Saturday, November 14, 2009

Iowa Hill Cemetery


I’D PASSED THE IOWA HILL CEMETERY many times, and today I stopped. On the north side of Iowa Hill Road, graves date back to the 1850s. On the south side, the Catholic Cemetery dates back to the 1860s. Why the Catholics and the rest of us cannot be buried together is a question I’ll have to research. Perhaps it’s easier for God to sort us all out if we do a little presorting in advance. I entered the gate and contributed five dollars to the donation box that must be in place to defray maintenance costs of the departed. Inside this park, under a canopy of black oaks and sugar pine, the temperature is notably cooler. Inviting. The plots view a distant valley carved by a tributary of the North Fork. First impression is that this is not a bad address for one to spend eternity.

Closest to the road, the markers are oldest, each in a different state of decay. I note that the names of those who pioneered this section are different from those of my contemporaries. One settler had the first name of “Plummer.” Plummer Baxter. Great name! I make a mental note to use this moniker for a character in an as-yet-uncomposed story and begin to seek other names that would be more mysterious or period-like than Steven or Jane.

A marker on the Catholic side indicated a fellow came to his reward in 1871 at age ninety-three. I did a little math. Walter Cronkite, coincidently, had passed quite recently at age ninety-two. Tearfully, a nation recounted the monumental events that this titan’s calm personality led us through. I was prompted to think of the romp of history that this Iowa Hillian had seen in his time – beginning just two years after the boys met in Philadelphia to set our nation on its course and ending just two years after a gold spike was driven at Promontory, Utah.

Across the way, a marker listed Martha Irish 1858-1865, John Irish 1861-1865, and Clarence Irish 1865-1870. The travails of our failing economy what with the increase in unemployment, the numbers of folks losing their homes and the political fallout of the cyclical nature of all things economic fell into their rightful place. Unlike the children named Martha, John and Clarence, prosperity would, one day, return.

The stories whispering inside the gates of gold-rush era cemeteries: a good reason to get off the bike.

© 2009
Church of the open Road Press

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