COW-TOWNS AND MINING-CAMPS
NO ACCOUNT OF THE AMUSEMENTS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE would be complete without some record of the rough-andready life in that new West which was growing up during the troubled years that saw the rest of the country convulsed by civil war and then largely absorbed in the problems of Reconstruction. Its vivid story has often been told in western dime novel, melodrama, and moving picture. They have portrayed in lurid colors the roaring, wide-open days when drunken cowboys rode their horses into the saloons and shot out the lights, suave professional gamblers dealt out poker hands with guns on the table, and pistol-shots punctuated the dance music as flannelshirred miners sported at hurdy-gurdy or honky-tonk.
It is true that the whisky-mill, the gambling-palace, and the dance-hall dominated recreation. There was little to amuse the solitary miner prospecting among the ravines and gulches of the Sierras, the cowboy riding the range or driving cattle north from the Texas plains. Their pleasures were almost entirely centered on their occasional visits to civilization. For six months or longer they worked hard, lived in the open, and never saw a woman. "When they hit the bright lights of some little town that looked like gay Paree to them, they just went crazy."1 With silver dollars jingling in their pockets, crying to be spent, they needed only a haircut and shave, a new outfit of clothing, and a few drinks to be ready to go.
Whoopee! drink that rotgut, drink that red nose, Whenever you get to town; Drink it straight and swig it mighty, Till the world goes round and round.2
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: America Learns to Play:A History of Popular Recreation, 1607-1940. Contributors: Foster Rhea Dulles - Author. Publisher: D. Appleton-Century. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1940. Page number: 168.
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