Nevada Mining Tales

The history of his efforts to “place” the Panamint mines on the market would fill a volume, but the main facts are briefly told as follows: This writer chanced to journey with him on his first trip, when, to reach Panamint, the trip was made from Bakersfield, California by stage, through Havilah and Walkers Pass, on the way to Cerro Gordo. At Little Owens Lake, Rains left the stage, procured a horse and crossed the Coso and Argus Ranges, eighty miles to the outdoor camp at Panamint. He soon obtained a bond of the principal mines and returned to San Francisco. No success met his first efforts, and he had to return for samples of ore to verify his highly colored statements. He went back obtained about 1,000 pounds of handsome specimens of copper-stained ore, rich in silver and very attractive in general appearance. He could not get this carried out from Little Lake on the stage and had to send it by slow team through the Mojave Desert to Los Angeles, nearly 300 miles distant. He wouldn’t risk it out of his sight and he went with it. Arriving at Los Angeles, his plans assumed shape. It was necessary to create a boom for the new mines in order to enlist capital. There, he again met this writer, and through him sought introductions. Rains stopped at the Arlington Hotel, then the leading one of Los Angeles, and in the barroom made a display of Panamint ore that set the town agog, and aided by his lavish expenditure of money at the bar soon created a furor. He made no effort to swell any interests there, but gained the confidence of leading citizens and got the Board of Trade to subscribe $4,000 toward building a wagon road to the new mines.

Desert Prospector

The newspapers were full of Panamint, and he blossomed into print as Colonel Rains. The news reached San Francisco, and when a week later Rains arrived and displayed his samples, he was the sensation of California Street. His money was all expended, however, and going to Senator Jones, who was just on the eve of starting for Washington, Rains pressed him for a loan and got the Senator’s check for $1,000, to aid in placing the property. Rains started out at once to “paint the town red,” and succeeded, in one night, in squandering the $1,000, and woke up in the morning in jail.

He soon found a friend to furnish bail, borrowed enough to buy a ticket and followed Senator Jones to Washington.

Then, he presented his scheme so plausibly that the Senator let him have money in liberal sums to promote the scheme until Rains had borrowed from him $15,000. Then, to organize the company, Senators Jones and Stewart took an interest, and from that little commencement they were dragged into the scheme and with their associates, sunk in less than two years’ time, the magnificent sum of $2,000,000. Rains made many thousands out of his operations, but squandered it as fast as it came, and finally died in New York penniless and was buried by the California colony there with all the honors due to a pioneer of ‘49. Senator Jones was present and spoke of him kindly as having been “a reputable citizen of the Pacific Coast.”

Honest Miner To a Poker-Playing Politician (Article first appeared in the Reno Evening Gazette, August 20, 1891)

Reno, Nevada Gambling, 1910

Reno, Nevada Gambling, 1910

The boys called him “Sugar Foot,” and evidently had some good reasons for selecting that name to designate him by, when speaking in their own circle. He had been in every mining camp in Nevada, always in the front, always found at the latest camp and thoroughly familiar with all the locations. When speaking to strangers, if the boys referred to him, they called him “Long Turner,” and as he was a very tall man and extremely gawky, strangers could spot him instantly from the title. He was such an odd looking fellow that he would be picked out in any crowd before anyone else would be noticed. He was so strikingly homely in form and features that he seemed especially marked for notice and this he appeared to realize.

He was lean and lank and lantern jawed, and his nose was so long it looked like a caricature; and as if this singular face would need another marked feature, his mouth would alone have been enough to secure for him the title of the homeliest man in the camp. And, to add to the effect, he shaved his upper lip, thus exposing his teeth always, for he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

And those teeth! Ah! therein lay the secret of his well known civility, urbanity and politeness. He had only two teeth left, and by the perversity of nature, one was an eye tooth on the upper jaw and the other a stomach tooth on the lower jaw on the opposite side. They were in no degree ornamental, of no earthly use and constantly tangled his tongue in talking; and people wondered why he didn’t knock them out with the sledge and drill he carried — for he was a miner, and considered a good one, too, But, when any discreet friend went so far as to kindly suggest their extraction, he always replied that his teeth were so hard to pull that he preferred keeping them until he found a good dentist to fit some to match them. He realized that his looks were a constant disadvantage to him, and to cover up that defect, he was the essence of politeness, and although awkward in action to a degree that was amusing, his earnest desire to please made him a favorite. Even those who didn’t like him, endured him, and in passing would answer his salutation by saying “How’dy, Turner.” Intimate friends would say “hello, Sugar Foot,” and the ladies would say “Good morning, Mr. Turner.” He was always ready to contribute to any charity, and when he was induced to attend a benefit ball, the ladies made it a point to dance with him, even though his struggles were alarming, for his boots were big and his feet that filled them could not keep step or time and were always coming down on his neighbor’s heels. But, they endured him for his good nature, and at last he acquired an ease of manner with the ladies that really made the boys jealous.

Faro Players

Cyrus Noble Whiskey Ad showing Faro Players

He was quick to discover this, for it requires no cultivation of brains to teach any man on earth — or woman either — of the presence of the green-eyed monster. At this auspicious time, an itinerant dentist wandered into camp and hung out on the front walls of the hotel, his charts and diagrams and displayed from his window of a front room, full sets of store teeth on bright red rubber plates, under a glass. Sugar Foot was observed to inspect these, and regularly when he left the dinning room, he went to the hotel office, and selecting a toothpick from the box of wooden ones on the end of the bar, he would step out and while looking at the dentist’s show, carefully pick away at his two solitary teeth as if he had a mouthful. At last, the boys observed him closeted in the dentist’s office; he forsook society and disappeared from his former haunts, and the boys “reckoned” that Sugar Foot had gone to the mine.

This seemed reasonable, as he was foreman of a mine on Mt. Kearsarge, eight miles distant, but 13,000 feet above sea level, and one could be absent without awakening inquiry. Some weeks elapsed, when he suddenly presented himself at the bar of the favorite saloon, and with a broad grin that exposed a mouth full of new porcelain teeth, he invited everybody to have a drunk. The boys drank and complimented him, and then he dashed into society again.

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