Saturday, October 22, 2011

This shall be my Confidence

I'm not sure who named Confidence "Confidence" back in the 1850s, or exactly why --- but I'm glad somebody did. And I resent the fact I'm finding online references to it as a "ghost town."

Ghost is a relative term --- New York is a ghost town, Bethlehem's darned close. By comparison, Confidence isn't. There's New Providence Baptist Church, still active; and the old Church of Christ/Christian Church (which isn't), a nice park on the site of the little brick bank building I remember that burned and a scattering of houses.

Although it once was larger --- a modest farm village with an economy that benefitted from nearby small coal mines --- Confidence remains recognizable, and that's enough for me.

I came back Friday afternoon --- a beautiful day following our first frost (moderate, neither light nor "black"; the garden's a gonner but the geraniums aren't) --- to visit the Confidence Cemetery. I was just here last week with the Fox cousins, but wanted to spend more time with one of my favorite tombstones and a tree that would be on the National Register of Remarkable Pines --- if there were such a thing.

The Confidence Cemetery, at the crossroads just west of town, is divided into two parts by the road that now serves not only as Confidence's only street but also as a major gateway to Rathbun Lake. Sunny Slope Church of Christ is a mile and a half south. But the fact vehicles always are passing doesn't seem to detract from the peace of the place.

The older part of the cemetery is to the south and once was the location of New Providence Church, moved into town after a fire. Death exceeded initial expectations, however, and the newer and larger part of the cemetery was platted on more level ground to the north. I know far too many people in the newer part of the cemetery.

We were here last week to visit the graves of Missouri (Fox) Clowser (1851-1880), her husband, James M. Clowser (1844-1888), and two of their children who died relatively young, daughter Nevada (1873-1892) and son Alburton B. (1870-1896). And, yes, the Fox family had a proclivity for naming children after states. Missouri had a sister, Nebraska, who married George W. Stephens. This is the Clowser family tombstone closest to us here and a challenge to decipher because of the nature of stone it's constructed from and its shaded location.

This is the tombstone I came back to admire Friday, however, marking the grave of Emma B., wife of J.W. Sayre, who died Oct. 29, 1886, aged 25 years, 6 months and 6 days. I know nothing about Emma, or the Sayre family, but the shape of the stone caught my eye because it echoes the shape of spirit houses often seen in southeast Asia where earlier traditions have been absorbed by Buddhism.

I'm reasonably sure this is not something that would have occurred to the Sayres, when selecting a tombstone; I just think it's cool. The lavish stone bouquet of lilies and roses is realy nice, too.

This is the tree, deserving of a major award not only for survival but also for the stunt it's pulled in the process of developing into a monumental example of bonsai on steroids. Isn't it wonderful?

Look at the giant limb extending parallel to the ground before shooting upward into a secondary spire. How in the world did it manage to do this?

The bad news here is that lightning's struck this giant at some point, leaving a scar from top to bottom along the north side of the main trunk and a little rot has set in at the base. Pine trees also have been having a hard time of it in Iowa lately. So like nearly everything else, this natural wonder won't be around forever. Admire it while you can.

Here's a view from under that tree off east toward Confidence and another, south toward Sunny Slope across a newly harvested soybean field.

Finally, I whistle a lot. Some find that annoying, but I was born to whistle. That may seem irrelevant here, but the thing to keep in mind is that I always carry my own background music with me. So driving through or walking around Confidence, I always whistle a wonderful old Lutheran Easter hymn, also appropriate for funerals, "Jesus lebt, mit ihm auch ich," translated, "Jesus Lives, The Victory's Won" and sung to the hymn tune, "Jesus, meine Zuversicht."

Each verse concludes with a rising triumphant refrain, "This shall be my confidence." I'd hoped to find a choral version out there, but couldn't. So here's a guitar version. Practice it, and the next you're wandering around Confidence, whistle or better yet, sing it. What could be more appropriate in a cemetery of the same name?


Elzan said...

Love your post about Confidence. That tree has always intrigued me too. In fact I put a picture of it on Google earth.

Mark McVey said...

This tree is quite popular, it seems! Generally, I love the species of the tree, such as the Bristlecone pines, the mighty Redwoods, or the mysterious Rowan... This one stands on it's own merit and has captivated my imagination many times!

Frank D. Myers said...

This tree just flat out deserves to be famous.