Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From the Other Side

They watched as the family picked its way reverently through the cemetery, stopping to exclaim over one headstone or another.
“Look at this one!” the mother exclaimed. “This man served as a soldier in the First World War!”
Her three kids gathered around her and stared down at the marker.
“Ooh!” the oldest boy said. “A soldier!”
The three-year-old looked at his brother. Ooh!” he echoed.
Their sister simply stared, then reached for her mother’s hand.
“Come over here and look at this one!” The father had worked his way to the oldest part of the cemetery.
The family moved toward him . . .
The man snorted. “Look at them! Ooh-ing and ah-ing over the epitaphs!”
His companion smiled gently. “I think it’s charming!”
He looked at her. “Charming?! To wander among the dead, exclaiming over what their relatives thought appropriate to carve on their expensive headstones?”
“In a word? Yes.”
“Pfff.” He turned back to the family. “Look at them, wandering around in their hideously mundane existence! Just look!” He pointed to the youngest son. “He’s picking his nose. How charming is that?”
His companion laughed. “He’s a child!”
“Oh, and now he’s . . .!” The man shuddered. “You know what the difference is between broccoli and snot, don’t you?”
She shook her head. “Maybe I don’t want to . . .”
“Kids won’t eat broccoli!”
“James! That’s revolting!” She made a face.
“Yes. Revolting!” He turned a slightly nasty smile toward the wandering family.
“Well I, in probably what is a lone opinion, think they are precious! I hope they enjoy their time here today. And I dispense with any formalities and give them franchise to make a thorough and enlightening tour of the entire grounds!”
“Hmph! Like they need your permission!”
“Nevertheless, they have it!” She nodded decisively. Her face softened. “We who sleep, dream; wait 'neath marble slabs and blowing grass . . .”
James stared at her. “What are you talking about, Anne?! You didn’t wait fifteen seconds ‘neath marble slabs and waving grass!”
She laughed, rather self-consciously. “Well, I am a bit claustrophobic.”
“Claustrophobic?! How can you be claustrophobic when you’re dead?!”
“Well, you're dead too!” Anne shot back.
“Yes, I am!” James glanced at the family once more. “And here are these awful people stomping around without the least respect for the people they are tramping heedlessly over!”
“They’re not awful!” Anne said. “They’re . . .” She paused, then pointed. “Look!”
James spun around.
The little family had reached the furthest corner of the grounds. A small, slightly overgrown area, rough with tree roots from the encroaching forest growth. The father had knelt down and was pulling carefully at some grass and weeds. “Look at this!” he said softly.
“What is it dear?” The mother and her children crowded close.
“These must be the oldest graves in the cemetery! See this one?!” The man leaned closer. “Sixteen . . . something.”
The mother knelt beside him and bent over, pulling her glasses to her nose and peering over them. “I think it’s a seventy-four.” She nodded. “Yes. I’m sure it is. 1674.”
The father traced the faded carving gently. “James Marion. . . Coville? Goville?”
“I think it’s Coville. See, there has been a part chipped off to make it look like a ‘G’.”
He nodded, then pulled out a small, obviously well-used notebook and scribbled something. “James Coville.” He said. “1674.” He touched the small slab gently. “Well, that’s as good a place to start as any!”
“Wait, Dad!” The oldest boy had moved to one side. “Look! Here’s another beside it, but it has tipped over and is almost covered.”
The man got to his feet and joined him. “Huh. You’re right, son.” He knelt again and pulled away the overgrowth, then brushed off the stone. “This one has been more exposed and is more worn.”
“I can’t make out a date,” the mother said. She traced the stone with reverent fingers. “It looks like . . . Anne?”
“That’s about all I can see, too,” the father said. He stood up and studied the two stones. “They are the only two over here, so I’m going to assume that they are connected somehow and go from there.” Again, he made a note in his book.
The mother nodded. “Good idea.”
The father pocketed his notebook and reached for his smallest son’s hand. “Well, shall we go? I have a feeling that there is a lot of work to do.”
The mother nodded. “Come on kids.”
The family began to pick their way to the entrance.
Anne watched them go, then turned and elbowed her companion. “A penny for your thoughts?”
For the first time in over 400 years, James was silent.

Every week, Delores of Under the Porch Light stands atop her mountain . . . . well, sits at her computer and issues a challenge to those foolhardy courageous enough to accept it.
This week's words?
Expensive, Thorough, Franchise, Dispense, Broccoli, Mundane
-and-
we who sleep
dream
wait
'neath marble slabs
and blowing grass
 What could this suggest but genealogy? :)


17 comments:

  1. Wow...400 years of crabby old James nattering away...good thing something could shut him up lol. This is a lovely story Diane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes. Makes forever seem like . . . forever . . .

      Delete
  2. Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!
    Write some more of this one! I want to hear more!
    I want to read more in this vein! Do it! Nownownownownow!

    Please? :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Superb! It gave me chills but in a good way. Love it! You are an amazing storyteller and I can't get over how you use those words each week ... week after week ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why, thank you, Jenny! And you have to look at Delores. She's the one who comes up with them! :)

      Delete
  4. As someone who haunts graveyards myself I loved this story! My husband says he is not afraid to die because he has been to every graveyard in Kentucky with me!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love it! Though I have to tell you there's no way I could have got my daughter into a graveyard before she was about 18. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But think of the graveyards you could visit now!!

      Delete
  6. I love this! A story blending two worlds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, River. It was so fun to write! :)

      Delete
  7. Great story! I may have to check out that writing challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much!
      And: Do it, Dave! So fun! :)

      Delete
  8. You never fail to amaze me with your imaginative use of the words Diane. This is wonderful!

    ReplyDelete

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