Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stellie R.

A little handmade grave marker caught my eye when I was up at Crooked Ridge last week for Paul's burying.

"Stellie R.
Borned Dec 13 1919
D. Aug 7 1920"

I'm guessing that it was "the summer complaint" -- an uncheckable diarrhea -- that took little Stellie. The old graveyards around here are full of tiny graves, some marked by no more than a field stone, and many an infant fell prey to this disease.

I've wondered if the old custom here of calling a child 'hit' rather than 'he' or 'she,' was a kind of dissociative behavior on the part of the family -- not willing to take for granted that this child was fully a person till it had survived those early years.

Our mentors,, the Freemans raised four boys -- but lost three infant girls. When Clifford looked at one year-old Ethan and pronounced, "Hit'll make a fine man . . . if hit lives," he was speaking from experience -- and probably an ingrained habit of not wanting to tempt fate.

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Susan M. Bell said...

Old grave stones tell such stories. They are a major piece of history, a good starting point when you want to learn about an area, or when as a writer, you are looking for a story idea.

Walking through an old cemetery down in Waycross, Georgia years ago, I came across the grave of a woman who had been married quite a few times. I knew this because on her marker was not only her own name and birth/death dates, but also the names and death dates of the husbands she had survived. (This was a very tall marker.) :-}

Unknown said...

I can understand that way of thinking - my best friend's daughter gave birth to a baby boy 12 days ago - at 29 weeks gestation - needless to say he is tiny - 2 lbs. - he is breathing on his own and should be fine - he just needs to grow - but my friend was referring to him as "it" and when I pointed it out to her she was taken aback - didn't realize she had been doing that - but like you say - maybe a way of keeping the baby at a distance, in case...

Vicki Lane said...

Susan, I've always loved visiting old graveyards -- as you say, great fodder for the imagination.

and Liz -- an interesting bit of confirmation for my theory. I'll keep that baby in my thoughts with all wishes for a long happy life.