I have too many stories rattling around in my head. Every time I think about putting one down, another crowds in and says, “What about me???? You were going to tell about me a year ago. Surely my story is of more import to your thousands of readers and the generations to come than THAT one.” And as soon as I start to consider that and move my thoughts that direction, another demanding, irritating story comes begging in an even more sniveling whiney tone and before long I shut the whole process down and eat chocolate.
I call it my “artistic process.”
Trouble is, time passes and the weight increases, but there are no blogs in the pipeline, no pages piled by the typewriter, no checks in the mail from New York publishers.
So let me tell a story. ANY story. The first story that comes to mind, the closest at hand, the freshest. All those stories of my ancestors can wait a day or 10. Or until I run out of chocolate.
Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on April 24th. We are both a little bit gobsmacked (I am not certain that is the word, but it feels right) that we have achieved such a momentous occasion. Him more so than me because I always believed I would get to a 20th anniversary. Since he had had some rough starts and do-overs, he is especially pleased to prove that he could do it. Do it he did. The 20 years flew by and we are still happily doing lots of the things we were doing when we fell in love and started this adventure.
On the weekend after our anniversary we did some of those fun things. On our honeymoon trip we went in search of antiques and bluebonnets and small towns and cemeteries. We did that again.
Our main goal on the first trip was to go to Pontotoc and see the Union Band Cemetery. Mark had discovered it online somehow and had seen a beautiful picture of it in the bluebonnets. Last year we stopped in Pontotoc on our way to Santa Fe and Taos. It is an interesting small Texas town because it has ruins like few towns have. There are walls and window sills of an abandoned academy that operated there in the 1870s and 1880s. Across the road is another brick building, empty and abandoned. The academy stopped operating in the 1880s when a typhoid fever epidemic wiped out lots of people in the town. In the 1940s, a fire destroyed most of the buildings in the town. The town never recovered and the ruins are still there and are incredibly picturesque.
Sadly, a little abandoned cemetery lies just north of the town. And when I say abandoned, I really mean abandoned. There is no sign or indication that it is a cemetery, only the fact that you can see some graves there. It did look like someone had cleared some mesquite and prickly pear at one time, but they are really fighting a losing battle.
Most of the graves were like this… rock enclosures with no markings or identification. Some were upright and in place like the one on the left, but most were tumbledown. Mark noticed that the death dates all seemed to be about 1888. When I got home I looked up the cemetery and read that the typhoid epidemic was about that time and a local doctor was worried that the cemetery was too close to the water supply and the city established a new cemetery on the other side of town. Another account said that the first cemetery got full and they had to start the second. We went to it, too, and it is the “new” cemetery and was founded in 1885. So I don’t know the full story of the change in cemeteries. The new one was very nice and grass and a few bluebonnets. It was a mix of old graves and new.
I always feel sorry for gravestones that are totally crowded out by trees.
And we did make it to the Union Band Cemetery, which had more bluebonnets than any, but they were going to seed. Notice that this grave has a Texas Ranger marker to the right. Ranger Miller would have been a ranger in the early part of the 20th Century. I’ll have to look him up. He may have been on the border watching out for Pancho Villa.
We didn’t JUST visit cemeteries with strangers in them. We went through Llano on the way out (and, yes, ate at Cooper’s Barbecue) and I had Mark swing through the huge Llano City Cemetery. I had looked up the location of an aunt and uncle, but didn’t know if I would be able to locate them. Having a location and looking at it on Google or a map is a whole different experience than finding it on the ground, I have discovered. But we got to the area and Mark spotted the Hallford grave right off the bat. He has the pictures with that grave so I can’t post it yet. It is the grave of my great-grandfather’s brother Johnny. I have a transcript of a diary or a life story that his wife, Mattie Phillips Hallford wrote about her young life and their courtship and marriage. It is the sweetest document. I was glad to get to see her grave.
So that was just a small portion of one day of our long weekend celebrating our 20th year of marriage. I guess I’ll steal Mark’s Facebook photo he took of us in Pontotoc. This is the ruins of the Academy that we’ve watched deteriorate over the years. I guess it could same the same about us.