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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 58

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Sparks’ hired gunman. January Jones and his pal Bar Francis swaggered down the street among the merrymakers, too, both ostentatiously carrying their guns. During the celebration I also had a glimpse of Harry Ramsey, which explained to me somewhat his reputation as a cold, deliberate killer. I wanted to feel the excitement of the contests at close range, so I left the vantage point of Hugh’s office window to skirt the crowd below. Looking through the mass of spectators, I caught sight of Harry Ramsey as he faced a man in front of him, his lips taut and his eyes glistening. In a moment the other man scuttled away. I would like to have known what Harry Ramsey’s next move would have been if his antagonist had not disappeared, for every time I recall the incident, it gives me the same shiver I had that day. The second Railroad Day was marked by a unique event of mining- town celebrations, the double- handed drilling contest. Two men work as a team, with steel drills and a hammer weighing sixteen pounds, to drill holes in granite, competing with other teams for prizes running into hundreds of dollars. A drilling contest is the most exciting exhibition of skill and courage I know of. Today it is a thing of the past. When machine drills were invented, hand drilling was over; but in1904, miners drilled in competition to prove who had the surest aim, the quickest stroke, and the strongest arm. Under the platform in the center of the street was a huge block of granite, a selected piece of Gunnison granite hauled in by mule team from Colorado for the occasion. The top of the block was flush with the floor of the platform, and into this rock each two- man team would drill for fifteen minutes. The pair reaching the greatest depth was the winner. The team, with its seconds, comes onto the platform, stripped to the waist. One man carries the hammers, and his partner carries a long, heavy roll of canvas, which contains the two sets of drills, sharpened for the contest. Each drill is about an inch in diameter, and they vary in length from a foot to four feet. Each man has his own hammer and set of drills. All are carefully laid out in precise order after being examined by an impartial official. The short drills are placed near at hand, the longer ones at the back within reach. Then, with infinite care, each team selects the spot in the granite boulder where they will drill. Granite has seams that are often harder or softer than the rest of the rock, so the spot selected is important. Two men get into position, one crouching down and clasping the shortest drill close around the head, his partner standing over him, his hammer uplifted, ready to deliver the first blow. The timer gives the signal by touching him on the shoulder.



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