Monday, March 21, 2011


I DON’T TWITTER. Or Tweet. It seems to me that if one has something to say, briefly, give a call. If it is to be a story, write it down. Twittering limits us to 140 characters. That’s like the alphabet used less than six times. What on earth can one say in just six runs through the alphabet? Twittering seems to be a we’re-in-too-big-a-hurry-to-communicate form of communication, the likes of which we bombard ourselves with on a daily basis. We lose the context, subtext and the arc that substantiates the written word and makes a story a story. As a result, we know so little about so many things that we really know nothing at all.

So I don’t Twitter. I don’t write Tweats and I don’t read Twitters.

THE GOLD HILL CEMETERY is lost in the foothills of rural Placer County. As one explores the back roads, one cannot help but drive past a number of serene hilltops or vales where folks are entered into rest awaiting eternity. Unlike the corporate cemeteries of the Bay Area, Sacramento, or even Chico – with their manicured expanses, flat-to-the-ground markers and sprinklers that activate at two in the morning – these little plots house only those customers who died while residing in bergs that may no longer exist. Gold Hill is an example. There may be a road sign. Or a line of junipers. Or fenced-off rectangle in the midst of a cow pasture. Or they may just be unmarked and lost.

I STUMBLED ACROSS the Gold Hill Cemetery while on a two-hour motorcycle outing in February. My goal was to freshen my skills before the riding season began. Generally, a two-hour first-jaunt-of-the-year needs to be halved because of the tentative relationship that exists between my butt and my motorcycle seat. Later in the year, I’m in better shape.

Entering through a rusty iron gate, I was taken by the fragrance of early spring and the twittering (yes, twittering) of fledglings longing to escape into the heavens. Were it not a cemetery, the overwhelming sensibilities this early spring afternoon would be those of rebirth and new life and promise. Beneath a canopy of oak, madrone and pine, the early pioneers of the area are joined by successors; all resting in a place that invites the curious or weary passer-by to picnic or nap. Or just wander and think a spell.

Walking the grounds, I took note of names – given names of the nineteenth century differ from those of the present day – dates of passings and patterns within those dates.

Then I came across Mr. Butterfield and the Tweat cast in bronze that marked the locale of his repose. His story, in great detail, emerged. I won’t recount it here. Rather, I will ask the reader to simply examine the 59 characters that make the marker, read between the spaces and lines, and experience this pioneer’s story for yourself.

I RODE SLOWLY AWAY reminded that when all is said and done, all one really leaves behind is a Twitter or a Tweat.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. By 1865, the war was over; yet by the time Mr. Butterfield was 20, he'd served. Sometime after that, he migrated to the gold country of California, albeit a good 15 years after the "rush." Between then and 1933, we fought the Spanish in Cuba, the Germans in Europe and fell into the greatest economic depression (until now) the country had ever seen. The railroad spanned the US and Lindbergh spanned the Atlantic. (My grandpa worked on his plane.) We only think we live in monumental times. That, or all times are, in their own way, monumental.

    PS: Mr. Butterfield's wife, "Amma," is listed on a stone that accompanies the bronze plaque - her birthdate only. One must wonder what offer she found superior after his passing.