Bodie or Bust

March 1, 2010

Poets of Bodie: Ruth Nolan

Filed under: Uncategorized — nicelledavis @ 2:07 am


_photo info: photo taken in National Cinder Cones Preserve, Mojave Desert, October, 2009 by Philip Helland


Mary Winnemuca Tate is in her late thirties, and is living alone in Bodie disgused as a man. She is 1/2 Paiute Indian, a distant cousin to the important Paiute Indian Sarah Winnemuca – later to be celebrated as a cultural leader in California and national history when interest and distinction in Native American culture is revived in the 20th century –  and 1/2 Anglo. Originally from a small tribe of northern Paiutes who made their home in the Mono Lake region, she was married at 16 to John Tate, a peaceful man who came alone to the Sierra west as a young adult, severing ties with his relatives in New England. Long living on the outskirts of society to avoid racism, Mary and John lived near Bridgeport on a ranch until their home was overrun by drunken, Indian-hating horse thieves and local miners. Mary was raped and tortured and the couple’s three children killed; the thieves took the family’s goods and burned the ranch down. John hanged himself two days later.

Realizing that her Paiute relatives have either moved to southern California many years ago to work on the southern Pacific Railroad, or been forced off their land into unknown lands in the Nevada desert by Anglo settlers and miners in the 20 years since she left home, Mary has come to Bodie in the year 1876, and is living disguised as a man. She has found work in the gold-bearing ore mines, and taken a room in a boarding house full of miners located on Green Street. It is her determination to try to find the men who destroyed her family, and to find subtle ways to murder them. And in the process, she is bent on earning her fortune in gold so she may spend her remaining days putting up bounty for law-breaking western men and help serve justice, especially the outlaws who have destroyed Indian tribes and villages, and shattered the lives of women and children. By 1890, having been well established in her mission, and drifting in and out of a fading Bodie, as she complete Mary is also a secret follower of Wovoka, the Paiute prophet who initiated the Ghost Dance for Indians nationwide in their last efforts to avoid genocide, circa late 1800’s.


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