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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 88

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I lived all my desert years in a town where I had no water to haul, no washing to be hung out in the blistering sun, no livestock to care for in the bitter wind. But that desert crept into my thoughts until it looked, not like an open plain, but like a pit closing me in, with sides stretching to the sky. There was nothing beyond the dump on the edge of town, nothing but the stark realism of the foreground, and myself. I took refuge in reading, anything to keep me from thinking. The Harvard Classics were at hand, but most of what I read was just soporific. At last I got around to Shakespeare, and here Hugh’s fine collection of Shakespeare served me even better than it had served Herman Knickerbocker. Finally, beyond this lonely effort to make peace with myself came a new experience. It was dear Sadie Bell who set in motion the train of events that proved my salvation. She was a daughter- in- law of Senator T. J. Bell, at whose ranch we had visited. Some of the Bells were always coming into town on holidays, and one day Sadie took a jaunt up the hill to visit me. In the course of conversation, she asked me how I’d like to come to the ranch for the spring roundup. I was surprised by the invitation, for in that day ranch women never rode with the men. It just wasn’t done. Although I was listless about everything, this was something I really wanted to do, and I accepted with alacrity. The trip by auto stage brought me to the ranch in the late afternoon. When my baggage had been deposited in the large, high- ceilinged bedroom, I put on my riding togs, and Elmer Bell, Sadie’s older brother- in- law, took me down to the corral. He pointed out a cowpony, old and wise, which, he told me, knew as much about rounding up cattle as the men did. He would take good care of me. At dinner I was introduced to two cattle buyers who had come in to look over the herd and to the men on the ranch, most of whom would ride with me the next day. One, “ Bud,” a tall blond cowboy about thirty, had class even in blue jeans. I perked up when Mr. Bell assigned him to ride with me. At five o’clock the next morning, the bell rang down at the bunkhouse, and by five- thirty everybody was at breakfast. Sadie presided over the big stove, with the help of the old hired man who was part of the equipment of every ranch. What a breakfast we had! Home cured bacon and ham, baking- powder biscuits, hot cakes, blackberry jam, and currant jelly made from the wild berries that grew in profusion behind the ranch house. By six o’clock we were down at the corral, with a private rodeo and a thrill a minute until everyone was safely mounted. In the cold morning air the horses were all fractious, and for a few minutes it looked as if excitement would be changed into tragedy. As a cowboy



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