Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cemetery Tour of 1996

ok, here is a blast from the past.
In the summer of 1996, I was newly divorced, my kids were on a visit to their Dad for the summer, so my Mom sent me to my Aunt Zabettes house in Missouri for a few weeks.

Background: Aunt Z is the family genealogist , seeker of adventure, truth, cemetery plots of family members and master of a map and thrift spending. SO with that said, what awaited me upon my arrival was nothing short of what we call:

The Great Cemetery Tour of 1996

5 states in 5 days

This is Aunt Z, she and her kids were here this summer for a family reunion. I however got the ol' UNINVITE, but hey I'll save that for my therapist.

So, we start out just me and Aunt Z in her old American Made Sedan which had seen it's better days, and the A/C was lame. In August in Missouri that was not so great, but we managed. We ate in the car, slept in cheap hotels, drank cokes, from dawn to dusk our itinerary was laid out in perfect notations on scratch paper, coffee stained maps and photocopied library materials.
So, then we picked up Jill at a Train Station in BFE, and she was our backseat sidekick. Our Quest? To uncover any and all grave sites, find land owned by our families, secure the lineage of the Calhoun's/Fry's for future generations to come by any means necessary, which could include but not limited to Hefty Bag outerwear, Skeeter Spray, Chigger Cream and a Wire Brush in one hand and cigarette in another. This was going to be the trip of a lifetime.

At one point we ended up in a State I don't remember, we saw several in a weeks time. Aunt Z had this hand drawn MAP, of a Pioneer Cemetery. See picture above. All the while not realizing that this was private land , not public. This was to be our MECCA , the brass ring, the Holy Grail of Granite Headstones. One problem? The owner , would he give us permission to trespass?

Yes he did, he was great. He provided us with Hefty bags to keep us dry, because we had an unexpected summer storm, gave us skeeter spray, and then he went inside and got his gun.

Uh.. Gun? Yeah, he was terrified of snakes, and took it with him in the fields. All righty. So, by this time Jill and I are soaked, cranky, hungry, and it is a looooong walk to the "back 80". But it was true, the cemetery looked exactly like this picture!

So here were in our Hefty Bags and Chigger Cream, total stranger with a gun, and about to head out into a back forested pasture, with a stranger with a gun...

He loved having his picture taken with two cute girls, he was quite the gentleman and a most excellent tour guide.

Can Stealing a Melon make you a Felon? Yes, Yes it can. They have signs to prove it, we actually parked under said sign while a member of our crew jacked a ripe melon out of a field. We were wondering what was taking so long.. She was FLIPPING/THUMPING them to get a ripe one. While we appreciated her mad thumping skills, we had to remind her that she needed to cut n run. We carved said liberated melon with only a mere pocket knife. It was the best sun ripened melon I have ever had.

So, this trip was to also full of many stops at historical buildings, museums and road markers.
My sisters did this trip with my Grandma,they followed the Oregon Trail. So I guess it is genetic after all this History/Dead People deal. We visted cemeteries that were behind coal factories, behind people's homes, on dead end roads with nothing but an old wood sign that said PIONEER CEMETERY. I swear she brought Jill and I , just so she could find the stones faster, 6 legs and 6 eyes are better than 2. :) ha

Ok, now were are back at said cheap motel, clean, and ready to continue with Aunt Z's killer daily itinerary. Thank Goodness for Coke, Smokes and Gas Station Food, not sure how we survived really. I think we paid less than 30 bucks for a double room!

Aunt Z stopped allowed me to put my feet in the mighty Mississippi while in the background on of these was going past. An extremely cool moment, but I had to wash my feet soon after and this was before the invention of hand sanitizer. ha ha

Last Stop:
Chicago, to drop off Jill. She was still a model and needed to get back to work.
Her loft was right across from the Chicago Genealogy Library Building. Thank goodness for me were there at night and directly leaving, so I dodged that bullet I tell ya. !
So, we drove back to Aunt Z's hometown, and I went home two days later. It was fun, hot, sweaty, exciting and educational all at the same time.
I would do it again tomorrow, but a few things would change. Newer better bigger car with A/C, my plug in cooler with food, a better camera, more cash-ola, and I would bring my Mom.
Maybe next year!!! I'll bring my pick up and Camper!

1 comment:

Sharon said...

What an awesome road trip! Aren't you so glad you did that! Those are memories you just can't replace. I remember your Aunt Z and cousin Jill! I feel like I am going down memory lane too! Thanks for sharing the great story!

Hugs, Sharon
P.S. You don't need to get the kids anything, but I do know they would love a Home Depot card as their to do list is still huge on their home!