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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 70

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Chapter 10 Suppers at the ‘ Dobe Shack… Tales of the Mines… Ellendale, a Bubble of Pure Gold… Key Pittman… The Perilous Fortunes of the Big Promoters… Eulogy for Riley Grannan… A Political Rally and a Country Dance THE “’ DOBE SHACK,” as we lovingly called our home, became the center and circumference of our lives. This was not surprising, since there was so little by way of entertainment outside our homes, even Tasker's horses were gone as soon as the railroad arrived, so we made a practice of giving Sunday night suppers to which our friends were bidden without special invitation. We bought beer by the barrel, cheese by the wheel, crackers and canned goods by the case; and for years I had a special type of nightmare wherein I rummaged endlessly for food through kitchen and cellar, because we had a houseful of men and nothing to feed them. We would sit around the table until midnight, swapping yarns, reporting strikes, talking local politics. My father would have thought we were very provincial, for I can’t remember talking about anything of national importance, except, of course, such items as Will Rogers’ appearance in 1905, with his lariat, at the horseshow in Madison Square Garden; or perhaps Maud Adams as Peter Pan imploring her audiences to “ believe in fairies” and save the life of Tinker Bell; or Teddy Roosevelt telling his countrymen to “ speak softly and carry a big stick.” Southern Nevada mines had brought prosperity to all of us, and we had real drama to talk about - personal drama about people we knew. We delighted in stories of good fortune, like the discovery of Ellendale. Jim Clifford, the man who figured in Tasker’s run- in with Jack Longstreet, together with his wife Ellen, had roamed the desert examining every “ likely-lookin’ piece of rock.” No doubt it was the lost Breyfogel they were seeking, or some other of the many rich finds, uncharted because the original discoverer could not return to the spot again, or died on the desert, or was killed by Indians. Southern Nevada was completely untracked. Barstow was only a fueling point for the Santa Fe engines, and Las Vegas was hardly more than a Mexican village. One day, with her prospector’s hammer, Mrs. Clifford cracked open a boulder and laid bare a thrilling piece of leaf gold. Then for weeks she and her husband searched the surrounding country until they traced the ledge from which the piece of float had rolled. They named the spot “ Ellendale,” and in no time at all, claims were staked out for miles around, a town was laid out, and lots auctioned off for high figures. Hugh and I never missed the excitement of a discovery, so one Sunday we went out to see Ellendale. The Cliffords had dug out a shallow hole; we slipped down into it and saw a face of pure leaf gold, which I touched with a



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