Graveyards.....

.... I know that I have been on a bit of a kick lately regarding death, but this is the last story...... I promise..... but actually, it is two stories in one......

..... the scene is set with myself, my 2nd cousin Kenneth, and my little 1st cousin J. Dee standing at the edge of the little graveyard talking amongst ourselves..... Kenneth, a Vietnam veteran, is always an interesting guy to talk to..... J. Dee is just nearing 20..... and thinks that we're all absolutely nuts.....

.... so, we're standing there chewing the fat and smoking cigarettes when I look down and realize that I am standing at the foot of my my 3rd cousin Arvil's grave...... who died in 1982 when I was only 10.....

.... so I look over at Kenneth and say, "hey!... there's Arvil!.... is it true that Sylvester shot him right here in the churchyard?..... I was too young to know, but I've heard the stories all my life...... so, is it true?"....

.... Kenneth shuffled around a few steps and then looked back at the gravestone and read the name out loud.... "yep, he shot him...... shot him in the leg with a .38 on Decoration Day here at the church......... shot him right over there underneath that old oak tree..."

..... I looked at J. Dee - who was absolutely horrified AND amused at the same time and said, "see?...... you honestly can't make this shit up, big guy....... OUR history is all OVER this place...... and decorated with stories that you can't possibly even imagine......."

.... Kenneth laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets nervously.... "so," said I, "why'd Sylvester shoot Arvil?...... I've heard the stories all my life, but no one could ever tell me exactly what caused the whole thing....... any ideas?"...

.... He stopped his hemming and gazed upwards towards the nearest cloud and hesitated for a moment or two before he answered..... "ahhhh..... well, I guess that Sylvester was just scared of Arvil..... they'd had some land deals and such, but nothing much to speak of........ but honestly?.... I think that Sylvester was just plain scared of Arvil....... I mean, I can't even imagine shooting my first cousin on Decoration Day just ten feet from the steps of the family church house!".......

....... J. Dee nearly passed out from trying to stifle his belly-laugh at what was meant to be a very, VERY solemn moment for the whole family....... as for me?.... I simply coughed a few times as the new information that Sylvester was Arvil's first cousin caused me to strangle slightly on the cigarette smoke I had been trying to inhale........

....... and just about two minutes later?.... enter my Sainted Mother into the situation........

.... "what are you three up to over here out of sight of everyone?..... no good, likely...... have you gone up to see J.R?.... well, if you haven't, don't........ I did, and he didn't look like I thought he would..... so it is best that you remember him the way that he was when he was still alive..... "

..... we settled ourselves after she invaded our space and let the memories of gunplay fade for a bit...... but just before the service began, she turned around and told us all the oddest story......

....it was odd at first, her reaction...... she turned slowly and looked us all over before she began......... she licked her lips, and creased her brow....... and then she looked us each in the eye.....

.... "you know, when I finished walking past the body just now, one of J.R.'s boys took me aside and told me the oddest story......... he said that he hadn't been in this graveyard for over fifty years.... but that he still remembered the last time he was here......... it'd been August of 1956, and a young neighbor girl had died of pneumonia at the age of 6......... he asked me if I remembered her, and I told him that I did........ she and her family had lived about two miles over from us in the knobs around Hiwassee......dirt, dirt poor folks....... I was about 13 at the time.... and he was probably 15.........

.... he told me that he had remembered her his whole life because of my Dad....... evidently she died one Tuesday morning and the local men had gone up to the church to dig her grave........ and that night while she lay out for the wake in her parent's living room it rained and rained........ and that next morning when everyone arrived for the burial, there was two feet of water in the bottom of her grave.......

..... well, you're Grandpa took one look at that rickety, cheap coffin and told everyone present that there was no way that he was going to let that little girl get buried in that water......... Daddy had never told me that story before.... and honestly, I can remember that little girl, but little else about her.......... but J.R.'s boy?...... he said that he was so amazed that his Uncle Carl had stopped everyone in their tracks out there on that rainy day.... and how he'd watched him jump down into that grave with a bucket and start bailing out the water..... and how after five minutes of watching him get more and more muddy, he had jumped down into the grave to help........

...... I just don't know what to think of that, boys", she said........ "I never knew that he had done that........ we were just kids ourselves and we didn't come to her burial.......... but how wonderful it is that J.R.'s son has always remembered that........ "

....... it's an awkward story, for sure....... and I am still trying to digest it myself......... but as I said a few posts back, that is one amazing little graveyard.......... and that tiny little acre holds more memories of my kin than I can possibly even imagine or dream........

..... every family has such stories, I guess......... but there are very few families who actually get to HEAR and SEE the stories..... ours is one of the lucky ones.....

by Eric on September 10, 2009 | Bullshit (3) | TrackBack (0) | SWG Stories
Bullshit So Far

Pretty sure I've said this before, but you are truly fortunate to have your family history.

Bullshitted by Kath on September 11, 2009 05:36 AM

I've had to read this over a couple times. The horror of knowing a child has died. The ghastliness of the thoughts of what was next. Something in his inner psych saying, "NO" and jumping in there to bail out that water.

I keep coming back to it.

Bullshitted by Bou on September 11, 2009 03:42 PM

I work in out of the way places. The sticks as it were. On one job I went into the tract next to a large but rather old graveyard, out in middle of nowhere. At least it was now.
Finishing early on my last day I had time to spare, so took a stroll through the graveyard.
The sigh was easy to read. The graveyard had once been located near a thriving little community. Burials had started in the 1860's with many more to follow up till the 1930's when people started fleeing the Depression, the the young men went off to war, and the young women and other folks left their farms for wartime jobs in the cities.
After that the graves were few. Scattered from the 60's up to the 90's when the old folk were brought back to be buried in home ground.
Out of curiousity I went to the oldest part and began recording dates of birth and death from the barely legible headstones. After several dozen a pattern began to emerge and after I'd done the math I was stunned that over 30 percent of the graves were children under 10 years of age. All to often they were infants who had died at birth or lived only days and sadder still, there was sometime the grave of the mother beside them, buried days later.
A statistician would have said that it wasn't a representative sample and it was not but at the same time it was...
Representative enough to illustrate that the good ol' days weren't what they were cracked up to be. That unlike today, a child's greatest challenge wasn't whether he/she got into the RIGHT pre-school but just to survive to adulthood.

Bullshitted by Tbird on September 11, 2009 06:49 PM