University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 108

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the glowing responses from the Nevada newspapers, were a heartening experience for both of us. But, for a number of years, we had been aware that Hugh’s health, never robust, was being undermined by some internal threat. His strength could not have borne the burdens of these responsibilities, and so when the proposed honors were unproductive, we were content. Tonopah geologists made models of their mines. On thin glass slides, some of which hung vertically in slender grooves while others lay horizontally on tiny cleats, all the workings of the mine were traced to scale in colored inks. When you stood in front of the model and looked into its serried sections, you seemed to be looking into the earth with a magic eye. Here the shaft dropped down from level to level through ore and country rock; here were “ drifts” and “ stopes” and “ crosscuts” with every foot of ore blocked out; and here you traced the meandering vein, noted where it petered out or widened into richness unimagined as it continued into regions still unexplored. They were beautiful things, these glass models, made by skilled craftsmen, often works of art. When I think of Tonopah, the memory is like such a model of a life I was privileged to live, unique and gone: the humble water carrier who brought his precious cargo to my door in a barrel; the old Indian who had been a warrior and carried himself with such dignity; the prospector who picked up a rock to throw at a burro and discovered ore that poured millions into hands he never saw; the men who were made by its magic or were ruined by its power; the cowboy who read philosophy and the gambler who was godfather to a state; the men and women who touched my hand and warmed my heart; and last of all, the view from the top of the world when I rode on a roundup. These things, so full of meaning for me, were a vein of ore whose richness increased with depth. So we were approaching the end of the spectacular years in Tonopah. The single year that Hugh had planned to stay had stretched into twenty. Our sons had completed high school and were about to enter Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. We decided to leave the desert and make our home in Palo Alto. The trunks were locked and ready for the express man. All of our possessions were crated and gone. I had just one more errand, to ship a box of particular treasures by Wells Fargo. This errand accomplished, I turned away from the counter when the manager stepped out of his tiny office and came toward me. “ You’re Mrs. Hugh Brown, aren’t you?” “ Yes,” I replied. Strange coincidence, I had heard the same words just before I arrived in Tonopah as a bride, spoken with the same falling inflection that

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 108
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