Gut Rumbles

December 15, 2004

i've never seen it

A small cemetary rests somewhere on the side of a hill in eastern Kentucky, and it is dotted with small, white tombstones, some of which are so old and weathered that the carving is difficult to read anymore. My Uncle George went there a few years ago and took a video of the place.

A lot of my family is buried in that ground.

The stones read, "Baby Jacob," born 10/11/22, died 10/13/22. "Our beloved Clara," born 2/25/06, died 6/14/08. "Davy," born 11/21/03, died 11/21/03. Bejus! I watched that video and I wept. My grandma came from a family of fifteen children, but only 13 survived to reach adulthood. The same was true all over the family. Dying young was common in those days, and childbirth was a risky proposition.

Too many people don't appreciate how good we have life today. My grandma still jokes that when my mama was born, the midwife who delivered her charged two live chickens and a dozen eggs for the job. "I think I rooked her," she still says. "Those were the two worst chickens I had." My uncles still tell my mama, "You shut up! You ain't worth no more than two chickens and a dozen eggs."

Yeah, we sit around and laugh at those things today. But there is a tear in every laugh. How many smart hillbillies who could have clawed their way out of those hills and made something out of life lie buried there without ever having the chance to prove what they could do? Nobody will ever know.

Maybe that's why I have little patience for the professional whiners of the world. Got-dam, people! You think life is rough NOW? You couldn't have cut the mustard back then.

You are pathetic.

I've never visited that cemetary, but I intend to go next summer. My roots are buried there.


Go visit the cemetery in Campton where my mother is buried. Every stone in the whole goddamn place is installed backward.

Posted by: Steve H. on December 15, 2004 04:34 PM

That reminds me of my childhood. My great-grandfather, (and later my great uncle) was the sexton of a cemetary, and somehow managed to set aside the nicest patch of ground for his family, and I grew up playing around and on the headstones of my grandmother's family, including her younger sister who died in 1913 of whooping cough...

Posted by: caltechgirl on December 15, 2004 05:01 PM

Life was definitely harder back then. Ever notice that in those early tintypes and photos nobody is smiling? They all look like they are enduring more than loving life.

Posted by: Lee on December 15, 2004 06:26 PM

Ditto, ditto, ditto. My maternal grandmother died in childbed, on the mill-hill, in 1943. Of HER family - her momma bore 15 children, and only nine lived to adulthood. Of those nine, five were killed in WWII.

They didn't have indoor plumbing until 1955. They had no health-care. Advertising told them that women should douche weekly with a solution of Lysol and water (no kidding) and to walk a mile for a Camel. There were winters during which the children lost 30% of their body weight, from lack of food - but my gram would sooner have seen them DEAD than take charity. That was for "poor people" and it made you "beholden". These people went their entire lives without being a party to a lawsuit, too.

Damn, THOSE were tough people. WE are cream-puffs.

Posted by: kelley on December 15, 2004 06:52 PM

If you have not you should read "Born To Fight" by Webb. Think you would enjoy.

Posted by: dbltap on December 15, 2004 06:54 PM

Yeah, the rule was to have lots of kids, since a certain percentage would die before adulthood. More kids to help on the farm, more kids to take care of aged parents.
And now, we have the gummit to do that. Yay.

Posted by: Stoney on December 15, 2004 07:10 PM

I shit you not. I have a post about a family cemetary in Onslow County NC where I have relatives/ancestors buried that fought in the Civil War. There are twins that lasted about two days in there as well as many other Hendersons. I get mixed feelings when visiting it. I'm curious, because of the knowledge that lays there. I'm pissed, because as a child, I didn't ask more questions. I'm sad, because when you look at some of the birth dates/death dates, you can't feel any other way.

Posted by: RedNeck on December 15, 2004 10:19 PM

There are a lot of old cemeteries in Connecticut with stones dating back to the Revolution. The stones are tall, wide, and very thin, decorated with winged skulls and stuff like that.

I found one row in a graveyard on Fenwick Island, where five people from the same family were buried in the same year; the baby, the kids, and both parents. Wiped out by smallpox or something.

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