secretary for the first year. In the clubroom over the post office, the members played cards endlessly, talking the regular mining- camp jargon: new discoveries, location work, claims jumped, etc. Fifty members of this club had presented us with a full set of flat silver as a wedding present, and the first task I set for myself was the writing of fifty notes of thanks to these gentlemen. Knowing the notes would certainly be

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 44
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