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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 77

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vestige of a tune, while the lady at the piano never once changed her two chords. Because this was an all- night function, a program had been arranged to take care of the intermissions. Herman Albert was master of ceremonies. A middle- aged rancher sang a bass solo in a rich, strong voice; Miss Virginia Somebody recited “ Barbara Fritchie”; Mr. and Mrs. So- and- So played a duet while Herman made the announcements in the tones of a benevolent parent. When midnight arrived, we drank strong coffee brewed in a cauldron hung on a crane over the great fire out in the school yard, with Indians of all ages gathered around for their share. We ate sandwiches of homemade bread, home- cured ham, and cakes such as only ranch women can make; thus fortified, we danced until the clouds turned pink. Then we rode back up the lane to the Bell ranch live miles away and had breakfast before we went to bed. How we happened to he entertained at the Bell ranch is a story in itself. We were to have been guests at the Keough ranch, a staunch Republican citadel; but on the afternoon of our arrival, found Mrs. Keough was ill, so we rode back ten miles to the Bell ranch. We felt quite uncomfortable about storming unannounced into this Democratic stronghold, but we were received by Senator Bell and his family with as much graciousness as if we had been members of his own political party. This in itself was a commentary on desert hospitality, for old Nevadans took their politics seriously. We found out they took their hospitality even more seriously. Because we had come to attend a Republican rally, our party manager thought it only right to offer to pay for our lodging. When the suggestion was made to the senator, he drew himself up, every white hair bristling, his face drained of color, and said in a quiet voice, “ You insult me, sir. You were my guests.” Turning on his heel, he walked to the door and out into the yard, where he leaned against a cottonwood, looking far off over the field where his thousand head of cattle stood lazily in the hot sun. The moment was terrible. The quiet anger in that old man’s figure was a lesson in outraged hospitality I have never forgotten. At last Hugh walked over and spoke to him; the senator’s handsome features relaxed. The party manager went forward, extending his hand in apology. Mr. Bell shook it warmly, and the incident was over.



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