BJ and I own cemetery plots in Gravel Hill Cemetery in the NE corner of Arkansas. It’s a nice little spot, on the side of a hill looking north (watching out for Yankees, I tell her). It is beautiful there, but the thing is, it is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.
Most folks don’t give cemeteries a second thought…until one makes the news like that place in Georgia burying people on top of each other. Either that or when they have to bury someone.
Rural areas have to get creative on how to keep the cemeteries funded so that care can continue to be provided year round. As people continue to migrate off the farms and into the cities, funding for small cemeteries becomes even more vital. In Clay County, Arkansas, many of the local areas have “picnics” annually to raise money for their cemeteries. The ironic thing is that they’re more like small county fairs than picnics. When I hear “picnic,” I picture a bunch of folks sitting around on blankets eating sandwiches, maybe getting together for a friendly game of softball.
These aren’t quite like that.
The entire day’s events at the picnics in Clay County are designed to raise money for the cemetery association while giving families a convenient way to socialize with one another and with other local families. Auctions and beauty pageants are big draws. Brittany, now 13, participated in the “big girl” beauty pageant this year. She didn’t place, but she said she had a good time and would be interested in doing it again. She also had the opportunity to sing for about 30 minutes. I’ve got one song embedded here.
I’ll try to add others in the coming blogs.
Brett spent the entire day running around with a watergun and playing with the other kids there. Every so often, he’d find my mom and ask for money. She’d feed him a few ones and off he’d go again.
BJ actually hung around for part of the auction…as far as I know, it was the first time she’d seen one at the picnics. They’re different than a “real” auction because the auctioneers generally really ham it up—since the money being raised is for the cemetery association, it ends up being a lot of fun.
I enjoyed the picnic as usual. I went under the guise of helping Dad and Angie run “the bank.” Sure I made a few stops there, but I spent most of the time socializing. I’ll admit, the picnic was good for my ego this year, too. Several folks made a point to find me and tell me that they missed me and my work at the paper. Very kind words. They didn’t have to do that, so I was very appreciative of it. Thanks to the dozen or so of you who said that. I won’t call you by name here—protect the innocent and all that—but your comments were certainly appreciated.
It’s good to see so many people come out and give their time, energy and money for the cemeteries. One day, we won’t be able to do it and we’re going to rely on others to continue taking care of our final resting place. Mine will be on the side of that hill, scattered in among family and family friends.
All the while, watching out for another Yankee invasion!