Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Thar's gold in them thar hills."


gold silver mining
After a healthy breakfast, we took a morning walk in a residential area of Gardnerville. The air was brisk, sky clear, and the surrounding mountains breathtaking. These acre-plus, rural lots lodged horses, dogs, poultry, restored antique trackers, friendly neighbors, and apple trees in full blossom.

Late morning, we took off for Virginia City. Not much had changed since my last visit … which was good. Except for the crowds. My last visit was during the height of summer tourism, with people crowding the streets, cafes, saloons, museums, and shops. This time we had this historic town all to ourselves. I was surprised that everyone could answer our most obscure questions. The people who work in Virginia City know town history and trivia.

mining, shopkeeping
In one store, a friendly old coot told us all about the guns, ore samples, and minerals on display. To prove his bona fides, he pulled out his wallet to show us his membership card in a gold miner association and photographs of nuggets he had found. Then he lifted a chain around his neck to display the Pièce de résistance, a one-ounce gold nugget. We were impressed and let him convince us to buy a 50 million year old insect embedded in a piece of amber. For $34, it would be a unique gift for our rock hound grandson. When I pulled out my wallet, he said I needed to go find someone who worked in the shop. That was a surprise. For all of his familiarity with the stock and his astute salesmanship, I had assumed he was connected with the store, but no, he was just an old miner eager to share his knowledge with tourists. We discovered our friendly miner was not exceptional. 

At lunch, we discovered our relentlessly cute server had lived and worked in Virginia City for eons. When asked a casual question about Mark Twain, she proved smarter than my wife's iPhone and more knowledgeable than most American Literature professors about Twain's stint in Virginia City

With limited crowds, the shopkeepers, barkeeps, and café employees were all eager to share information about their historic town. We had a great day, and I gathered up some material for the next Steve Dancy Tale.

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