Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Granny and I were walking through the high grass of a cow pasture full of hidden lichen covered grave markers. Many predated the civil war and were on their sides or cracked in half. Some were so encrusted with black green that they could hardly be read. The going was slow and the cow pies were numerous. This west Texas cemetery has a name but no sign and if Granny hadn’t told me to turn down this dirt farm road, I’d have never seen it. There was an old hitching post next to the metal gate and several live oak trees to shade the few cows lucky enough to fit in their shadow. The morning was nearing 95 degrees.
I listened to her tell me about the people who were buried here. She’d stop and pull a handful of grass away to read the stone and then tell me who they were kin to or if we were related. One name led to a story about a woman with eleven children who had hung up the wash on the line, then walked down to the creek and drowned herself. There were little marble lambs for baby graves and one marble cube said simply “Baby”. I had brought a camera and some large sheets of paper and black crayons to make rubbings. There were many blank white crosses. We were quiet for stretches, with me documenting and Granny staring off at the low hills. She was ninety and very healthy, but almost everyone she had every known was gone.
She waved her hand at a stone and made a spitting sound, saying the name with disgust. “You know about him?” She looked at me. I had heard the name and knew we were related somehow, cousins? It was getting hotter and cicadas were buzzing in the tree. “He was KKK." Granny blotted the sweat above her lip with a tissue, put it back in the pocket of her tunic and turned headed back to the car. “well …. we knew. But…….” She didn’t finish. I picked up my papers and followed her, my legs shaking.
I didn’t know how hard to press her on this. She had wanted me to know, and I didn’t think she had ever talked about it. When Granny and I returned to my aunt’s house, I told my three cousins what she had said. After their initial shock, we gently encouraged her to unburdened herself of this evil knowledge.