It was back in 2002 when I first explored this old cemetery, once part of the coal mining town of Franklin. My work schedule gave me every Friday off, and when the weather was good, I'd be off in my Explorer, driving the backroads and looking for photographs to take.
That long ago December morning I set out toward Mount Rainier, armed with my Pentax SLR and a stack of CDs I'd picked up from the library the day before. I popped in a new one from Brooks & Dunn, and on the first track I was hooked. Singing along with "Only in America," I turned off the highway toward the old Green River Gorge bridge.
Looking idly out the side window, I slammed on the brakes. There, just beyond a small clearing, I could see the top of a pointed headstone. I found a wide spot to park in, and hopped out with my camera. As I walked toward the headstone, the details of this wooded place started to show themselves, among the tangle of blackberry vines. Tall concrete pillars on either side of an old gate, and a sagging chain link fence. Headstones that peeked out from underneath a tangle of brambles and brush.
I pushed my way through the overgrown grass and brambles, looking at the inscriptions and thinking about how these people must have lived (and died) on this remote slope of a mountain. Many died young, and were most likely employed in the nearby mines.
On that cold winter day, I snapped a few photographs then left as quietly as I came. This is a peaceful place, not at all haunted.
I never stopped to see the cemetery again until a few days ago. I came down the winding road, and noticed that the parking area had been cleared out, so I pulled in to have a look. The cemetery was a beautiful oasis of green grass behind the saggy chain link fence.
The blackberry tangle was gone, and the headstones were standing proud. And those beautiful concrete pillars were still there, still covered in moss.
Whenever we take a road trip, we always try and stop at the old cemeteries in the small towns along the way. I love the windswept hillsides, the towering trees, the history of a community. It makes me think about my own passing, and whether my own history will include the name my parents chose for me, chiseled on granite.
To those who walk the cemeteries and record the history found there, for the knowledge of the rest of us... you have my heartfelt thanks.
Shared today on Scene & Story.