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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 76

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Of our personal friends, the most romantic figure was Herman Albert. He was associated with Reese River, a bright spot in my memory book. Herman came to Tonopah in 1903, directly after his graduation from Columbia University, a trimly built young man with fine eyes and an exceptionally sweet smile. He was a natural musician, who only a few months before had written the music for the senior opera at his alma mater. It was so tuneful that it was moved from Columbia’s campus directly to Broadway. But Herman had a wanderlust, and after a few months in Tonopah, he plunged still deeper into the life of the West with a string of burros and a package of bacon and beans. When he returned from his prospecting trips, he never had anything to show except a beard that made him look like the apostle Paul. He would stay in town for a few weeks and occasionally come up on the hill to play the piano; then civilization, such as it was, irked him, and he was gone again. At last Herman attached himself to the George Keough ranch at Reese River, where the families of the Bells and the Keoughs lived like patriarchs of old. Their cattle ranches stretched for hundreds of miles on both sides of the old river bed from which the district drew its name. Political spokesmen from Tonopah always went to outlying districts to hold rallies. I discovered early that one of these trips could be a wonderful holiday. During one sensational campaign, Hugh went to Reese River to address the voters in behalf of Key Pittman’s opponent. We were “ put up” at the Bell ranch, and the meeting was held in the district schoolhouse - followed, of course, by an all- night dance. The schoolhouse was the usual white- board, one- room structure, with a hitching rail across the length of the building; off to the right were a well and a watering trough. Inside, a piano and rows of benches were arranged for the political rally. To me the meeting seemed undistinguished, even if Hugh was making the speech; it was the audience that captivated me: weatherworn cowboys; rugged, substantial- looking ranchers; mothers of ample proportions with soft eyes and hard hands, whose manners were diffident but not uncordial; young girls with frizzed hair and frilled dresses, interested only in the cowboys from the distant ranches; young men of all ages in overalls, with sleek heads and sunburned noses. And outside, brown faces of Indians banked the three windows on each side of the room. After the speeches the benches were pushed back against the wall. Little children were induced to relinquish the soft side of Dad’s arm and lie down on the hard benches with sweaters for pillows. At last a woman in a white dress sat down at the piano, a young man came forward with a violin, and the dance began. One- two- three, one- two- three, the fiddler played, but without the

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 76
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