I pass on, in the venacular of my East
Texas grandparents, I hope my family has the common decency to bury me in
some place other than "a memorial park."
Those sterile, geometrically-arranged
cemeteries with neat rows of flat, ground-level
headstones and names like "The Memorial Gardens" and "Restful Pines Sanctuary"
have about as much character as a golf course. Any day now I expect to see a foursome
playing through, bouncing golfballs off the headstones and fountains.
never seen many interesting tombstones in memorial parks, although a few years
ago I stumbled upon a headstone in Lufkin's Garden of Memories that read: "See,
I told you I was sick."
a lifetime in East Texas, I have grown
to prefer cemeteries where the tombstones
stand high against the sky, where tall trees shade the graves most the time, and
where people get together once a year for a graveyard working and homecoming.
My favorite cemetery (for my own resting place) is Muse Cemetery in Anderson
County, where most of my ancestors, including both sets of my grandparents, are
buried. But I suspect I won't be buried there. Muse is mostly sand, and my wife
Doris says she refuses to bury her husband in a graveyard where you can't grow
grass and flowers.
My second choice for my personal interment would be
Glendale Cemetery in Lufkin,
a fine old cemetery with a marvelous collection of tombstones--big ones, little
ones, fancy ones, simple ones. Even the horse which pulled Lufkin's
first ice wagon in 1896 has a tombstone there.
don't know why, but I have always been fascinated with cemeteries.
I seem to collect graveyards and tombstones with the zeal that some of my friends
collect bird dogs.
A favorite is in the Mt. Hope Cemetery near Chester,
where a shaft of stone sometimes called "the history book marker" tells the story
of pioneer James Barnes' family. Chised into the base are 218 words, 18 historical
dates, and 13 individual names. I figure that the stonecutter retired a wealthy
man after he finished the marker.
In Williams Cemetery, near Fair
Play, is a little wooden marker covered by a white shed. It's the grave of
Sarah Jane Northcutt, reportedly a member of a wagon train who died among strangers
in Panola County in 1855. As the years passed, Fair
Play's residents have tended the grave as if it belonged to one of their own.
A century ago, malpractice lawsuits against physicians were unknown, so tombstones
were sometimes used by surviving relatives to castigate doctors for their faults.
In the Coldspring Cemetery one such tombstone bears this inscription: "In
memory of my darling child, Edith E., youngest child of Robert & S.C. Smith. Born
Nov. 1, 1854. Died a victim to an experiment in surgery by Dr. Warren Stone, Sr.
of New Orleans, May 18, 1872."
Another favorite tombstone marks the resting
place of Texas' second governor, George T. Wood.
When he died in 1858, his wife ordered him interred in a small family plot, reportedly
to fulfill Wood's wish that he be "buried close to home." Stuck away in the dense
forests of San Jacinto County, it's a strange place for the grave of a Texas governor,
but Wood himself was a little strange, too. He seldom wore socks and often rode
from his home near Coldspring
to Austin on the back of a mule.
In contrast to Governor Wood's isolated grave, Riggs Cemetery south of
Cleveland is probably
the most visible in East Texas. It
straddles the median between the north and south lanes of U.S. 59, one of the
busiest highways in Texas. The Texas Highway Department
tried to relocate the little graveyard when it made 59 a superhighway, but the
descendants of those buried there wouldn't budge.