Saturday, January 21, 2006

At The Swimetery

When my daughter was younger she had trouble with her ears, which resulted in some interesting mutations of the English language, because she was not hearing correctly. Some of the mutations have taken permanent residence in the vocabulary of our family. For instance, “Happy Birthday” will always be “Happy Buttday” around here.

My brother died when she was three, and on the way to the cemetery, she was fretting about the fact that we had not brought our “babin suits” (bathing suits) with us. It worried her that she was unprepared for this trip. It worried me, trying to figure out what in the world she was talking about. Finally, I wised up and realized that the most direct way to understand something is to ask a question, and I asked her why she thought we needed our bathing suits. Her answer? “Because we’re going to the swimetery.”

Here are a few photos from last Saturday's visits to several swimeteries.

There were several of these metal monuments. I am amazed that the names and dates can still be read. There is a sheet of glass protecting whatever the words are printed on. I thought it was paper, but logic tells me that paper would have deteriorated by now.

This one is hand carved. Can you imagine the work that went into carving this? I wonder how long it took and whether the carver knew the dead person.

Though I admire his qualities, I can't decide whether all those things would make for a likable person or not. One thing is for sure, I could use some of that antique courage. The lack of punctuation bothers me, and the poetical part of me would have taken slightly different line breaks.

I include this one for Spooky Rach's inspection. I am curious to see if she has ever seen in all of her Texas cemetery travels a cowboy hat tombstone complete with cowboy boot vases.

And finally, I conclude with a photo ripe with symbolism. There are several of these monuments in two of the cemeteries we visited. I think they have something to do with Woodmen of the World, which I know today is an insurance company.


  1. I like Buttday. Today is my Buttday. :o)
    I liked your post. I think SpookyRach will like it too!

  2. I like the idea of the swimetery....makes better sense....
    Very good pix of the headstones....I must say the cowboy one is a bit much.......kind of like being buried in ones car...for real.....Must go wish Wow a happy buttday!

  3. The Woodsmen of the world run an insurance company, much like Knights of Columbus do, but WOW are part of the FreeMasons actually. There are tons of WOW around N.C.

  4. When my kids were little, I used to hear "bading soup" alot.

  5. I give you my favorite epitaph of all times, discovered with many others in a Readers Digest article; "Sacred to the memory of Elijah Philbrook and his wife, Sarah.......Here beneath this stone does lie, Back to back my wife and I, When the last trumpet the earth shall fill, If she gets up, I'll just lie still"...That's called "taking it with you"....

  6. First, about vocabulary. My son's gifts to our language: "you're getting on my nurse."

    Second, about cemetery markers. I served a church in TN. 200 plus years old. You could see the history of the country. First were those of the American Revolution. Then the Civil War -- half and half North and South -- Tennessee was a torn state. Then the poor years of the south, and no markers at all -- the wood had rotted away. The Depression was a time of hand carved words, with words often misspelled. Finally the modern age with professional markers.

    Interesting to see.

  7. Another thing we have in common. Love a good cemetery. Swimming back through time. Floating on curiosity into the lives and psyches of total strangers.

    But your Smith...most curious. Do you suppose there is a real person buried there? Dates yes, but no first name. All that detail...but let's face it, he could have been anyone, without a 'christian' name or even a set of initials.

  8. And another thing. The bird on Smith's marker. What did they mean by that? He was a rare bird? He'd flown away? None of his characteristics seem at least birdlike. And one would guess they didn't mean to bury Mrs. Smith beside him. Maybe he needed the whole of a double plot to himself, being a man whose singularlity may have taken up a good deal of space in life.

  9. "Swimetaries" aren't what they used to be. I think it's all the cremation going on... anyhow, I used to love going around and looking at all the old stones... it felt like in some way I was connecting with these folks...

  10. Hee hee! Love the swimeteries.

    The cowboy monument is really something! I have seen a few that rival it, but the hat thing - that's a first!

    I liked your comments about Smith - I got the same impression when I read it. Can't you see him sitting all stone faced and solem on the fourth row of the Baptist Church? ha ha!

    The Woodmen of the World must be popular everywhere. Many times they are the only markers more than 2 feet high in any of the cemeteries around here. I've never really liked them, but couldn't tell you why. After reading your post - maybe I know why!

    Don't you just love a good walk through the graveyard?


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