These big welcoming gateways are a familiar sight in the rural Midwest.
Cemeteries plopped right down on the side of the road or in the middle of a cow pasture need eye-catching signs to attract visitors.
This is a pretty one near Rolla, Missouri
I wonder if there’s a cemetery gateway company that does all of these. Or used to anyway. I’ve never seen one that looked brand new.
Perrin Cemetery, Missouri
I don’t think they’re just a Missouri thing. Has anybody seen them in other parts of the country?
Fairview Cemetery near St. Joseph, Missouri
My fifteen minutes of blogging fame are over.
Thank you to everybody who stopped to “like” or comment. Special thanks to all of you who decided to follow “I Dig Graves.”
I love sharing my passion for all things burial, but it’s especially great exchanging thoughts with all of you.
My blog’s not only a place for me to show off all the great cemeteries I’ve found, but a place to learn, from you, about other fabulous spots around the world.
Your comments got some excellent speculation going about why people put little fences around graves.
Marking territory was the most common thought followed closely by fulfilling an impulse to continue protecting lost loved ones. I think both of those are true.
The best explanation for the origins of the practice came from VLS. She postulates that it all started when folks buried their families out on the prairie. “Oh give me a home…where the buffalo roam…where the deer and the antelope play.”
If you didn’t want a cow or bison leaning on the tombstone that you’d put a lot of care and money into, you put a fence around it. This idea made a great deal of sense to me and explained why the practice is most prevalent in the Southwestern U.S. Thanks, VLS!
I’m not a genealogist, though I admire those of you who are up to the challenge. I’m not a photographer. Mostly I just point and shoot in beautiful places. But for reason’s I’ve never been very good at articulating, cemeteries provoke and ground me at the same time.
I invite you to share your fascination too.
John Gary Brown, Brownie, and I met thirty years ago in Colorado. This was back in my acting days. Brownie was the photographer for Creede Repertory Theater where I’d landed the ingénue roles that summer.
He’s the first person I ever met who shared my love of cemeteries. When I sheepishly admitted to my grave addiction on a hike up West Willow Canyon with most of the acting company, the others looked at me like I’d grown an extra nose, Brownie’s eyes lit up. “Me too,” he said, “I’m thinking about writing a book.”
Fourteen years later, Soul in the Stone: Cemetery Art from America’s Heartland was published by the University Press of Kansas.
Both in photography and words, Brownie articulates everything I love about wandering through graveyards. But, where I look at stones and wonder about their history, Brownie goes out and finds the stories. I’m not talking genealogy. He’s an artist – one of my ambitions in life is to own a Brownie painting.
He tells the real human story, the wealth, poverty, culture, history, often weird and funny tales that give each monument its unique significance. He sees the artist or artisan’s point of view too and reveals things about techniques, styles and types of stone that I’d never think of.
I love that.
His photos truly evoke the soul in each stone. I wish I could give you a few samples, but I didn’t want to infringe on Brownie’s copy rights. You’ll just have to go to your library or book store and order the book.
Use it as a travel guide. I guarantee Brownie will lead you to sites Michelin and Frommer never could. As he says in his introduction,
I wish to introduce the reader to a fairly comprehensive sampling of monuments, found and photographed in the course of travel and exploration… Artistic expression and the role of the cemetery in the history of art are especially emphasized in the choice of material. I hope that this book will encourage others to explore, enjoy and perhaps document outstanding Heartland cemeteries.