Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cindy's Most Excellent Adventure

After several weeks of cold weather and relative inactivity, I was getting a little stir crazy. So when little brother arrived today to mother sit and the weather was a pleasant 70 degrees, I decided I would have an adventure.

Awhile back I was thwarted in an attempt to obtain a grave photo for a distant Hodge relative. The little cemetery in summer was shoulder high with weeds and I had no desire to die by rattlesnake bite, so I had made a note in the back of my mind that I should check back after we had some freezes and the weeds would be dead. Today I headed back for the little cemetery, not far from Elgin. Since I figured I might not be able to revisit it again any time soon, I planned on taking photos of every stone I could. It had not seemed like there were many.

I was bemused to discover that, while the weeds were indeed dead, they had not crumpled. Instead, there were stalks of what appeared to be dead ragweed and tall grass that was still thick enough to keep me from moving easily from grave to grave. The historic cemetery sits behind a more current and fenced cemetery, so I wound my way around the chain-link fence and proceeded to the first clump of tombstones I could see.

Most of the stones were very old and in very bad condition. The cemetery has been long neglected. Three or four wrought-iron fenced plots were about 10-20 yards behind the newer cemetery and I figured that was the main part of the cemetery, so I fought my way through the grass, the dead stalks and very healthy briar vines that threatened to trip me if I wasn't paying attention. Between the newer cemetery and the wrought-iron fences, I snapped about a dozen photos of random tombstones. Many stones were toppled over, lying flat on the ground and covered with leaves and dead vegetation. I cleared the ones I stumbled over and took their picture and figured that for every stone I found, there were probably a dozen more hidden from view.

When I had finished photographing all the graves inside the wrought-iron enclosures, I pondered where my missing relatives' graves might be. All around was more waist high grass, but I thought I spotted some irises a little farther out and I knew that had to mean graves. I wrestled my way through the briars and discovered that yes, there were more graves, and from where I now stood I could see more and more clumps of irises in the distance. I kept pushing on, stumbling over a grave here and a grave there and still there were more clumps of irises in the distance. I was getting further and further away from the car, but I could still see it and I could also see at this point that another road bordered the outer edge of the property. I thought that if I got too deep in the vegetation, I could walk back to the car by way of the road.

I finally reached a fence and realized that I had found the back edge of the old cemetery. I glanced around and spotted five or six very large monuments about 20 yards away and was headed that way, thinking about the possibility of coming back and obtaining some of the iris bulbs at a later time. Just as I was about half-way to the cluster of monuments, I glanced back at the car and realized I was no longer alone.

I pause here to let you know that I was not alone to begin with. I had the company of two dogs on a neighboring property who had been running the fence and barking at me off and on since I had arrived. They had finally given up and had not said a word about the arrival of another car. Since I was in a fairly remote area, I stopped to ponder whether I should stay where I was or move toward the dirt road, which was closer than my car. Then I got another look at the new arrival and realized that the police had arrived and were checking out my vehicle.

I was surrounded by briars, but I decided I had better get back to my car before somebody decided it needed to be towed. I moved as fast as I could and just about the time the policeman had reached my car, I was close enough to wave and get his attention. He waved back and waited patiently until I stumbled out of the weeds, breathless with the exertion. I'm not sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't a middle-aged woman waving a camera and panting like a racehorse. But it was obvious I wasn't a dangerous criminal on the lam and he was curious to know what I was up to.

So I explained about the old cemetery and that I was a historian trying to photo document the stones still standing. He obviously did not know there was a cemetery back there. We passed a few minutes in conversation while he explained he was just making sure that my vehicle had not been stolen and dumped. I thanked him for that, explained again what I had been doing (I don't think he believed his ears the first time) and he was on his way.

Now, you might think at this point I would have given up and gone home myself. I was panting pretty good and I had a lot of briars to plow through to get back to where I was. But then, if you thought I would give up, you don't know me very well.

So I began hacking and clawing my way back into the far reaches of the property where I had spotted the cluster of big tombstones. Along the way I stumbled over some more of the smaller, almost covered up stones. I finally reached my target and discovered another dozen or so well-marked graves, including that of my relatives. On the way back to the car the second time, I kept feeling hard stones under my feet where they had been buried by dirt and weeds. There was not much I could do about it, except wish that some group would take this little cemetery on for restoration. It's hard to believe that with so many historical groups and cemetery associations that are active in Bastrop County, this little remnant of the Hog Eye Baptist Church has been lost to time and will be lost to the elements before very many more years have passed.

On the way home, I impulsively decided to try a different road, which lead me past this Texas relic.

Nothing like an old bridge to make you want to stop and take a picture. However, at this point I wasn't feeling much like walking and I had to drive back and forth a couple of times before I could stop on the bridge alongside and get a few pictures without holding up the local traffic.

My little outing in the country at an end, I made a stop at the grocery store and then headed back to cabin fever central. But, to end the day, little brother and I took the dogs for a ramble in the back woods just down from the house and tonight the dogs are happy and zonked out and I'm feeling de-stressed but certain that tomorrow I will be sore from all the unusual activity.

Today was fun. And, before too much longer, I plan to get those iris bulbs.


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