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A Farmer and a Friend

I got a call from a friend, who got a call from a farmer a week or so back. The farmer has a place near the Baker Community, one of the first places to be settled in Parker County. Almost inside the Hood County line. That’d be Granbury. There’s some trees out in the middle of a pasture, he told my friend. There might be a stone, maybe a few, buried under this tree. We made plans to meet the man. To take a look.

We pull up to a pasture gate, two Chevy pickups. Shake hands. It’s impressive when a landowner calls. Like high school girls, they usually have to be convinced, talked into it. They usually don’t call back.

We follow this man into his pasture, great looking cattle bounding up behind our truck, its bed bereft of cubed feed. We pull up to a small clump of trees – a hackberry, an oak, some biting undergrowth. From the truck we see nothing.

We walk up. The man points at the ground. We see a small piece of flat stone, level with, buried in, the ground. The clump of trees sits above the rest of this field, maybe eight inches. The field’s been plowed, this area part of the county since the 1850s. For some reason, this small patch has never been cultivated.

My friend pulls out a whisk broom, some water, goes to brushing and careful cleaning. Ridges, then letters become visible in the hard brown limestone face. The rock smiles. We smile. We start digging. Carefully. And prying. And pulling. Carefully. The stone is four inches thick, taller than it should be, likely once the bottom of a creek half a mile away.

My friend is older. I’ve seen better days. We get a long pry bar and make noises I won’t repeat and manage to stand this stone up, vertically, as it was once intended. I’ve placed a water bottle at the bottom of the photo of the stone, to show how big it is, to show how strong we are. The stone is easily ten tons (or maybe 500 pounds). It hurt me bad that day, and worse the next morning. This is a real live tombstone, every surface of its huge face carved by hand. Its center hatched design one of the most elaborate I’ve ever seen. This cemetery’s not on the map. But it will be, on Monday.

Pretending to look around, really to thwart the need for Careflight, we notice other rectangular stones, likely footstones to other graves. We end up digging out two other large tombstone candidates. This is always the first step, figuring out if a stone is a tombstone or as Monica might’ve once have said, if sometime a rock is just a rock.

The farmer agrees to let the Parker County Abandoned Cemetery Association fence the site, once its boundaries are determined. Members will research this land, pore through county records, interview old timers and figure out who these three or fifty people were. Are. I didn’t hear anybody, but it was our first morning together. The elaborate carving on one stone makes us wonder if this wasn’t Somebody. Everybody’s somebody, but you know what I mean.

I’ve included some more photos in the Parker County photo file. I’ve enhanced one, trying to share the intricate cross-hatching (Civil War?) and the letters we were able to make out. As this saga progresses, I’ll write again. There’s always more to find.

Bless this landowner. And the man that drove me out there. This is probably his 40th cemetery in these parts to dig or research or fence or otherwise bring back into the fold. Doing the right thing. Putting other people and their stories ahead of our own.

That day was a needed breath of fresh clean air to me. To three.