Monday, June 8, 2009

Love In Tonopah

The triangular scaffolding with a pulley at the top and a bucket hanging from a rope looped over the pulley is a “head frame.” I learned the name from Minnie who is 89. She knows such things because she has spent all her 89 good years in Tonopah. Her father was a miner because he loved mining. Her husband was a miner and he loved it too. They both died of silicosis. Perhaps we all die of love – either the want of it or from the spending of our lives in love. And Minnie’s story is a love story.

Tony was a 26 year old in Saginaw, Michigan doing a little of this, then a little of that, until he got a letter from his father. Tony’s dad was mining in Tonopah, having a great time. He thought Tony should give it a try. So he did. He packed up and moved to Tonopah where he rented a little cabin next to a dairy. One day the farmer asked Tony to help him deliver the milk. That’s how it happened that when 16 year old Minnie answered the door early one morning in 1937, she met and fell in instant love with the new milkman.

Not long afterward, Tony and Minnie eloped to Hawthorne, where they were secretly married, then returned to life as usual in Tonopah. Months later, Minnie fessed up to her mother who by the way was from the old country in Eastern Europe. It did not set well, but eventually everyone came around and became a happy family. Minnie has 4 adult children all of whom live in Tonopah. Following the example her Capulet style wedding, 3 of her classmates eloped to Hawthorne that year.

The last time I blogged about Tonopah, I was quoting David Kranes’ Life On The Moon. But this time, the story that seems more in point is Marjorie Brown’s Lady In Boomtown, a true life memoir and another love story. Marjorie was a starry eyed 18 year old in 1903 when young lawyer Hugh Brown proposed and asked her to follow him from San Francisco to Tonopah where he would handle the legalities attendant to all that brand new gold and silver. Love takes certain heroism. Minnie and Marjorie had it.

So as you have surmised, last Sunday was my visit to St. Mark’s, Tonopah, a small but boldly resilient congregation. After breakfast at Tonopah Station, where none of the young folks knew what a head frame was, we headed over to church for a worship. Afterward, we had Sam’s barbeque ribs, Bonnie’s new recipe for beans, and a lot of good conversation. Then a self-guided tour of the Mining Park, and we were on our way back down 95.

A couple of footnotes: The Pahrump Mirror, Nye County’s only independent newspaper, reports that The Shady Lady, one of our long established rural brothels, is going co-ed. Yes, men are to join the oldest profession out there in the desert. The headline was “Shady Lady To Offer Rooster Services.” The picture under the headline was of 7 ladies mostly in somewhat slinky evening wear, some black, one red. Despite the implication, however, they were neither the Shady Ladies nor prospective customers. They were the contestants for Ms. Senior Golden Years 2009.

On our way to Tonopah, we stopped off in Beatty to get a closer look at a colorful gathering. It was the Sour Dough Saloon’s Annual Pig Roast. Quite a crowd had gathered for the outside repast with live music. Most were in classic western attire including some Senior Golden Ladies in dance hall girl dresses worthy of the Long Branch. Bikers were also well represented. I have not made it to Beatty Days yet. That is the end of October. But Beatty is also quite a place. Wish we had a church there.

I have heard I-95 described as a boring drive. Whoever finds 95 boring must be driving with their eyes shut. It is one amazing manifestation after another.

Oh yes, Goldfield, population 289 is growing at the rate of 10% per year. The roadside jewelry dealer swears if it hits 500, he’s out of there.


Rick+ said...

What a great love story! I love hearing stories like this.

Matthew said...

One of my former law students did a paper on whether it was constitutional to require female-only brothels. She concluded that it was not and that the Nye County code violated Equal Protection. I understand the Shady Lady will have to go to the Nye Commissioners to get a legal change. Having women only prostitutes is not a business decision -- it is codified in law. Hopefully the Nye commissioners will go along with it. Better the law change this way than a federal lawsuit. Matthew Wright.

Bishop Dan said...

Oh my! I had no idea it was the law.

Anonymous said...

I agree re: I95, though in my travels it has failed to be so beautiful - or maybe I have failed to see the beauty. You're a fabulous writer. I see many things in new ways when you write them. Thanks for blogging :-)

Love, your daughter

Anonymous said...

MATTHEW - Amazingly the "NV Revised Statutes" are the envy in many other states, for their simplicity and straight-forwardness.

Having enjoyed the Mesquite, NV version of Ms. Senior contest and watching a former church lady friend become runner up, I am following the finals with interest. Vegans are now forewarned to be alert, please! :-) The Mesquite contingent is "gearing up" for what appears to be heading for a Girls Night Out! THE DECISION ON JUST PRECISELY WHO SHALL BE THEIR MALE CHAPARONE IS STILL UNDER - I am told some rather intense(!) DISCUSSION! ;-)