April, this side of the valley, was a long, very cold drink of much needed irrigation water. The season’s first is always the longest with shoveling out clumps and bunches of sticks, weeds and what not that flow into the ditches. You have to adjust all the boxes, fix any that blow out. Fill in squirrel holes. Dig some new trenches. Shore up banks worn down over winter. Thankfully there was plenty of water the first run while repairs were made. Water is going to be tight. But for now May is coming on nice and green making cleaning the cemetery a little more pleasant.
Fredericksburg cemetery, just up the hill, is where I am supposed to be buried after my run here. Years ago, as a bride for less than one year, my husband came home one afternoon with a sheet of paper showing we now owned an eight-person burial plot. At the time barely knowing a single soul buried there, I certainly had no idea who would be the other six sharing our plot.
For six generations my husband’s relatives have gone to the cemetery before Memorial weekend to clear out tumbleweeds, pull fresh weeds, trim bushes, fill in squirrel holes, collect bits of trash, wipe dust off head stones, and tell stories to remember people I never met, and some I did.
There are war veterans, decorated with flags each Memorial Day, throughout the place. As well as long-married couples. Beloved wives and mothers. Loving fathers. Small granite markers with “baby” carved in block letters, and a date. There are simple flat stones, dried wooden markers, huge ornately carved family monuments. All finding rest.
This quiet cemetery is on a couple of acres donated years ago by the Bruns family. They also voluntarily turn on the water spigots early May and turn them off again before winter freeze. There is no power, so the flag, also donated each year, on the flag pole, thanks to the work of the Bergevin/Dressler family, and all those who dug the hole and poured the concrete, only has solar powered lights, also donated, shining on it at night.
Headstones, some with names of the first immigrant families to settle in Carson Valley, don’t want to be vandalized, taken or shown on television. If you could ask individuals under these stones they would probably say don’t make a big fuss about us. Do the best you can, work hard, get things done. Make things better. And pretty sure, from the people I know buried there, the better would not just be for immediate gratification, but for generations to come.
Last year people geocached items in Fredericksburg cemetery, causing a man to visit it. While hunting for the geocached things this man also found a civil war veteran marker and an elderly gentleman cleaning a family plot. The geocacher noticed other plots needing a good cleaning, so he contacted me offering extensive help sponsored by his employer. Thanking the man, but explaining the simple workings of the cemetery and its very limited budget, the cemetery board declined additional landscaping and decorative improvements that would need to be taken care of for perpetuity.
Kinda sorry I deleted the geocacher’s information. The cemetery could always use help before Memorial Day to tidy things up. Don’t mind the dust, weeds, and lizards. Bring your own shovel and gloves. You won’t get much recognition. Maybe a little personal gratification for a necessary job well done. Like some early residents might have felt before settling here for good.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.