St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Grave Yard Blues

  • River Road Ramblings: The Grave Yard Blues

    We had a large crowd at Wolf Creek Cemetery on Memorial Day. I counted well over 200 people who took time from the holiday weekend to honor the 104 veterans on the role call. Half the visitors stayed for the delicious lunch served at the church by the Ladies Aid and twenty hung around for the afternoon cemetery walk by the Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society. SELHS had prepared a hand-out booklet and a large picture poster about Melvin Davidsavor, the veteran singled out for special attention this year. We plan to select a different veteran each year for this honor.

    I was feeling sad, thinking about my old school friend Melvin, the Vietnam veteran we honored forty years after he died. The Davidsavor family were there in force and all of the stories about Melvin cheered me up a little. I choked up when the young woman read the list of veterans and got to Melvin and read his Bronze Star Valor award, and again when Steve Warndahl placed the wreath on his grave.

    I cheered up greatly when a pretty woman, who looked like someone I should know, came up and introduced herself as Susan and told me she was the girl who went to school with Melvin and me for grades 1 and 2 at Wolf Creek. I had not seen her since she moved away early in the third grade—more than fifty years ago. We didn’t have time to visit, but I hope to catch up on what has happened with each of us someday.

    I still remember her as the first grader who could only sing her “ABC’s” and who was my duet partner in the first grade program when she sang “I’m Sunbonnet Sue” to my lip synched “I’m Overall Jim” while Dennis Edwards stood behind the curtain doing the real singing. She was very cute, dressed in calico with a sunbonnet, while I just wore my normal farm overalls, a straw hat and had a stick with a red hanky bundle over my shoulder. We both sat in rockers, rocking on the makeshift board stage. “Russell, you rock calmly and don’t sing, just mouth the words!” were my strict instructions from Teacher. I think that was the first time I realized how satisfying it is to get fame and credit for someone else’s efforts, a circumstance that this column is built upon.

    Susan was my very first girl friend. I know this because she gave me a valentine that I had to hide from my brothers. I liked her, and showed it by being particularly bothersome. She was neat, colored in the lines, wrote beautifully and behaved well enough to be picked to wind the clock on Fridays. I scribbled and never was the best-behaved student, even for a whole day, so never wound it. However, I did buy it at the school auction and now wind it whenever I need a boost.

    While at the cemetery, I asked Duane and Donna (cemetery board members) about buying a lot. There are scattered openings in the heavily populated downtown areas and a completely new suburb to the west with prime lots being gobbled up—buy now so you can look down on your neighbors! Margo and I have been thinking about being cremated and sharing a single lot. I am not really happy with cremation as it takes lots of energy and creates air pollution as all my 15 mercury fillings go out the chimney into the air, water, fish and eventually a fisherman, unless some undertaker hammers my teeth out first. To cut down the furnace energy needed, I have been conscientiously and successfully trying to add to my own personal fuel supply—especially around the hard-to-burn middle.

    Dad lies in the cemetery amongst the large Brenizer family area. “They were my good neighbors in life and I like the idea of staying in the same neighborhood.” When Bill Ramstrom’s nosy neighbors suggested he save some of his money for his burial rather than spending it all on himself, he replied “I don’t see many people lying around above ground” and sure enough he is buried with a respectable stone.

    I do like the idea of a gravestone stating the basic facts for genealogists. In my dabbling at genealogy, I have grown fond of searching cemeteries and looking at the diversity of stones and inscriptions. I want one of those old style ones that has a large cap on the top of a rectangular stone—one that will fall and severely injure cemetery vandals. The lawyers will be hard put to sue me!

    Margo and I had a surplus of syrup this year so we sold 30 gallons to Andersons. Steve took a taste of it; swirled it in his mouth a moment and then said “cooked on a wood fire; made from 80+ year old west hillside sugar maples grown in clay soil; early to mid season runs; collected in open pails; filtered with a new filter; about 1 Brix thin ( he meant 65 instead of 66% sugar); with a very subtle hint of chocolate.” We looked, and sure enough, one of the 5-gallon pails I had poured it into boiling hot was formerly a Wal-Mart chocolate frosting pail. Steve blends syrups to come up with each grade he sells, so unless he kept that pail to sell as Choco-Maple, it will disappear in a few thousand gallons mixture. I rather liked Choco-Maple and may try it again for my own use! His storeroom is completely full of syrup he bought locally from this year’s bumper crop.