In February of 1916 Roy moved into a boarding house in Lead. That evening he joined the fellow boarders in the dining room for the evening meal. Unlike the logging camps where meals were always silent, lively talk accompanied the food. Of the twelve men seated around the table most spoke English in halting voices or not at all. In fact, the table was a melting pot of sorts. Two he learned came from Finland, 2 from Italy, three were from Croatia, two from Germany and another two were from Slovakia.
Guess I’m the only one born and raised in the United States,” he said. “Glad to meet you all.”
Mrs. Bryant, who ran the boarding house, was a good cook. He soon settled into a routine, up early every morning, a quick breakfast of Porridge and occasionally bacon and eggs, grab one of her prepared lunches and out the door for the mine.
He was not fond of the work. After years of working outdoors he found working deep in a mine claustrophobic and dangerous. But it did provide a better income than logging. In April a falling rock injured his arm and forced him to spend time off. He spent the next few days in his room reading as he continued to find solace in reading about others’ lives and how they survived. When he grew weary of reading he’d walk the town.
Lead, for a mining town was surprisingly cosmopolitan. He’d been surprised to learn it had been electrified since 1888 just 3 years after his birth. None of the places he’d lived when young had electricity. The town also had a large opera house where he occasionally enjoyed a show, a well-stocked library, and several newspapers though most were in foreign languages.
Whatever the language the newspaper headlines were filled with the news of the war in Europe. Increasingly the talk was of the of the United States entering. He worried he or his younger brother might be drafted along with other folks he knew
Recalling his father’s stories of serving in the Civil War, he knew war was a nasty business and he wanted none of it, at least this war. He prayed this one would end before the United States got dragged into it. He sighed in dismay when he saw the headlines on April 6, 1917, that his country too had entered the war.
But a month later on Sunday, May 6, 1917 war held little of Roy’s attention as he stepped out of his boarding house. The sun shone and the air crisp as he walked to the train station carrying a box and a card for his sweetheart. Today he and her family were celebrating her 21st birthday. And today Roy intended to propose.
He’d hoped to pop the question when he first got there before the party started but problems on the train track delayed his arrival. The house was already filled with people when he arrived.
Mae greeted him with a smile and a kiss on the cheek when he finally arrived. “Now my party’s complete. I worried the trouble with the train would keep you from coming entirely.”
She motioned for him to place his gift and card on a table filled with other ones. When he turned back she was thick in a conversation with some of her aunts.
One of Mae’s uncles grabbed him by the arm and spoke. “Roy tell us what is the news from Lead.”
Every time he attempted to break free someone else came up to talk or he found Mae knee deep in conversation with others.
It wasn’t until the end of the day when he needed to head back to the train that he was able to get a moment alone with her.
He took her hand. “I need to be going if I aim to catch the last train back to Lead tonight. Won’t you walk with me to the station.”
“I’d love to,” she said, gazing into his eyes. “Lett me grab my coat.;
Though they’d talked of marriage many times, he’d never formally proposed. While he was almost positive she’d say yes, butterflies and been flopping in his stomach all day.
After Mae got her wrap they walked into the cool evening air and headed for the train station. Roy reached for her and she readily grasped his.
Roy cleared his throat. “It’s time. Time for me to ask for your hand in marriage if you’ll still have me.”
Mae threw her arms around him. “Oh Roy of course I’ll still have you. I have been dreaming of this day ever since we met.”
“So it’s affirmative you’ll be my wife?”
“ I can hardly wait,” said Mae.
“Next week when I come we can go shopping for a ring,”
“Roy I don’t want you to spend money on a fancy diamond, I don’t need one. I want the money to go to our future home. All I need is a plain gold band on the day we marry. When do you think we should have the wedding?”
“Well why don’t you talk about it with your family and we can finalize the plans when I come next weekend.”
“I don’t know how I will survive the week until then,” said Mae.
As the train clanged into the station, Roy embraced her in his arms and kissed her deeply on the lips. “That will have to suffice he said until next week.”
Then he stepped onto the train and waved until his fiancé was out of sight.