One Man's West

One Man's West

One Man's West

One Man's West

Excerpt

CAME A DAY WHEN I WANTED TO get married and needed a stake. To my youthful optimism, geared as it was to the "thirty-a-month-and-found" wages paid cowboys, the vast affluence of five dollars a day in the gold mines seemed to offer the quickest solution.

I got on with the company which was leasing the workings of the old Camp Bird mine above Ouray, Colorado, quite simply. My stepfather, a cattle rancher in near-by San Miguel and Montrose counties, knew the superintendent. I myself knew no miners and nothing about mining.

On a bitter-cold January day I landed in Ouray. It was a gloomy little town, with down-at-the-heel brick buildings lining the main street, an astonishing rococo hotel, and rows of widely spaced, once-handsome frame houses radiating out from the remnants of the business district. Over it all hung the ineffable sadness of departed wealth. Its setting, however, is superlative; I think no town in America can boast of finer.

The village lies in the bottom of an enormous rock amphitheater. The best way to see it is to stretch out flat on your back. There is only one direction in Ouray--up. The sheer watercourses, the scars cut by snowslides, the vaulting ridges--each scaring line lifts your eye irresistibly to the crenelated peaks that . . .

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