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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 87

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the banks - would continue to pay him handsomely for his advice, but what of those shares of stock in mines all over southern Nevada that had made us so rich on paper? We had had holdings worth close to a million dollars, and their value was rising with every market day. Now most of them were worthless, or had been put up as security on ventures that were lost. Hugh uttered no word of regret, but for me a dream of great wealth had suddenly been shattered. I made no brief for myself - the dramatic temperament is a law unto itself. It is as futile to ask it to be calm in storm as to expect it not to be gay when skies are fair. Life in Tonopah had meant romance and excitement; present hardship had been the prelude to future luxury. Now my depression was so deep that not even the birth of our second son in May, 1908, could lift me out of it. Whipped by the dead dream, I told myself I wasn’t meant to be domestic, that I had need of self- expression my youth had promised. The magic had gone out of living. I looked at that open country with different eyes. By 1910, all I could see were the unpainted shacks in the foreground, the dusty, winding paths that were the streets, the never- ending monotony. What did it matter to me that distant colors were beautiful, that sunset reddened into gold? What did it matter to me that people were loyal and lovable, that little children needed care? That woman in Hawthorne, was this what she saw ahead of me? Disappointment? Disillusionment, magnified and intensified by desert limitations? That first day when Jen Stock came to call, she had said, “ I did not want you to be lonely. I wanted you to know you had neighbors.” And Bessie Barndt, at Hot Creek Ranch, had said things to me that at the time I thought a bit melodramatic. “ Don’t talk to me about the desert,” she whispered, her voice trembling with emotion, " that vast stretch of open country you’re raving about. That desert is alive, and it’ll fight you. The stillness. Her voice was rising as she spoke. “ I’ve started down at the corral, and I’ve run to the house and slammed the door on it as if it were an animal creeping up on me, ready to tear me to pieces. Don’t talk to me about the stillness of the desert in those high- faluting words. You don’t know what you’re talking about!” And Sadie Bell, at beautiful Reese River, with her embroidered dishtowels and sheets. I remember saying to her with all the arrogance of youth, “ Sadie, how can you do such needless handwork? Those embroidered dish towels are red with the blood of murdered time!” Quietly she answered, “ When the men ride the roundup, I’m alone. Sometimes they are gone for three months. What else can I do but embroider things that can be embroidered to keep from going crazy?”



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