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Gunnison County, Colorado—1882
"I don't want this town to be called Virginia City anymore!" Alex Parent hollered, banging his cup on the podium. "Every town this side of the Mississippi is called Virginia City. The confounded postal service is dropping off mail from back home everywhere else but here."
All 103 people in the audience agreed with him at the top of their lungs.
"You're right, Parent," someone bellowed. "There's a Virginia City in Nevada and another one in Alder Gulch, Montana, and another one "
"So we aren't Virginia City anymore," Parent hollered at them as he pounded the podium. "Who are we gonna be? We've got to discuss this and make a motion and get it down in the town records right."
For a minute, nobody said anything.
One hand rose in the crowd. The hand belonged to Uley, a youngster who'd come from Ohio four years before to work in the Gold Cup Mine.
"Yep, Uley? What is it, son?"
"I think," Uley said, in a timid voice that, if anyone had thought about it, sounded a touch too high-pitched for a boy of his age, "we ought to select a name that tells people something about this place. Remember last month, when that fellow from New York got off the stage on Alpine Pass? While the driver stopped to change horses?"
Of course everyone remembered. They'd been talking about it in town for weeks.
"The fellow went to the spring to get a drink," Uley said, telling the story over again, just in case somebody hadn't heard it. "But he wouldn't drink out of that rusty tin cup they keep up there. So, George Willis pulled out his Winchester and shot off that fellow's derby, then made him drink six cups of water."
Hollis Andersen took up the story. "And when the newcomer tried to get back on the stage, Willis said, 'You're too good to drink out of a cup that was good enough for hundreds of thirsty men. That cup's been sitting on that rock for five years, and you're the first skunk to pick it up, refuse to drink out of it and throw it into the bushes. If I ever see you in these parts God made for men—and not your kind—I'll shoot lower and put a hole in that thick head of yours. Savvy?'"
Everybody in the place started hooting.
Parent banged his cup against the podium again to quiet the roaring crowd. His efforts came too late. People were laughing, clapping each other on the back. "Silence," Parent shouted. "Silence!"
Silence did not come. Somewhere in the back, somebody bellowed, "It's got to be Tin Cup! Tin Cup! Tin Cup!"
Every man in the meeting room took up the cry. "Tin Cup! Tin Cup! Tin Cup!"
Parent knew he had to preserve parliamentary procedure. "I move we name this town Tin Cup! Do I hear a second? We have to have a second!"
"I second it!" Uley's hand lifted above the crowd. "Tin Cup is perfect!"
"All in favor." Parent did his best to count hands, but that proved impossible. "All against."
In the end, he found it easier to tabulate the nays and subtract them from the number attending the meeting. It worked out—on paper—as one hundred votes cast in favor and three votes opposed.
And so, this town would change its name. When the paperwork was completed, the officers of Virginia City would sell their rights and seal to the new town for the price of two hundred and fifty dollars. "Tin Cup, Colorado, it is—one hundred to three," Parent shouted.
Hats flew in celebration. Stetsons. Wool caps. Bowlers. Even a beret or two. Every hat flew except one. Uley's. Despite the excitement, Uley stood still, hands propped on hips, hat very much in place.
Uley wanted to throw her woolen hat into the air. She wanted to let all her curls underneath tumble out and give away her secret. But she was stuck. Stuck like a pine marten gets stuck when it climbs down somebody's chimney and ends up in somebody's wood stove.
"You going up to Frenchy's?" somebody asked her pa.
Samuel Kirkland glanced at Uley sideways, the way a mule glances when it's unsure of its footing. "Don't think so, Amos. Uley and I've got to get home. Tomorrow's going to start early."
"Aw, Sam," Amos said. "It'll start early for everybody. Come on over and keep the celebration going."
Uley said nothing. A Christian young lady did not enter a place like Frenchy's, a man's place, without having her reputation sorely tainted. But what did it matter, anyway? With the deception she was playing on the whole town, she had no right to be counting anyone else's sins. As long
10 Blessing as she and Sam lived in Tin Cup, nobody would know her as a genteel young lady. Things had already gone too far for that.
"Come on, Sam," Amos urged her pa. "It'll be hard work in the mines tomorrow. Tonight let's cut loose."
Uley could tell by the way he glanced at her again that her pa wanted to go.