Monday, 14 July 2008

14 July 2008

driving, Ed White lounging in the back, and Beverly up front. It was my first view of the interior of the Rockies. Central City is an old mining town that was once called the Richest Square Mile in the world, where a veritable shelf of silver had been found by the old buzzards who roamed the hills. They grew wealthy overnight and had a beautiful little opera house built in the midst of their steep shacks on the slope. Lillian Russell had come there; opera stars from Europe. Then Central City became a ghost town, till the energetic Chamber of Commerce types of the new West decided to revive the place. They polished up the opera house and every summer stars from the Metropolitan Opera came out and performed. It was a big vacation for everybody. Tourists came, from everywhere, even Hollywood stars. We drove up the mountain and found the narrow streets chockfull of chichi tourists. I thought of Temko’s Sam and Temko was right. Temko himself was there turning on his big social smile to everybody and oohing and aahin most sincerely over everything. “Jack” he cried clutching my arm “just look at this old town. Think how it was a hundred, what the hell, only eighty, sixty years ago; they had opera!” “Yeah,” I said imitating one of his characters, “but they’re here.” “The bastards” he cursed. But he rushed off to enjoy himself, Jean White on his arm. Beverly Burford was an enterprising blonde. She knew of an old miner’s house at the edge of town that we boys could sleep in for the weekend; all we had to do was clean it out. We could also throw vast parties in there. It was an old shack of a thing covered with an inch of dust inside; it even had a porch and a well in back. Ed White and Bob Burford rolled up their sleeves and started in cleaning it, a major job that took them all afternoon and part of the night. But they had a bucket of beerbuttles and everything was fine. As for me, I was scheduled to be a guest at the opera, Justin W. Brierly had arranged it, and escorted Bev on my arm. I wore a suit of Ed’s. Only a few days ago I’d come in to Denver like a bum; this afternoon I was all racked up sharp in a suit, with a beautiful well-dressed blonde on my arm, bowing to dignitaries and chatting in the lobby under chanderliers. I wondered what Mississipi Gene would say if he could see.

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