Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Graveyard good Samaritans --- and ghosts.

"A planter sits between the stones marking the Clark boys' graves, but it has been many years since it was filled for Memorial Day," I wrote here on May 27. "No one remains to do that. The flag holder at Duane's grave is twisted after one too many collisions with a lawn mower. No one remains to straighten it or acquire a new one."

The reference was to the graves in the Chariton Cemetery of Duane and Beryl Clark, brothers who died two months part, during November of 1944 and January of 1945, while in service to their country during World War II. Their remains were repatriated together to Chariton during 1948.

Monday, I received an anonymous letter postmarked as nearly everything is these days "Des Moines" and two snapshots fell from the envelope --- of the planter, now filled, and graveside flags flying in new World War II holders.

The accompanying note quoted my paragraph back at me and added this, from Psalm 146:4, "When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them."

I have at least one idea of who the good Samaritan who did this is, but could be wrong. Rather than dust the envelope for prints, it's more productive just to say "thank you."


I've written before, too, about "graveyard ghosts," another name for the stately yuccas now abloom in cemeteries and gardens across Lucas and Wayne counties. 

These wonderful plants are native in Iowa only to the loess hills, but have spread far and wide --- passed from hand to hand by our gardening ancestors. They're incredibly tough, as well as beautiful. Once established, a charge of dynamite is required to dislodge their root systems.

Once upon a time, yuccas were popular graveside plantings in cemeteries here, and if you envision moonlight reflecting off these flowering stalks, perhaps moving slightly in a breeze, at the Chariton Cemetery graves of George and Phebe Morrett you'll understand why they are sometimes called graveyard ghosts.

Yuccas are out of favor now. For one thing, their spiky foliage can inflict considerable damage to the legs of someone pushing or riding a lawn mower. For another, left untended with dead flower stalks and all, they offend the sense of order we demand in our graveyards these days.

I like them, but when Kay was thinning the dozens of yuccas that line our stairsteps-to-nowhere at the museum this spring, I turned down her offer to reserve a start for me. Now I'm sorry that I didn't accept. Maybe next year.


I'm continuing to add "sets" to my new toy --- a Flickr account established during 2011 but just recently brought to life. In case you're interested, a set of photos taken shortly after the Iowa Veterans Cemetery opened during 2008 near Van Meter is located here. Another set is made up of photos of St. Patrick's of Georgetown, the magnificent old stone church built to house the "mother parish" of south central and much of southwest Iowa.

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