I have survived Highway 50 scores of times.
Usually my husband, Gim, and I drive from one side of the state (Carson City) to the other (Ely and beyond) as fast as we lawfully can. We have coffee in Fallon, stretch our legs in Austin, make a rest stop in Eureka. We've checked all of the attractions along Highway 50, from picnic spots to earthquake fault lines.
But it wasn't until this spring that we visited the white marble crosses, carved angels, and tilted wooden markers in Austin's historic cemeteries, located just west of town. It was well worth the hour.
The graves date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries and contain Civil War soldiers, miners, merchants, babies, mothers and grandmothers. Many of the graves have sunk, forming shallow depressions, and their markers are lost. An impressive number of graves are marked with elaborately carved headstones that stand pretty much straight. Some are enclosed in fancy Victorian metalwork.
Wander among the weeds and you'll find cracked and broken slabs of stone with the engraved words, "Gone But Not Forgotten." But you will also find plastic flowers that were recently laid above long-gone folks who obviously haven't been forgotten.
You wonder what caused Victor A.E. Kingsoen, who was born in 1831, to die at age 42 in 1873 at Vicks Station. Where is Vicks Station, anyway? There's former Confederate Gen. J.R. Williamson, who was born in humid Charleston, S.C., in 1832 and left this dry high desert for, one hopes, a better place in the spring of 1894.
The graves of the children tug at the heart strings - an angel will forever gaze down at "Our Baby, Michael David Malloy," whose age is not given. Most of the adults came from somewhere else, like Kate Pohl, born in Pennsylvania, and Horatio Alexander, born in Belfast, Maine.
There is one grave you have to search for, that of Lee Kee (1824-1931), called a "good old Chinaman" in those non-politically correct times. He fed many a miner who was hungry and broke, and the story goes that one of those men paid for Kee's headstone when he died.
Pink plastic flowers and a small American flag decorate his simple grave.
n Joyce Hollister is the associate editor of Nevada Magazine.