Decoration Day

May 17, 2016 | Rambling

I don’t know how “southern” of a tradition this is vs “country”.

My Dad grew up in the headwaters of Appalachia….You could say leading edge but that sounds like bleeding edge and there wasn’t much that was edgy about poor. Decoration Day was the one day when the community got together and inspected the local cemetery. By local it serves one very small population. The community of 9 mile. Which happens to be 9 miles outside of town. That was the one “management meeting” for the year. There are dozens of the cemeteries scattered around the area – some maybe only 15 minutes apart but when you were walking or preparing for a burial that was too far and you needed a place close.

I went Sunday. I don’t go enough but it’s once a year and I never have (I do now) it on a calendar. I was warned three days ahead of time and it wasn’t until two hours before it was time to leave I decided to go.

When I was a kid there was one guy in the community that was voted in as “Caretaker” and it’s his job to make sure the cemetery gets mowed, grass seed is put on new graves, and you don’t run out of space. Space is important.  He also asked every year if someone wanted to take over if it was felt he wasn’t doing a good job. No one did. Sunday I found out that guy had passed away and someone new was the caretaker. He started the meeting the same way “If anyone else wants to do this…..”. By the tone you knew he knew this was a life sentence barring a life changing illness or death.

Anyway They passed around a hat (actually two) and prepared for this years maintenance. Last years Maintenance was $1800. This year’s will be the same if not a bit more. The current grounds keeper has thrown in a once-a-summer scrubbing of headstones to remove dirt, grime, and any lichens. I guess the competition for groundskeeper is a bit fierce. Everyone was happy over this added amenity.


My family has one corner. There aren’t a ton of us left that will be buried here so the corner is big enough. That one shot gets Grandparents, great uncles, a few second cousins, and two children that were still born to my grandmother. You’ll also notice there are a few headstones that are just rocks. Most everyone who was there this time has no clue who is buried under the rocks. One family member is missing. There was a family argument and she was buried elsewhere as a final protest over the way things happened.


The biggest enigma is this grave. It was here from the beginning. The sign going in says 1922 and I think that was probably when they decided that this cemetery was here to stay. This grave was here way before that. My gut says the person was laid on top of the ground. At some point the head or foot stone fell over and it became storage for shovels, grass, and clippers. Today it was empty. I guess storage has moved somewhere else.

I am sorely tempted to map the graveyard. Except that proves nothing but people are buried into family groups and the oldest part is in the middle. The first Decoration Day I remember was 30 something years ago.  Most of those people there are now residents of the cemetery.


65 Miles to Rock City

Total income for this day was $1200 dollars. Adding that to the current bank account and they are over $2k for the upcoming year. If a few people die that’s $500 a grave as a suggested donation. Some don’t have $500 to pay. Last year two people donated that amount. With CD’s and other things the cemetery can remain taken care of for at least 5 years. There wasn’t much complaining about space as they had bought some land or had it donated from a local farmer. There’s enough space for everyone for a while.

The running joke is Dad wants to be buried here. Who knows. Maybe we hijack a truck and drive him here. It’s been done before.

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