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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 50

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Presently I felt something bulging heavily against me, and it wasn’t my husband. It was our unknown neighbor on the other side of the canvas partition. I wriggled away. In such restricted quarters, it was no use. That unwanted bulge stayed with me most of the night, I have often wondered if we ever met. The next morning we arrived at the Patricks’. They had been mildly concerned about us when we didn’t show up the night before, but desert travel was so uncertain that no one worried very much about people being overdue. Their house was hardly more than a shell, and we did sleep on the floor. Since there were no windows in yet, we dressed and undressed in a closet. We ate from a table consisting of planks set across two saw horses and had a wonderful time. Of course, it was the mines that absorbed our attention. They really were not mines, hardly more than shallow holes, but already fortunes had been scooped off the surface, loaded into canvas bags, and started off to the smelters in California or Colorado. We visited all the famous leases: the Hays- Monette, the Sandstorm, the Jumbo, the January, the White Horse, the Red Top - names indicative of something lucky to the men who had staked them out. We saw Mr. Vermilliar, a lawyer from Tonopah, standing guard with a shotgun in a little excavation no bigger than a bathroom, where, with his own hands, he had scooped out $ 1OO, OOO. For weeks, day and night, he stayed there guarding his unprotected mint with an armchair down in the hole where he could catch forty winks when he thought it was safe. We walked over the spot where fabulously rich ore had been uncovered when the two owners dug grooves for the ore car rails. We also saw the claim that became the Mohawk Mine and made millionaires of George Wingfield and George Nixon. During the evening, we drifted through the streets of Goldfield. Every other building was a saloon and gambling house, all crowded with men in high boots and wide felt hats, with six- shooters often in open evidence, and here and there a bright bit of color testifying to a feminine clientele. Along the way we heard chatter about this man or that gambling for high stakes in this saloon or another. Our acquaintance from Tonopah, Herman Knickerbocker, had come to Goldfield when it began to boom. He became an intense and silent gambler, playing for absurdly high stakes, winning and losing fortunes in a night. And he dressed the part: grey Stetson, long black Prince Albert coat, dark trousers stuffed into high boots, white shirt, and black string tie, the flowing ends of which waved over his shoulder just like the gamblers in a western movie. He wore his hair a bit long, even for that day, and carried himself like an adventurer, with a wide and swinging gait, a voice musical and low, and an overall aloof melancholy that seemed to preclude his ever being called by his first name. Mr. Knickerbocker was without exception



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