Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nevada's Mirages

Driving down the central Nevada highway, in the distance you see a lake. You ask yourself is it or is it not water? In the end, it is not. Central Nevada is full of such mirages. There are the broken dreams, the wild hopes for fortunes made and lost, the lost souls, the independent spirits (of many sorts), and most Americans never see any of it-- as this is a land most would claim was good for little except mining, military test ranges (maybe storing aliens), and current plans to store the nation's nuclear waste. People fly over it with little interest at what lies below as they head for the neon lit cities of Tahoe, Reno and Las Vegas. For a few, however, it has provided a place to escape from the mainstream world where rules hemmed them in. Out here, are the miners, hermits, whores, the ones who walked away from everyone else or maybe never even got beyond the sand and rock of these hills.

I only know a few of the stories and wonder at the many more hidden in the back canyons or shanties that are still standing.

When you come to a large valley like this one, you ask yourself how many miles across? There are no clues with trees or buildings, just a long highway, straight as an arrow, and across the valley, a bend, over a rise and probably another straight highway.

The monotony of the drive is broken by looking at remanants of mines gone by or maybe new mines with their fresh tailings. Small ranches in the middle of nowhere, businesses that folded and those that somehow held on by their fingernails.

Central Nevada is the home to several legal brothels. They always interest me but I have only seen them from the outside-- so far.

Many many years ago now, my family and I had stopped in Beatty, Nevada, to have breakfast. In walked a beautiful woman, with the longest legs I had seen. She had long carmel colored hair and short shorts. She said she'd been out riding her horse. I wondered-- did she work for Fran's place (now Angel's Ladies) at the other end of Beatty? Was she a showgirl who liked to get away from the glitz of the Strip? Had she married a rancher? She would have been a few years older than me and I wonder where she is now? She and I probably didn't look so different as I was also tall and slim back then with long, carmel colored hair but I had a husband and two babies. Our paths looked different on the surface. Were they? You can see how my mind works and so often I wonder about the story behind people's eyes, or in her case-- long legs.

Then to go along with the story of the brothels is what lies in Goldfield Cemetery. Madame Beverly Harrell ran the Cottonwood Ranch for years and died there in 1995. Her tombstone is engraved with-- a fearless beauty of class and intellect. Nice epitaph by her husband or whoever arranged for her burial. But the mystery, to me, is beside it with another tombstone-- Was there a story there? A customer who loved her? What did Forever mean on his tombstone? It definitely caught my interest.

Goldfield Cemetery illustrates the fallacy in the thought that in death we all come together-- at least bodily. There are different fenced off areas for whatever group you belonged to when you were alive and never the twain shall meet-- even underground. Were you an Elk, got just the place for you. Knights of Pythian right this way, Sacred Heart over here. What made me wonder though were the tombstones just outside the labeled grounds-- were they outcasts in life and now in death? by choice or by edict of the community? I know in some pioneer cemeteries, Chinese and women of the night had to be buried outside the official hallowed ground.

On down the road is Goldfield which was a mining town and now is barely subsisting with a few touristy places and played out mines, shanties and trailers and a couple of small homes. In the center, the biggest building, is the Goldfield Hotel from the glory days of the town, likely from after the time Virgil Earp was sheriff. The hotel has been going to be remodeled for as many years as I have been driving by it. The story goes that inside are several ghosts. And that's why no remodeling project ever works. So is there the spirit of a young woman wandering its halls looking for her stolen and murdered baby? Who knows but I have no desire for a night in it to find out. I have looked up into those windows though and wondered.

There are more stories but no more room. Stories of Area 51, of Death Valley Scottie, of lost gold mines, of Yucca Mountain, of the plane that crashed in front of Fran's ranch or... okay, I have to stop or I never will...

(to enlarge any image, click on it)


Sonia said...

What a beautiful photos, Rain!
I am very impressed! Great beauty on these views.
You must write this stories! Would be very amazing and interesting!

Mary Lou said...

Well that took me back a few years! I never made it farther East than Austin, NV, nor farther SOuth than (that town I cant remember right now), but the stories are the same!! the is a whole lot of NOTHING in NV. I loved VIrginia CIty, and Austin. I explored all of the roads and the valleys and the mountain rangesin the northwest quadrant of the state. That was as far as I could drive in one day and make it back home again. I lived in Fallon, and worked on the Base there. I need to go back and explore the northEAST part of the state now.

Did you go to Gabbs and see the icthyosaur? 7000 feet up on the top of the shoshone mtn range is a bed of fossils, that were once under water! AWESOME!!

Ingineer66 said...

Good stories and photos. What a desolate place. Makes you wonder what compelled people to live there or stay there for so long.

Rain said...

I had never heard of fossils there, Mary Lou. Eastern Oregon does have places like that also and Montana. I like Fallon as a small town that is pleasant to sleep a night in (did that this trip)but never really knew it well.

Rain said...

and good to see you here, ingineer :) Hope you post often

Ingineer66 said...


knutton said...


My family (Wife & Labradors) like to drive from the NW through Denio Junction, Winnamucca, Austin, Tonopah, Goldfield and into Death Valley & the Saline Valley. Last fall I found Madame Beverly Harrell's grave in the Goldfield Cemetery and tonight was looking at photos and wondered if I could find any history on her. Found your blog. Nice photos and good to hear stories from a fellow wanderer in the lost West.

Next year hope to explore the Austin Cemetery. The boom there was much earlier and the tombstones are huge.

A great read about Tonopah and Goldfield is "Lady In Boomtown" by Mrs. Hugh Brown. Really takes you back to when these towns were alive and vibrant. Nothing lasts for ever.

Happy Trails,


Rain said...

Thanks for the comment, Kurt. I do love exploring such places. We stopped there this year and took more photos in the Goldfield Cemetery. This time Beverly's husband was now buried on the other side of her with his epithet being of his love for her. Very beautiful