10 July 2011

We did not find a grave. Oops.

Reposted from One Day at a Time.

Greg (who is a wonderfully patient and supportive man and a hell of a good husband, and now you see why I say that) and I headed out to Hillcrest Cemetery this morning with his fancy digital camera and a list of twenty-seven Find-a-Grave photo requests. I was excited about the trip- more so once we were up and moving and I had some caffeine in my system- despite having gotten home from Austin so late last night, and feeling optimistic about getting some good photos.

As it turned out, the only photograph we came home with was of the state historical marker sign near the front office and memorial pavilion, marking Hillcrest Cemetery as a 130-year-old historical site.

The cemetery was much larger than I expected, a sprawling piece of property on gently rolling terrain that we could not actually see the back edge of from the front. It was well-shaded with trees and decorated with shrubbery here and there, apparently free-growing rather than in any ordered pattern, and it was actually quite a pleasant place as cemeteries go. Too many of them, especially newer ones, tend to be rather stark, with green grass and neat rows but little in the way of shade or natural beautification. This one felt peaceful and rather comfortable, which is what a resting place or a place of remembrance should feel like.

Just the same, it was big, which was a bit daunting, especially given the Texas summer heat, and even more so once we realized that we were apparently going to have to wander around and find things on our own.

I was initially rather encouraged by how quickly Greg spotted an apparent section marker, a stone B set into the ground along one of the paths near the front of the cemetery. During our wanderings this afternoon, we found what was apparently Section S, adjacent to that Section B; we also found two other "B" markers in two widely separated areas, one of which was roughly adjacent to an area marked with a "J" and a "C" about three inches from each other.

Perhaps problematically, our photo request list also contained a handful of graves in apparently numbered rather than lettered sections. We didn't manage to find any of those, but it seems decently likely that either those were actually row or lot numbers, or that they are in the half of the cemetery we didn't venture into today.

The best guess we could make is that apparently the section labelling system had been changed at some point during the cemetery's 130-year history. I'm sure the staff can shed some light on that once we actually talk to them.

Having planned this trip about a week in advance, I had intended to call the cemetery during the week and see if they could fax me a map and give me more detailed plot information for any of the names on my list; that was one of several things I had slated to do "during breaks at work" this past week, but we had several services last week, so breaks didn't happen (which is fine with me; I like my job, and I like being there to help people when they need it, so it's been a fulfilling week for me, and I'm thankful that I get to do something worthwhile and meaningful with my time).

Even without that research done in advance, I had honestly been expecting a fairly quick operation- show the list to the people at the front office, get a map, walk at least to the right sections, take some pictures, and head home triumphant. That was a mistake on my part; I underestimated the size of the cemetery and the vagaries of the marking system, and I failed to take into account the likelihood of its being unstaffed on a Sunday.

My initial impulse, as we were leaving the cemetery earlier, was to say that we should start with a smaller cemetery, but Greg convinced me to give this one another shot. I'm not sure exactly when that will be, since we're heading out of here on leave next week, so I'm going to release these photo requests I've claimed on Find-a-Grave in the meantime, but I'll be picking them up again when we get back.

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