Saturday I spent the day helping to raise money for the upkeep and care of my future grave. I’ve got a nice spot picked out for me and BJ on a gentle downslope of a hill—that way my head will be slightly inclined—I hate it when the blood rushes to my head—overlooking…well, farmland.
Some of you think I’m kidding (well, about the grave site), but I’m not. The cemetery is the Gravel Hill Cemetery and is located on the hilly ground of Crowley’s Ridge in St. Francis, Arkansas. St. Francis, once a bustling booming town with 5 banks, now has a population of about 250. BJ and I got the plot almost right after we were married. Hmmm, now that I think about it, I see why she was so hesitant back then! Ha. It’s only a few miles from the Civil War battlefield of Chalk Bluff, and believe it or not, has about three Yankees buried there.
Brittany doesn’t like to hear me talk about the plot, which is situated near several of names that occupy blanks on my family tree, but it doesn’t really bother me any to think about it. It’s gonna happen sooner or later if Jesus doesn’t return first, so I’ve never seen what the worry is, really.
But up in that little area of NE Arkansas, many of the small cemeteries are really in danger of losing the folks who care for them and have to worry about money. So, what the communities do is put on annual “picnics,” which are kinda like little county fairs. They have entertainment, food, beauty contests and benefit auctions, all designed to make money for the cemetery associations. Really, it’s a good thing. Further, most of the local folks make plans to spend some portion of their day at the picnics so they can spend money there to help the cemeteries—even if it’s just stopping by for a burger. It’s as much a part of life in rural NE Arkansas as Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Families who’ve been in the area for a long period of time and are well-established there like mine, tend to have people in several of the different cemeteries. So from July 4 until about Aug 4, those families are often busy trying to help raise money for several different cemeteries. Often, volunteer work is hot work. Not so much hard, but usually very hot. It’s July in the South, after all.
Out-of-towners often plan their trips to the area to coincide with the picnics and often the picnics turn into family reunions. Some of those a little further away send in donations. Heck, some of them know they’ll be buried in those same cemeteries in no time at all.
This past Saturday was a beautiful day and I’d be willing to bet it was one of the highest crowds to show up in several years. Brittany had the opportunity to perform as part of the “entertainment” and Brett spent 11 straight hours there playing without stopping. Yes, eventually I’ll be there and I sure do like the thought that someone will be there raising money so they can cut down the trees growing nearby. I don’t mind grass growing over the top of me, but I don’t like the idea of tree roots in my ears.