New Folks In Town

Sarah Waters
April 11, 1896

“Did you see him?” Laura asked.

We were delivering laundry bags in town to some new arrivals. They came in on horseback and rumors about town said they came from Virginia. By the looks of them, I would have judged Arizona or Nevada, but one thing about rumors in a small town, they are usually dead on accurate.

“Of course I saw him.” I replied.

Laura giggled.

“No ring, he mustn’t be married.” Laura continued as we turned the corner in the hotel hallway.

“I don’t expect your father would approve.”

“A man like that? Daddy wouldn’t have much choice!”

“Neither would you.”

I knocked on the next door. Laura shuffled the bags she was carrying so the correct one was easy for me to grab.

“Who’s it?” A man shouted from behind the door.

“Laundry!” I shouted back.

The door swung open and an ape of a man hung out through the open doorway. He smelled of smoke and beer but mostly of just filth. He was wearing brown pants (they probably used to be a real color) and nothing else.

“Well now what’ve we got here.” He drawled and I wondered again about Arizona and Nevada.

I grabbed the laundry bag from Laura’s outstretched arm and handed it toward him.

“Your laundry, sir.” I repeated.

“Why don’t ya’ll come on in here and take care of it proper for me.”
He was more telling than asking. Most times I would do just what he asked and think nothing of it but something about his demeanor made me nervous.

“We’re just delivery, sir. If you need more assistance I’m sure the hotel can provide it.”

I placed the bag in his hand. He grabbed but not before stroking his fingers over my hand and sending a chill down my spine. His grin faded a little.

“You ladies run along now then.” He slurred.

I started to walk away, but noticed Laura was still immobile. Her gaze was locked on the man’s bare chest and she was completely oblivious to rest of reality. I grabbed her arm and pulled.
“Come on Laura.” I hissed.

Laura blinked her eyes and looked at me and then back at the man still hanging out of the doorway.

“Good day, sir.” She tweeted.

He just smiled at her. Only when we were six doors down the hall did he go back inside and close his door.

“What’s the matter with you?” Laura asked.

I ignored her. She grabbed my arm midair as I was about to knock on the next door. Our eyes met and she smartly let go of me. I knocked.

“What’d ya want?” A voice boomed from the other side.


“Leave it!” Came the reply.

Laura tossed the sack down so it was leaning against the door. She was a bit huffy as we made our way down the stairs and back out on the street. She has been one of my best friends for as long as I can remember but sometimes we just are not on the same page or like today we are not even in the same book.

After my father’s warning about strike busters coming in, I had little doubt these were the men. They may be handsome, they maybe strong, they maybe available, but they are most definitely trouble. The kind of trouble I do no want or need. Laura does not need it either even if she cannot add.

Our fathers work at the mine together and for the last few weeks, ever since the accident, they have been on strike. I know I am not aware of all the reasons but I have a good idea about the biggest ones. Money of course being toward the top of the list.

The papers say the country is in an economic depression. I gather that to be the fancy way of explaining why nobody has any money and everything costs more money than it ever did in the past. My father and the other men are working longer shifts and making less money than they were just four years ago. Father says it is depressing and that is why they call these times a depression. I think he is probably wrong on that but I do not plan on correcting him even when I know the real reason.

So, I think the money situation has become desperate for a lot of the miners. I know mother and I are lucky to have our jobs at the laundry. We do not make a lot of money but with both of us working there we make enough to buy a few groceries. I cannot see how we would survive without it.

Next on the list of reasons would have to be the working conditions and hours. I know my father has long championed a shift rotation that lets the men out for fresh air and rest every six hours. He also has complained about inadequate ventilation and unprotected exits from shafts. I do not know all the details, but I trust if my father considerers it important, it is important.

As we approached the laundry house, Laura finally decided to speak to me again.

“Hey, I’m sorry if I did or said the wrong thing back there. I was only trying to have a little fun.”

“I know, I’m sorry if I was a bit rude. Father said there were strike busters coming into town and I just figure those got to be the men.”

“My father hasn’t said anything about that. Are you sure?”


“I guess we should keep our distance then.”

“The farther away they stay the more comfortable I am. We better get back to work.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A nicely observed snapshot of girls and men.
Mr Reginald Fane