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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 49

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Hugh acquired no claims in Goldfield, but the “ get- rich- quick” fever is easy to catch from others. The first time I felt this burning sensation was the night two of out friends came hotfoot up the hill in great excitement to show us a panning they had brought in that afternoon from their Goldfield lease. In the bottom of a little frying pan was a teaspoonful of sand so yellow it shrieked “ wealth” even to my uninitiated eyes. Gold found on your own ground! My first trip to Goldfield was in August 1904. Hugh had business there, and of course I was crazy to see the excitement at first hand. But the sleeping accommodations were so meager that Hugh hesitated to have me make the trip. When Hugh’s client, Lucian L. Patrick, a promoter, told him we could “ bunk” with him and his wife, we accepted the welcome invitation. The Patricks were building a house and living in it while the carpenters worked around them. If we were game enough to sleep on a mattress on the floor, they would be glad to have us. We hired a buckboard and team, and started out just after the day’s heat had died down. The desert is always cool at night, so we knew we would have a comfortable trip; but although Goldfield was only about thirty miles away, we took a wrong fork in the road, and were delayed for more than a hour. We stopped for dinner at Klondike Wells, from which Jim Butler had been traveling when he made the silver strike at Tonopah. That meal at Klondike was typical of many I recall on the desert – sliced tomatoes curled at the edges by the hot dry air, greasy stew or boiled beef, lifeless watery mashed potatoes, and canned corn, with the inevitable baking powder biscuits, cold and crumbly and tasteless. I remember the kitchen and the cook, too, with his dirty apron and blue shirt, his shaggy mustache stained with tobacco. I have thought many times how lucky it was that I was too young to be fastidious, and hungry enough to be blind. It was food, and I ate. After dinner we continued our trip into the night. As it turned out, we slept in the very kind of shelter Hugh had tried to avoid. We arrived in Goldfield so much later than we had expected that Hugh decided to seek some place to sleep and arrive at the Patricks’ in the morning. But the only type of sleeping quarters available was technically known as a “ flop house,” a big tent divided by canvas partitions into cubicles about ten feet square. We were ushered quietly into one of these “ roomettes,” where I could just distinguish a three- quarter size iron bed, a wash bowl and pitcher, and one chair. A sickly light from a small electric bulb somewhere in the distance served for illumination, and a chorus of snores told us we were not alone. I didn’t attempt to examine the bedding. I wouldn’t have been able to see it, anyway, in that dim light, but I wasn’t as squeamish as I had been a year earlier as a bride. All I really cared about was to dust off my hair with a towel from my handbag, clean my face with cold cream and fall into bed.



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