So I’ve mentioned before that I have what might be considered a strange hobby- poking around old cemeteries. The history and mysteries that can be found in them are amazing sometimes.
The place I’m working for my day job is a small rural community that is rife with very old cemeteries ranging from the large to the tiny family plots. You can’t drive very far without seeing a cluster of old tombstones hidden in the trees just in from the road…if you’re looking.
In the last two weeks I have visited four more cemeteries, all within a short distance of the school I’m working, and I might detail some of those visits later.
Right now though, I want to tell you about one of the downsides to this little hobby of mine.
Sometimes…you look like a creep.
Last week I was shooting the breeze with one of the school’s maintenance guys, and the subject of my hobby came up. Now, I wish I could tell you that he looked at me funny and told me I was weird…but no. It gets much worse than that.
Dave tells me that just behind the old ball field of the school there is an old tractor path with “Two old stones just off the road.” I immediately grew interested and asked if he knew anything about them. He shook his head and said that all he knew was that there was a woman buried there.
Now, if you’ll remember one of my earlier posts, I mentioned a family plot in the big cemetery in the area that is missing the mother. No burial records of any kind find her anywhere. I knew it was a LONG shot, but I thought maybe she’d been buried in this small little family plot in the woods.
Here’s where it starts to get awkward.
I find the tractor path in the woods and start up into the woods. Somewhere ahead of me I hear a motor running and a short while later I see an orange tractor moving through the trees. I figured it was one of the maintenance people on a job so I don’t think anything of it. As I move down the path, I spy the stones through the wood and start toward them. About that moment, I looked up and see the man on the tractor- who was NOT one of the maintenance guys- waving me over. At this point, I realize “Oh balls. I’m on private property.”
I walked over to the man in the tractor, who turned out to be a portly, shirtless, middle-aged ‘good ‘ole boy’ from the area. I figured I was going to be at the very least tongue-lashed for trespassing, at the most held at gunpoint until he could call the police.
I channeled my people-person skills, cracked a smile and waved at him as I got closer.
“How we doin?” I asked him in a friendly, casual tone, as if we’d known each other for years.
“Can I help you?” He asked me- thankfully, more confused sounding than angry.
“Maybe you can.” I said. “I work down at the school, one of the custodians mentioned that there were a few old tombstones up here in the woods, and checking them out is sort of a hobby of mine. Did I cross from the school’s property? I didn’t realize I was on private land.”
“Yes.” He said slowly. “This is private land. Its my land. You said you work at the school?”
“I do. I work IT for them from time to time.”
“You from around here?”
“Yes. Well. Kind of. I live over in <Another town>.” Then I did it. For the first time, I did it. I used my other job to try to wiggle myself out of potential trouble. “I’m actually a cop over there, the school is my day job.”
He seemed to relax. “Oh. Okay. Yes, there are a few stones up there. There are three actually. They’re my parents and my uncle. It’s a family plot. One of these days I’ll be buried there too.”
Now Its awkward. I, a perfect stranger, had come wandering through the trees dressed in professional attire, essentially looking for the burial sites of this man’s parents. Then he made it worse.
“They’re right up there if you want to check them out. They’re not that old.”
Now I’m in a spot. I don’t want to seem disrespectful by telling the man “Nah, your family isn’t that interesting, have a nice day,” but I also didn’t want to look like the creep and say “Hell yeah, I’ll go check out your dead parents.”
While I decided what to do, we made some small talk. I apologized for trespassing, to which he shrugged and told me that as long as he knew I wasn’t “One of those city people who just comes up and wanders around on his land” he was cool with my little interference. He even recommended a few other places in the area for me to check out, and pointed me in the direction of the local historical society in the event that I wanted to look into anything specifically.
He turned out to be a hell of a nice guy once he realized I wasn’t just some random jerk who crossed onto his land for the hell of it.
In the end, I chose the part of the creep, and went up and checked the stones out. The last burial there was 2011. A crisp new stone with the man’s parents, and two other smaller stones, not as new, but nowhere near as old as I was looking for. I paid my respects to these strangers for a few moments, apologized to them for intruding, and wandered back out to the car while the old man looked on from his tractor as he went about whatever errand he was up to before I came along.
I couldn’t leave fast enough. I think in the end I was bothered more by the incident than the old man was. I don’t like awkward. Hell, I leave the room when scripted relationship awkwardness happens on TV. To find myself squarely in the middle of it on my own doing? Outstanding.
The problem with interest in the dead is interaction with the living apparently.
On a related note, I have decided to pour much more effort into finding Sara Frazer. I have a few leads I want to track down, and I think it could be an interesting story if I do it, and tell it right.
On an UNRELATED note….this week starts the nail-biting. The prospective job I went looking for last week starts interviews this week. If I don’t get a callback from them by the end of the week, I’ve been passed over and I won’t be happy. The more I think about this job, specifically in this location- the more I want it.
Will advise. Now, I’m back to the 16 hour work day. One of two this week.